Mothering the Multitudes

The Role of a Minister's Wife in Safeguarding the of the Church


From Her Home

A healthy mental balance in her own home is the foundation for the work of the minister's wife. To maintain a peaceful, well-organized, com­fortable household, full of stimulating ac­tivity, consistent requirements, cheerful­ness, and love is her first duty. Her home should be an example.

The influence of the pattern of adjust­ment seen in the family members is stronger than any words she might speak in counsel. Those who are guests within her walls will carry away with them a vivid picture of the lives they saw, of the thoughtful consideration shown others, of genuine af­fection, of people who thoroughly enjoy their role in life.

That the minister himself and the chil­dren may face their daily contacts outside the home with happy hearts, friendly attitudes, and open minds can be the result of the influence and planning of the mother in the home. Thus indirectly, and yet pos­itively, she can spread mental health among all those her family meets.

Specifically she will look to the physical health of her family, providing regular, well-prepared, and nutritionally balanced meals, seeing that the daily program in­cludes sufficient sleeping time, according to each one's individual needs, regulating the ventilation and temperature of the house, encouraging cleanliness, clothing the family adequately, and letting the sun envelop her loved ones in the warmth of its healing rays.

To enjoy good mental health one must follow the laws of physical health. Each is interactive. Some have estimated that 90 per cent of all physical ailments are the re­sult of mental attitudes. Menninger states that "over one third of all persons who go to doctors with physical complaints are found to be suffering from neurotic or other emotional disorders rather than or­ganic pathology."--WiwAm C. MENNIN­GER, Facts and Statistics of Significance for Psychiatry (The Hogg Foundation, Uni­versity of Texas, 1948). Coleman's statistics reveal that "nearly half of the hospital beds in the United States are occupied by mentally ill patients.' —James C. Coleman, Abnormal Psychology and Modern Life (Chicago: Scott, Foresman 8c Co., 1950), p. 13.

Functional Ailments Predominant

Dr. Charles Berg, M.D., D.P.M., physi­cian to a British hospital for functional, mental, and nervous disorders, said that in his early years in an industrial practice in the slums of London, only one in every hundred patients who came to him had some recognizable organic disease. It was during those years that he determined to be something more than a doctor of medi­cine; he would find out what made these people sick when organically they were not.

A child inherits his desire for action. Some doctors say that the first fifteen min­utes of a baby's life reveal much of his possibilities—whether he will be alert or lethargic, a go-getter or a dullard. The hu­man body is designed for action, with mov­able joints, adjustable muscles, fingers with which to grasp, feet and legs for ambula­tion, a heart and circulatory system to keep pace with movement, lungs to imbibe nec­essary air for continued activity, eyes to behold, a tongue that is sometimes difficult to harness. Unless this marvelous mecha­nism is supplied with top physical power through proper care and use, the mental power that directs it will not be fully uti­lized. This is part of the responsibility of the pastor's wife who "looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness," as observed by Solomon in Proverbs 31:27 in describing a virtuous woman.

She makes certain that her own have a faith to live by, a philosophy of life, a sort of pattern into which all the new experi­ences and knowledge will fit with mean­ing. A child who goes forth with an out­line map, as it were, into which he can fit the pieces of life's jigsaw puzzle will be much better balanced mentally than one who must collect the pieces and hold them until, through trial and error, wandering and searching, and hazy insight, he finally unburdens his weary mind of some of the meaningless experiences of life. Though the general outline may be changed, though its boundaries may be pushed out, still, having the pattern from the start will do much for the normal growth of the child.

With a pattern and a goal for life, any­one will make a better adjustment to situ­ations and people. A goal is essential if we are to prevent serious difficulties from de­veloping.

Her First Responsibility

The first duty of the minister's wife is to her own home. If she does not succeed here, there is little she can do for others. The years of her motherhood, until the chil­dren are grown, are best spent fostering the welfare of the home. This cannot be too much emphasized. Those who spend long hours of labor outside the home and away from the children in order to supply them with more of the material things of life are neglecting the more valuable satisfactions of enjoying their children, of sharing with them happy and ingenious ways of doing without the things others may have, of working together for the improvement of the home, of their school, and of their in­dividual church projects.

She thus becomes a real companion, and by coordinating the activities and needs of the children with the available time of the father, she can link the family into a golden bond of love. The pastor's wife who thinks she must give all her energy to the upbuilding of the church, to the neg­lect of her own family, is blind to the greatest mission field of all.

Connected closely with this—in fact, woven all through the woof of family life—should be a consistent and firm training in discipline whereby the family unit knows what is expected of each member.

"Children who are allowed to do as they please soon feel that they are not loved. One girl com­plained that her mother did not love her because she allowed her to remain around school after hours, while other mothers demanded that their children come home because they loved them and wanted them around. Full juvenile satisfaction demands intelligent expression of love and administration of correction in order to meet basic needs. Misconduct generates a sense of guilt in the child. Discipline and punishment releases that sense of guilt. Some­thing is settled."—ARmuR L. BIETZ, In Quest of Life (Pacific Press, 1947), P. 41.

If the minister's wife begins early to establish the healthy mental development and attitudes of her family, she will find herself free for work in the church and community much more frequently and much sooner than had she neglected to love, to share interests, to train, to or­ganize, to establish faith and healthy atti­tudes within the home unit.

In religious circles these contacts outside of the home might be alluded to as "a bless­ing." As a child in a minister's home I re­member singing together in family wor­ship, "Make me a blessing today." This we conscientiously tried to be as our ways separated.

