WHEN I was in Holland some years ago I was intrigued to see young courting couples riding along side by side, each on a separate bicycle, but arm in arm--one hand on the outside handle bar and the other around each other's shoulders. Somehow it reminded me of the experience of the happy ministerial husband-and-wife team.
I like to picture the ministerial couple walking along life's road together with Christ in the center the husband holding one of His hands and the wife holding the other. The picture should not be an unbalanced one of Christ holding the husband's hand, and the husband in turn leading the wife. We each need our own personal contact with Christ to gain strength in our own lives. Each has a role to play in God's work. Each has a sphere all his own. The wonderful part of it all is that we are working together for the same goal.
Happy in Our Own Sphere
"My wife used to say to me, 'You'll never get anywhere if you let people push you around like that.' "
We were sitting at the airport waiting for the plane to Australia, and the three of us laughed heartily at the remark because the man who made it is one of the leaders of our work today. His wife, a bright, vivacious middle-aged woman, is obviously proud of her husband's achievements. Although I laughed, I couldn't help but wonder how many young wives have made this same remark to their husbands. When we are first married many of us feel that we can organize our husbands much better than they can organize themselves. Particularly does this seem to be true when the man of our choice is the quiet, unassuming type.
Certainly we want the very best for our husbands. We want other people to see them as the fine men we know them to be, but God knows all about our husbands, and about us too. And so do the brethren. This fact was brought home to me once at Avondale College when my husband and I, in our mid-thirties, with our three small sons, went back to college. One day while I was shopping in the village one of the division men whom I had met just once before, came up, shook my hand, and said, "Hello, Molly, how are you? Are you en joying being a student's wife?" He then introduced me to his wife, with details of our history since we had joined the church two years previously. It was a surprise to learn that anyone outside our immediate circle of friends at the college knew any thing about us.
It Can Be Difficult
Sometimes it can be difficult for the girl who is vivacious, enthusiastic, energetic, who is blessed with good ideas and organizing ability, not to try to push her husband. I heard a girl once say, "My husband makes me so cross. I used to be a secretary in the conference office, yet when I introduce him to the men in the office he hardly speaks. He doesn't try to impress them." However, in spite of his reticence, this man has made a mark for himself in the work. Husbands have to mature in their own way. No matter how competent she is, the "little lady" is just the worker's wife. I do not mean that she is subordinate or inferior; in fact, the senior workers I have met who are leaders in their departments all seem to have energetic, enthusiastic partners who are definite personalities in their own right. Yet the husband is the worker. He is the one whom the conference employs. He must take the responsibility for his mistakes or the credit for his achievements no matter how hard his wife works in the background.
A wife can very frequently help her husband by quietly pointing out things he has said or done that could, perhaps, be said or done in a different way, but she is wrong to try to alter his whole personality. People like and admire our husbands for what they are, and not what we might like to make of them.
To help work his way through college and support the boys and me, my husband worked as a truck driver and called on many elderly folks to deliver their groceries. At the same time I visited some of these people and enrolled them in the Take His Word Bible course. Week after week I went to see these dear souls. When graduation was approaching I called on each of them for the last time. I was amused to note that in each case they almost ignored my little farewell speech and said, "I'm going to miss your husband calling with the grocery order. He is always so quiet and under standing and listens to my problems, and is such a help to me."
Frequently, too, as a minister's wife you have to sit at the telephone and listen to some church member telling you just what a dear man your husband is. He may have rushed out that very morning leaving used razor blades on the bathroom window sill and books scattered over the lounge, or blamed you for misplacing notes he had already put in his brief case. You can only agree with your tongue in your cheek but agree you must! Never must a church member suspect that your husband is anything but perfect all of the time.
Those Times of Stress and Extra Work
Work can be all absorbing for the young worker, particularly when he is holding an evangelistic crusade. The wife sees him at mealtime and then often an hour late. When he is home he is so absorbed in preparing lectures, or fixing hall bookings, or checking work from the printers that the only word he has for the wife is "Good-by, darling, I don't know when I'll be back. I'll try to be home for lunch."
