Last Sunday, I got up before the sun, poured my coffee, and snuck out to the porch to welcome the morning and to give my husband, who had risen long before me, a quiet house for the last of his sermon preparation. In another hour, the house would be loud with children and breakfast and finding shoes and all the things that fill our Sundays, but for a blessed moment, I sat in stillness with my warm cup.
So as I sat on the porch watching the sun rise, I began mentally preparing for what church held for me later that morning. I prayerfully walked through each part of the morning from the time Kyle walked out the door to the moment I corralled my kids in the car to come home after church. I knew I would get to talk to tons of new people and hug the old-faithfuls. I knew I'd need to be prepared to be patient and gentle with whatever my children needed. I knew I'd be praying with folks brave enough to ask, and I knew I'd be answering questions and connecting people with one another. I breathed a sigh of relief when I recognized that I'd also be able to worship the Lord in song and be ministered to through the preaching of the Word.
By the man sitting in our living room.
And that's when I stopped thinking about what my morning would be like and thought about his.
Because sometimes on Sundays, in those early morning hours before my children are awake, I think ahead about what is to come that day and my heart is sullen and quick to complain. I love being a pastor's wife, but some days I have to choose to love it. On those days, it's typically fighting the feeling of being alone--getting the kids ready alone, going to church alone, coming home alone. Those thoughts can so easily turn into resentment toward my husband. Who is thinking of me today? Who is helping me today? That's sometimes what I'd rather think about rather than supporting my husband, worshiping God, and loving other people.
But I know where that trail of thought leads me--it is a trail of tears. And I've gone down that trail so many times and to the detriment of myself and so many others; I know how futile and frustrating it is to fight for my rights. I don't want to fight to be seen anymore. I want to fight to remember my opportunity, my joyful perspective on my husband, and the truth that God has given me.
This is my opportunity: I am a pastor's wife, which is a huge privilege. Yes, this means many difficult things, and my trail of tears will have me only focus on these. But oh the opportunities! I have opportunities to speak life and grace and love into so many. I have opportunities to use my gifts and my home and my story to display the beauty of Christ. I have opportunities to know and be known at the deepest level.
This is my joyful perspective on my husband: I am a blessed woman to be married to a man that pursues God and faithfully preaches Christ. Yes, it means he can't help me with the kids on Sunday mornings and that I attend church alone. But he is doing incredible work, and I get to join in that work by something as simple as parenting my children on Sunday mornings (and many, many other seemingly small ways I support him). Although it can be invisible, I have perhaps one of the most important jobs in the church: influencing the one who influences so many.
This is the truth that God has given me: "I do not count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus" (Acts 20:24) and "Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive'" (Acts 20:35). The trail of tears is thinking of myself and looking for others to give to me. The trail of joy and blessing is thinking of God and others. The fight that so often happens in my heart happens because this isn't a natural response, but it is possible by the Holy Spirit who resides in me.
I've found that these truths are applicable to most areas of my life, especially in motherhood, work, and friendship. It's so easy to think of myself, my needs and my wants. Who is thinking of me today? Who is helping me today? This is the flesh's pulsing question, and it draws us down a trail of tears. The freedom of self-forgetfulness, as Tim Keller calls it, is only possible, however, when we realize that there is someone who is thinking of us today, there is someone who is helping us today. We don't have to think of ourselves when we know that God is always thinking of us and helping us.
Knowing this, believing this, it's true: we don't have to count our lives dear to ourselves. We can give them away.
Be thou exalted over my reputation. Make me ambitious to please Thee, even if as a result, I must sink into obscurity and my name be forgotten as a dream. Rise, O Lord, into Thy proper place of honor, above my ambitions, above my likes and dislikes, above my family, my health, and even my life itself. --from The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer