As a Worthy Woman

SHEPHERDESS:.As a Worthy Woman

Reprinted from Mrs. Blackwood's new book, '"The Minister's Wife," by permission. Westminster Press, Philadelphia, PA

Reprinted from Mrs. Blackwood's new book, '"The Minister's Wife," by permission. Westminster Press, Philadelphia, Pa.


[EDITORIAL NOTE. Students of the Theological Seminary and their wives had the pleasure of hearing Dr. and Mrs. Andrew W. Black wood some time ago. During their visit a meeting for ministers' wives and women workers was conducted. Mrs. Blackwood spoke out of the abundance of her heart and out of the background of a long experience as a minister's wife. Her remarks were interesting and sincere. She did not mind telling a few experiences about herself when, according to her own claims, she had missed the high mark set by the church for the minister's companion. This human touch endeared her to her audience. We learned much from her gentle cautions. Because her responsibilities are of a professional nature, the minister's wife of today must be a well-trained woman. All who were present have looked forward to her book The Pastor's Wife (Westminster Press, Philadelphia, Pa., $2.50). It is now off the press.

The material Mrs. Blackwood presented at this meeting constitutes the book's first chapter, "As a Worthy Woman," and will appear in THE MINISTRY in four installments. L. C. K."|

I am always happy when I can stand before a group of ministers' wives and talk about the work that is dearest to our hearts. I want to say at the very outset that I believe the lot of the minister's wife is the happiest that any woman can have. There are certain trials and problems that she has to meet along the way, but I believe that the joys of service and the opportunities for doing good far offset any of the handicaps that she may have to face.

If I could turn back the hands of time and see into the future, and know all that lay before me as a pastor's wife, I would still choose to marry a minister (provided he was the same one that I married forty years ago). But the girl who marries a minister must know sooner or later that she is a marked woman. By the very fact that we are married to a minister, we are set apart from the ordinary run of women in the church. You will hear people saying, "Did you hear what the minister's wife said?" "Did you see what the minister's wife was wearing?" "Did you observe what the minister's wife did?" "Ah, yes, but isn't she a dear?" somebody else says a charitable soul. Sometimes I used to feel that I had no other name than "the minister's wife" because I was often introduced by saying, "Well, this is our minister's wife," without any reference to my name. But in time I learned to love that name. It seemed rather distinctive to be "the minister's wife."

Every woman likes to feel that she belongs to people, and the minister's wife is no exception to this. As for the petty irritations that come, she must learn to take them as a part of her lot. By fellowship with the Christ and by keeping close to Him, one learns to rise above the little irritations that might otherwise hurt. And yet we each must remember that we are marked women.

Our people set standards for us; whether we like it or not, they do set these standards for us and all our actions are watched. Before I had been in my first manse a month I realized this with great keenness. I was hanging up my wash ing one Monday morning, when an old man who went regularly for his mail called out to me, "Well, you're the smartest little woman in this town. You get your washing on the line every morning before anybody else, and it's the whitest wash in town, too."

I laughed because I didn't know what else to do, and said, "Well, of course, my washings are small because there are only two of us, and everything's white because everything's still new."

"Well," he said, "the womens are wonderin' how you can use so many towels fourteen of 'em every week."

That remark was eye-opener number one. The neighbors were actually counting the towels that I used! I just love a fresh towel, don't you? I love to bury my face in a nice clean towel. We had lots of them then when we were first married, from showers and wedding gifts, you know, and so we had a fresh towel apiece every morning "fourteen of them every week," believe it or not! I suppose I seemed very extravagant, but I didn't quit using fourteen towels every week because well, just because I like to do that. But I learned the truth of what Sir James Barrie says in his little book, The Little Minister: "We were watched by the rising up and the lying down of the congregation." So just remember that: when you go out into your first parish everybody has a glass outlook ing at you.

A girl who is married to a minister learns to accept these little pinpricks in the course of the day. I realize that any woman who marries a minister should feel the call to service almost as much as does her husband. Not that she should feel the call to go out and preach the gospel as he does, but that she should feel called to dedicate her life to the service of God and man. If she isn't willing to do this she had better say no to her man's proposal of marriage and stick to it, because, as our chairman said a while ago, "A wife has so much to do with the making of her husband in the ministry." Too often we have seen wives who were misfits in the ministry send their husbands into some other form of work. He may go into teaching, or writing insurance, or something of that sort. That doesn't mean that every man who goes into teaching necessarily has been driven there by his wife. I, for instance, did not send my hus band into the teaching work!

Finding Each Other

I have found this true, particularly since the war, that a few of the student wives did not seem to feel the call to service the same way their husbands had felt it. Some of them would argue, "Well, if I had married a doctor I would not be expected to go out and nurse his patients for him. Why should I be supposed to- take part in my husband's work just because he is a minister?"

I then always said, "My dear girl, because the ministry is different from every other calling on earth. Your husband is the physician of souls, and he needs standing by his side one who is sympathetic and understanding, one who is willing to help him in every phase of his work. He needs a woman beside him who can work lovingly and tenderly with women and girls, and sometimes with men and boys also." There are times when the wife of the minister can listen to the tales of sorrow and heartache and how many people carry these burdens in their hearts better than her husband can do. And she can rejoice when by the miracle of divine grace a sick soul is returned to health and spiritual strength.

In the thirty-first chapter of Proverbs we have the portrait of the ideal woman, beginning, "Who can find a worthy woman? for her price is above rubies." When the young man first hears the call to the gospel ministry he begins to think about the woman who is going to share that life with him and rightfully so. He sets up an ideal that is close to perfection. He may see a girl here and think, "Now, maybe that's the one," and he has a few dates with her. But perhaps some evening he discovers that she uses faulty English, or she talks flippantly about holy things, or possibly her slip is showing, or the seams of her stockings are crooked, or maybe she has that awful something that even her best friends won't tell her about, and so he decides that he won't have any more dates with that particular girl, and he keeps on searching until he finds the one whose price is above rubies.

The young woman has her ideals too, and so she searches for the man who meets her ideal of a husband. Then in the providence of God the paths of these two seekers cross, and sometimes it's like an electric shock. "Boy meets girl," and the cardiac response begins, and they find themselves in love. Now I know what I am talking about, because it hit me just exactly that way. It hit both of us, for that mat ter. And not very long from the time my husband and I first met, we were keeping house together. Usually the process is more gradual. Or the man and woman may have been married a few years before he hears the call to the ministry. Now, a change of plans like that affects the man profoundly, but it affects his wife vastly more. She fell in love with a journalist, or a businessman, or a teacher, or an insurance man, or whatever else it may have been. She still wants to dance and play. She has no desire to be a "do-gooder." She doesn't want to go into the ministry. What are you going to do with a girl like that?

I think one of the bitterest cries I ever heard came from just such a girl. She had come to the seminary with her husband. She wasn't happy there, and her husband talked to my husband about it, and he then asked me to talk with her. I tried to point out all of the joys of the pastor ate. I didn't minimize the fact that there were a good many trials. And she said, "If I had ever dreamed that Frank was going to be a preacher I never would have married him." She stayed by him, of course, and they went into a little church, and we went to visit them a year or so after they had been there. I asked her, "Now that you are in the pastorate, don't you find it the greatest joy in the world?"

"No, ma'am, I do just as little as I can possibly get by with."

Well, I don't need to tell you that Frank soon left that church. And my guess is that he will soon go back to teaching.

On the other hand we had a young couple where the girl was equally devoted with her husband. The young man had been a journalist, and was doing splendidly in his work, yet more and more he felt the necessity of going into the ministry. He and his wife decided the matter together on their knees. He was a little hesitant about telling his parents, however, because they had been so wonderful in helping him prepare for journalism. Rather reluctantly one night he went to them and told them how gradually it had been borne in on him that he was to preach. As he finished his story he said, "I hope you won't be disappointed in me."

The father and mother looked at each other, and the mother nodded. The father said, "Son, the night you were born it looked for a while as if neither you nor your mother would make it. But I knelt by your mother's bedside and together we promised the Lord that if He would spare you, we would dedicate you to the gospel ministry. No, son, we're not disappointed; we're just rejoicing that at last God has answered our prayers." And so I don't need to tell you that this young couple is doing a glorious work in a church of sixteen hundred members in Ohio..

(To be continued)


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Reprinted from Mrs. Blackwood's new book, '"The Minister's Wife," by permission. Westminster Press, Philadelphia, Pa.

August 1951

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