The more I ponder the subject assigned me, the more fully am I convinced that the minister's wife holds a very important position in the church; and so it is with much reluctance that I pick up my pen to fulfill my promise to write something about the "silent partner." I am permitting myself to believe that I will be pardoned for not even trying to make this a formal article, but just a quiet little talk about some of the burdens of my own heart.
There flashes into my mind a beautiful picture of one of these missionaries. She is the wife of an evangelist. Once they held an effort where it was possible for me to attend occasionally. Lest someone should object to my saying "they held an effort," let me hasten to explain that the pronoun used must include both the evangelist and his wife; for, although she was not a paid worker, she threw herself whole-heartedly into the soul-winning work.
Could you have pressed through the wide fringe of humanity that hung around the edge of the large pavilion each evening,—when the rain did not drive that part of the audience away,—you would have known in part why I say "they." There she was. She directed the choir; she gave the stirring ten-minute health talk, and then, usually before her husband arose to speak, her solo would quietly turn the minds of the audience to the theme for the evening discourse.
"But," says a minister's wife, "I am not a nurse; I do not play, nor yet do I sing." And I know what that means. My own heart has felt enough hunger for ability along those lines to sympathize. Yes, we long for these and other accomplishments that mean so much toward the success of the work.
However, although the sister referred to above had all these very desirable accomplishments, let me whisper something in your ear: From my observations I felt assured that these alone would never have made her the tower of strength she was to her husband in his work. Some other things weighed more in the scale of success.
"Then what was the secret of her success?" One thing was her sympathetic interest in the people. She mingled with them; she shared their joys and sorrows; she visited in their homes, and she found time to pray with them as well as for them. They soon learned that she was their friend, that they could confide in her; and, somehow, the expressions of her love and sympathy were sweet morsels to their hungry hearts.
The young people turned to her for special help. At times she conducted home nursing classes for them between evangelistic efforts; but even then she always seemed to have time to make a missionary call.
"She must have neglected her home," did I hear you say? Well, my observations made no such discovery. It was always neat and clean; and so were the children—all of them. And although she did her own work, she always saw to it that her family had good nourishing food to eat, good clothes to wear, and she joined her husband in bringing up the children in the way that they should go. Often we said and heard others say, "Those __________ children certainly are well-trained and mind perfectly."
You don't see how she did it? Neither do I; and still in a way I do comprehend. I am persuaded that her success lay chiefly in her surrender to God, her full and complete consecration to His work. God can do wonderful things for us in the home and out of it, if we only let Him have His way with us.
Somewhat similar experiences of others rush into my mind. God has granted me the privilege of knowing many women who have been a mighty power in the lives of their husbands. To me they seem marvelous demonstrations of how wonderfully God can fulfill His promises of help to those who seek first the kingdom of heaven.
As I sit here meditating upon the subject,. I review many of their fine characteristics: Such good friendly neighbors, but neighbors without time for those visits that often seem so urgent when there is a bit of gossip to pass along the line. However, I think perhaps the characteristic in these noble women that has helped and does help me most is that of non-sensitiveness. It would seem that Satan has not been permitted to inject into their hearts the deadly germ of sensitiveness, which keeps many from being the blessing they might be.
Take Sister ____________ , for instance. She never seemed to allow her feelings to be hurt, nor to notice slights. If things did not seem just right, she just thought that probably it was all because of her own misunderstanding; or if not —well, it didn't matter, anyway. On one occasion that characteristic stood out in marked contrast. The wife of another minister had been asked to do something; but no, absolutely no. She had been slighted. There was no mistake about it, so far as she was concerned; and, since she was not appreciated, she chose to let others struggle with the task. So she nursed her wounded feelings, made herself and her home unhappy, and robbed others of the service she could have rendered so efficiently.
Turn where you will, there is no phase of life in which the minister's wife does not either help or hinder. Of course, her mission begins in the home and with the children whom God may send to bless it; and there is no higher mission than hers in that capacity. We are told:
"The husband, in the open missionary field, may receive the honor of men, while the home toiler may receive no earthly credit for her labor; but if she works for the best interests of her family, seeking to fashion their characters after the divine Model, the recording angel -writes her name as one of the greatest missionaries in the world."—"Gospel Workers," p. 203.
Yes, the home is her first mission. But aside from keeping it neat and clean, providing food that is both wholesome and palatable, and seeing that her husband's clothes are always ready for service, her life largely determines the atmosphere of the home. And the atmosphere that her husband must breathe in the home, as well as the food he eats there, influences his work in the pulpit and everywhere.
Home atmosphere—how much it means! It should be kept pure, sweet, and clean, untainted by the germs of criticism, jealousy, gossip, and prejudice. Let it be purified by the Holy Spirit, invigorated by the breath of heaven, and made fragrant with the- very essence of prayer. The wrong word or the wrong attitude may be a bit of steel in the compass that will cause shipwreck on the rocks of wrong decision.
With due emphasis on the home, we must remember that neither the home nor the children—neither of which must be neglected—should be made an excuse for not participating in some active missionary work outside the home. The Master's business should be first, and it demands haste. Soul-winning work in the neighborhood is a double blessing, and will help greatly to sustain and strengthen the sympathetic contact that the minister's wife should have with her h6band's work. I fancy I see the longing look in the eye of a dear sister who yearns to be of more help to her husband in his soul-winning work, but whose failing health or nontransferable home duties make it impossible for her to go forth to study God's Book with her neighbors. Such, however, must not despair. God understands. While the responsibilities of the minister's wife are many and varied, when God permits some doors to be closed, He opens others wide for effectual service. Doubtless the heavenly records will reveal that some of the great things accomplished are accredited to the wives of ministers who were confined to their homes, but who kept in close, sympathetic touch with their husbands' problems, and took time every day to talk with God about them.
Nothing need hinder the minister's wife from being true to her high calling. God will give her success. By virtue of her position she is a worker in the cause whether or not her name appears on the pay roll. With her husband she must practice the truths he preaches, no matter how sorely she may be tempted to swerve to this or that side—just once in a while.
Just a side light or two: "That dress would be much prettier if you'd only make it a little lower in the neck and omit the sleeves." This from a friend. "But," replied the minister's wife, "then it would not be in harmony with our denominational standards, such as are taught in our schools and such as are outlined in the Bible and the Spirit of prophecy. You know my business is to be God's bulletin board."
One evening God gave one of his faithful witnesses special encouragement: The evening service was over. "Oh, I have been helped so much this evening," said a young woman to the wife of the minister who had spoken.
"I am so glad you enjoyed the sermon," quietly replied the minister's wife.
"I—I did enjoy the sermon; but that was not what helped me most," continued the young girl apologetically. "It was you. When I looked down from the choir and saw how simply and tastefully you were dressed, I said to myself, 'Really Christian simplicity is the most elegant style after all.' "
Another side light: The minister and his wife were having one of their good heart-to-heart talks. "It is wrong, my dear," said the minister kindly, "for you to serve refreshments out of season. You tempt people to eat when they should not, and you know that the 'Testimonies' are very clear on not eating between meals." Yes, she knew. She had only meant to be hospitable; but, of course, true hospitality does not violate the principles of healthful living. So they decided that henceforth their home should help, not hinder, those who chose to do all things to the glory of God.
Sometimes the very thought of the responsibilities of the minister's wife makes me tremble. In the home and out of it, in church and elsewhere, yes, at every point of contact, lies her opportunity of preaching the gospel. Happy is that wife who somehow organizes her program in such a way that she has unhurried visits every day with the Master and His Book. Without these visits she cannot succeed. With them she cannot fail. Our loving Master knows how hard we try, and yet how often we seem to fail. But into the ears of her who is determined, with His help, to fulfill her mission, He whispers, "My grace is sufficient for thee."
Balboa, Canal Zone.