With the assurance of peace and happi­ness in her own family, the minister's wife can then begin her mothering of the multi­tudes. Countless are the little things that she can do; but there are major efforts that might be considered.

By Faith

At every opportunity in visiting the homes, in public talks, in the Sabbath school class, in counseling those who may come to her, in assisting in the youth programs or in the children's divisions of the church, the minister's wife ought to set forth the need for knowing what one believes, for holding to a philosophy of life. And this in terms of most churches would be a study of the Bible as the creed of life, as the source of knowledge concern­ing the origin of all things, and as a proph­ecy of the culmination of man's existence.

To understand it, to know it, to believe in it—these she should encourage, for faith and hope and love are the great stabilizing forces of the mind. Firmly embedded in the thinking of the people, these thoughts will do more than anything else to in­crease their mental capacities. To consider great subjects, to stretch the understanding in trying to compass vast fields of knowl­edge, will keep the mind from becoming enfeebled.

The human mind tends to degenerate or to rise to the level of the subjects it con­templates most. Thus in her visits into the homes of the people the minister's wife can stimulate a level of thinking above the commonplace matters that absorb so much of one's time and thought. First, of course, she will need to listen to the ordinary, to share in the homey little interests, to ob­serve the new furniture or the fancywork; but there will be something that will offer a transition in thought to loftier themes of conversation, whereby she can drop some stimulating seed that can grow and produce fruit after she has gone.

In religion is resolved the answer to almost every cause of mental illness. For this reason I would recommend to all people a "faith to live by." "For I know that my redeemer liveth" (Job 19:25), said Job, and he endured the stresses of losing his possessions, his property, his chil­dren, the encouragement and affection of his wife, the loyalty of his friends, and his own physical comfort. But his mind re­mained steady through it all, because he believed.

Timothy's experience caused him to declare, "I know whom I have believed" (2 Tim. 1:12). He also said that "God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind" (2 Tim. 1:7). And John the Beloved, who lived so close to Jesus and eagerly drank in the teachings of the Master, when he was banished to a lonely island in his old age was able to write, "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear" (1 John 4:18).

Throughout the Bible, men are spoken of as the children of God, and the relation­ship with Him is as with a father—kind, loving, protecting, always the same, ever near. In her contacts with the multitude the minister's wife has these rich resources to draw upon for the healing of the mind. If the people are troubled, she can point them to a loving Father; if they are fearful, she can show them the promises of God; if they have not had security, they may find it in trusting a heavenly Father; if they have been rejected by men, God will take them up; if they have grown up in an atmosphere of rivalry and quarreling, there is "the peace of God which passeth under­standing." If they have been subjected to excessively severe restrictions, there are the words of Jesus: "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith"; if they have been overly indulged, petted, and spoiled and are disobedient, there are the words of Christ in John 14:15: "If ye love me, keep my commandments"; if they are weighted down by sorrow, He says He will send a "Comforter"; if the weight is a sense of guilt, they can seek emotional release, and have a cleansing of the mind by way of confession of sins to God and of mistakes to those whom they have harmed. " 'If we confess our sins . . . he is just to forgive' expresses the Biblical method of finding peace in one's spirit."—BASEL MILLER, M.A., S.T.D., Growing Into Life (Fleming H. Revell Co., c. 1938), p. 112.

"About a third of . . . cases are suffering from no clinically definable neurosis, but from the sense­lessness and emptiness of their lives."—C. G. JUNG, Modern Man in Search of a Soul (New York: Harcourt, Brace), p. 70.

"The psychological suffering of our generation means that the disease in man's soul is at last giving him pain; it proves that he really has a soul, for had it been possible for men to adjust themselves without ill effects to the wholly material world they have built for themselves, one might be excused for questioning whether a creature who could so adjust himself really possessed a God-sent spirit. We might be forgiven for thinking that after all man is not made of soul and body, but of animal and machinery, that he does not need love, or beauty, or poetry, or art, or peace of mind; certainly he does not need to adore. . . .

"But man has not been able to adjust himself, the pain of his soul's disease is being felt by nearly everyone, and in many cases it has become un­bearable. . . .

"For several hundreds of years, the majority of mankind in England and America have ceased to exercise the spiritual part of their nature."— CARYLL HOUSELANDER, Guilt (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1951), pp. xi, xii.

Her Contribution

And so whatever the minister's wife can do to build a satisfying philosophy of life for the people, will help to dispel mental illness.

Perhaps her opportunity will come in teaching one of the adult Bible classes of the church. Here she can discuss with the members life's problems in the light of God's Word and help them to mature in their spiritual life so that they may "hence­forth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cun­ning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; but speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ" (Eph. 4:14, 15).

"We need an intellectual framework within which to do our thinking, an emotional standard by which to determine our loyalties. Then each of us can stop and say, 'This is the reason I believe as I do now.' "—ESTHER LLOYD-JONES and RUTH PEDDLE, Coming of Age (New York: Whittlesey House, Mc­Graw-Hill Book Co., c. 1911), p. 249.

 A person cannot be considered mature until he has successfully adopted for him­self a working philosophy of life. Until he has set a goal for himself he is tossed about, wavering from this to that.

"Perfection," said Dewey, is not "a final goal, but the ever-enduring process of perfecting, matur­ing, refining, is the aim in living." "The bad man is the man who no matter how good he has been is beginning to deteriorate, to grow less good. The good man is the man who no matter how morally unworthy he has been is moving to become better." —JOHN DEWEY, Reconstruction (New York: Henry Holt and Co., c. 1920), pp. 176, 177.

This maturity and peace is attained best, according to my own philosophy, through daily study of the Bible.

(Continued next month)

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April 1956

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