I’d been a pastor’s wife for less than a year when I began preparing my exit strategy. I’d unknowingly slipped on the pastor’s wife persona when we arrived at our church, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, and had been attempting to live up to its clawing expectations ever since. I wanted so badly to be a good pastor’s wife, to have the answers when asked, to serve up profound wisdom, and to love people well. However, preparing my exit strategy highlighted what it is that I really wanted so badly: to be liked, to be approved of, to be appreciated, to be thought of as a “good” pastor’s wife.
Hiding my insides from others wasn’t the worst
of it. I also hid myself from God, so sure that I was failing Him. I didn’t
dare cast my cares on Him, because I felt certain He’d throw them back in my
face, disappointed about all the things I had yet to get together. So I tried
harder--smile, hug, serve, minister--as
if I was a single performer under the stage’s harsh spotlight, feet tapping ever
faster, trying to win the smile of God. Yes, He was my audience of One, but my
audience appeared, in my own estimation, completely unmoved.
Life moved slowly, or perhaps it was just me
moving slowly, weighed down, heavy, trudging along.
Less than a year in and I
was already so.very.tired. I didn’t cry out, not to anyone, least of all my
God. I simply gave myself a pep talk, swung the weight once again on my back,
and took a step.
The thing I didn’t yet understand about God is
that we don’t move toward Him, but rather He comes to us. He is a pursuer, a
wooer, an initiator. With me, He waited until I had only fumes of self-effort
left, and then He came. Because, as I can see now, He knew I needed to
understand my need, because only then could I understand the extent of His
grace toward me.
Sitting across from two college girls, I
attempted to explain how God works by starting with “if”. If I obey Him, then He will approve and act. Did that not sum up
everything I’d believed and everything that formed the foundation of my
Respectfully, one of the girls said, “Christine,
I don’t think that’s right.” And God came. There in my heart, I knew instantly
that things were changing, that God wanted to show me some things, some things
about His true character, about grace.
I drove home, praying all the while, “God, I
know nothing of grace. And I desperately need to know. Show me.”
And God came, specifically through the book of
Galatians. I discovered that, because I am in Christ, I am holy and righteous
before God, and nothing I do or don’t do can change my status before Him. I
discovered that He’s given me a Helper, the Holy Spirit, to help me, guide me,
and convict me. I don’t have to lead and convict myself but can depend fully on
God to do so. I discovered that my external behaviors are not what make me
loved and approved by God, but that once I receive the love of God given
through Jesus, it will compel me to love Him back. What I’m saying is that I
discovered grace and my whole life flipped on its head because of it.
As I received this great grace, I finally
understood why Jesus said His yoke is easy and His burden is light. Because He
carries the burden of my sin, my ministry, my
life. I am loved, so I am freed to love.
The posture of the Christian is
not performing in order to receive, which bears bitter fruits of pride and
condemnation. The posture of the Christian is primarily receiving, because
we’re receiving something that wells up in us and compels us to joyfully
God came. That exit strategy? It’s long
forgotten, because He still comes. He is still guiding my exploration of His
love and grace, and all that I uncover becomes another building block in my