A wife's attitude is so very important. She can react in two ways. She can complain bitterly about never seeing her husband and about having no home life and about being neglected, or she can enter into the task with all of her husband's enthusiasm. Evangelistic work can be so exciting! All of the family can take part with even the small children helping to fold circulars.
Have you ever taken reservations for a first night of an evangelistic series? It is absolutely thrilling to rush to the telephone and write down one more name on the list. When the meetings begin the whole family arrives early and everyone has his job. When my little daughter was a baby I used to sit in the car and feed her, then wheel her carriage up the stairs where she slept right through the meetings. The three boys would help to move the chairs, or label the Bibles, or do some odd job. Later we had to get a baby-sitter, but the boys hardly missed a meeting.
A Matter of Attitude
I'm not saying it is an easy life, or that you don't get tired, or even that you don't feel sorry for yourself and neglected. But isn't it better to accept the fact that this is the situation only while the pressure is on, and enter into the program with enthusiasm? This attitude will inspire your children with the fun and adventure of the Lord's work, and bring encouragement to your husband.
The early days of ministerial work are such fun. There is much to learn, and so many experiences to be shared so much wisdom to be gained. It is a time of togetherness, with jokes shared and mutual encouragement. The picture changes some what when your husband is called to administrative work. The bond between you is just as close, if not closer than in earlier days. There are still times of laughter. There is much to learn--each day brings new mistakes, new lessons, and a new experience gained. Of necessity your husband must tell you less of the intimate details of his work.
The man in the administrative job often sits on endless committees, deals with many personalities, and finds his work so exhausting and demanding that when he comes home he doesn't want to talk about it, but wishes to relax and enjoy his home and for get about his problems if possible. The wife's role is still very important. She alone knows when he is struggling with a real problem. It is vital now for her to encourage him and be cheerful and relaxed.
Entertaining Those Visiting Workers
The administrator's wife usually has to entertain many visitors both expected and unexpected. At times she may have to try to look pleasant and at ease under the most trying circumstances. Just recently we had some meetings on our college campus. Many men came from around the field and overseas. Our particular guests were to arrive on Thursday. I had each day planned so as to be organized in my preparations. Monday I would get the transit houses ready for the men who were to use them. Tuesday and Wednesday I would make up beds and bake for my guests.
Early Monday morning we went to the airport to say farewell to a family leaving for Australia. Planes are always late in New Guinea so it was noon when we reached home and were handed a telegram saying that our guests were arriving that day! The cable read: "Please meet and accommodate." No time of arrival was given. They could arrive at any moment!
A sergeant in the army had nothing on me at that moment! I was issuing orders at the top of my voice. Young men from the school were running around swapping beds from one house to the next; brooms were being wielded in all directions; notes were sent up to the college gardens ordering vegetables for supper.
One field worker who had arrived ahead of time on an earlier flight of the mission plane said, "What can I do?" "Wash the dishes," was the curt reply. My husband said, "What will we have for lunch?" "Dunno. Get what you can find." Baked beans on toast is his "panic" specialty, so that's what we had.
After our house was shipshape and I felt a little more relaxed (and so did the rest of the family!), I still had two other houses to sweep and beds to make, so off I went. I had just finished one and was walking down the road to the other when I heard a car coming. I looked up and saw my husband all smiles with our two General Conference guests. I whipped off my apron, smiled and attempted to look completely relaxed and appear as if I had been waiting all day for them. I tried to pretend that my hair was always like that and my nose was always shining.
It was worth the two hours' panic because we enjoyed every minute of that visit and when our guests left it was as if a light had gone out. We felt flat after so much laughter and good conversation.
Yes, the role of the worker's wife is the most rewarding of all. Full of joy and fulfillment, sometimes sorrow and heartache, but always the awareness that Christ is there walking hand in hand with both of you.