December 12, 2013

On Ministry and Pouting

When we first entered vocational ministry, I did so eagerly. But a few things took getting used to. For one, being young and childless, we were used to weekend jaunts to see friends, attend weddings, or spend time with family. We were not used to Sunday being a work day. We suddenly had just a few precious Sundays off a year and less flexibility in our weekends, which is when all the fun stuff happens. Being young and pretty immature, I pouted about that when we had to miss something special.
I've moved on from pouting about something that I now see as trivial. Sundays are work days and that's just the way it is and I can't really imagine anything else anyway. I've gotten used to it, as well as to getting the kids ready and to church by myself (which was much harder when they were all five and under), to not attending church with my husband (and half the time not knowing where he is at any given moment), and to not having a choice whether we're in church or not (which, I've decided, it's a much greater blessing to be there each week than to be half there), and a myriad of other things. When people talk to me about how difficult it is to get to church on Sunday mornings as a family, I just smile and nod, laughing inside, because obviously they haven't thought through who they're talking to and what Sundays are like for me.

I can smile and laugh now, but there have been times in ministry life when I've wanted to throw a pity party and invite everyone I know (especially the complainers) to come listen to my grievances about what this calling means for me. And those grievances go way beyond the silly things mentioned above.

I know I am not alone in these feelings. I talk to pastor's wives all the time who are pretty miserable and frustrated about their husband's job, and they stiff-arm any thought that this role might actually be a blessing and an opportunity and, dare I say it, their calling.

The truth is that no matter what our roles--pastor's wife, mom, caretaker, being single, single mom, you name it--we all sometimes struggle with the life God has given us and what He asks us to be faithful with. We all walk a hard road and have to make sacrifices and feel misunderstood at times. We all at times want to stiff-arm any talk of blessing, opportunity, and calling in where we are because we want God to release us from it, STAT.

Well, we're in good company, because Paul actually struggled with the same thing. Check this out: "For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel! For if I do this willingly, I have a reward; but if against my will, I have been entrusted with a stewardship." (1 Cor. 9:16-17)

What is he saying? He's saying that he's had a calling placed upon him by God and that he cannot revoke that calling; It's there whether he likes it or not. He seems to imply that there are times it is a burden to him. BUT. Paul says he has a choice in how he views it and carries it out. No matter what, he says, he's been entrusted with a stewardship. His choice is that he can do it willingly or he can do it begrudgingly. Doing it willingly and with joy, he says, offers the reward.

This is fascinating to me. Paul wrestled with his calling? In his writings, he always seems so focused and faithful. But this is also helpful to me, to know that one of our greatest apologists and evangelists had to fight for joy in his calling.

Of course, I'm not a great apologist and evangelist. I'm just folding clothes and writing a few blog posts over here. But I'm steward, and you're a steward. We're stewards of the gospel, first and foremost, but we're also stewards of gifts, people, money, time, and millions of other things. Ministry wives, we are stewards of a type of influence and service that holds boundless opportunities for kingdom impact. This is what we've been given, this is where we are, these are the things we're stewards of. We can do it willingly or we can do it begrudgingly.

We will wrestle, and we will struggle, just as Paul did. But, like him, let our joy and our willing hearts come out on top in the end. Let us embrace where we are as our calling, because that is where the blessing and reward reside.