* The first of a series of four articles.
Before anything else, before she is her husband's companion, her children's mother, her church's helper, the world's missionary, the minister's wife is a child and servant of God, answer able to Him for her words and actions, dependent on Him for righteousness and grace.
She is called to her task as surely as her husband is called. There is a special work for her to do.
The minister's wife must be independent of her husband in her leaning on God. She cannot lean on her husband's religion. Therein lies a great danger. There are many ministers' wives who have not learned this "noble independence." The minister's wife must learn first of all her complete dependence on the Lord.
The wives of ministers should live devoted, prayerful lives. But some would enjoy a religion in which there are no crosses, and which calls for no self-denial and exertion on their part. Instead of standing nobly for themselves, leaning upon God for strength, and bearing their individual responsibility, they have much of the time been dependent upon others, deriving their spiritual life from them. If they would only lean confidently, in childlike trust, upon God, and have their affections centered in Jesus, deriving their life from Christ, the living vine, what an amount of good they might do, what a help they might be to others, what a support to their husbands; and what a reward would be theirs in the end! "Well done, good and faithful servant," would fall like sweetest music upon their ears. The words, "Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord," would repay them a thousand times for all the suffering and trials endured to save precious souls.—Gospel Workers, pp. 202, 203.
It is not enough for the minister's wife to attend many religious meetings, to take part in morning and evening worship at home. She must have her own private seasons of devotion when she can read and study, meditate and pray, by herself. She should reserve a part of the day when no demands -will be made on her, preferably early in the morning before the household activities begin. If this is not possible because small children awake early, she could put aside time when they are taking their naps or after they are in bed at night. If her desire is earnest, a way can be found for this quiet time. Only in this way can she learn dependence directly upon God.
I think of a ministerial student's wife about whom I have read many times. She has no name, but her faith and her deeds have come down through the centuries as an example to us wives. This student's wife had learned the lesson of depending, not on her husband's faith, but on her own God. When her husband died and she became a widow, two big responsibilities rested upon her—the support and training of her two sons and the paying of debts that had accumulated during her husband's illness.
She faced her problems. There was little she could do herself except claim divine aid in her extremity. She went to the man of God, the prophet Elisha, and laid her case before him. The rest of the story you know so well—how he told her to go home and borrow vessels and use the only possession she had, a pot of oil, and how the Lord worked an amazing miracle and multiplied the oil so that she was able to fill the borrowed vessels and sell the oil and pay off her creditors. That woman had learned lessons of dependence upon God for herself. Responsibilities rest upon the minister's wife.
A responsibility rests upon the minister's wife which she should not and cannot lightly throw off. God will require the talent lent her, with usury. She should work earnestly, faithfully, and unitedly with her husband to save souls.—Ibid., p. 202.
And what are these responsibilities that she cannot lightly throw off? They are too numerous to mention here, but we shall be considering a few of them in articles in future issues of this journal. For every shepherdess they are different, for no two homes or two churches or two districts or two cities or two mission stations are the same, and each one has to find out for herself what those responsibilities are.
To make a happy home, to be a good and a helpful companion to her husband and a good mother to her children, if she has any, to carry her weight in the responsibilities of the church, to do her share of soul winning in her community, are all responsibilities that cannot be evaded, and the minister's wife is accountable to her God in these matters.
Perhaps one of the most difficult lessons for the young minister's wife to learn is to accept interruptions in the daily schedule. She plans her day carefully, as she certainly should, but the telephone calls her from each task, and callers steal minutes or hours from her day, and she may go to bed feeling frustrated in that she has not been able to do everything she planned. However, it helps her to remember that in the morning she gave herself to God's direction, and that although she did not do all the things she wanted to do, she has (if she has accepted these interruptions cheerfully) done something that was more important for her to do in God's sight. We sing the words "Not mine, but thine," but we find it hard to put them into practice when our carefully planned day is interrupted by the needs of others.
The minister's wife may not have her endeavors and sacrifices noticed in this life, but one day she will receive the reward of which the Lord's messenger tells us in these words:
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.—Ibid., p. 203.
And isn't that reward enough, to have an angel write down that you are one of the greatest missionaries in the world?