Shepherdess: The greatest of these

With. 105,823 tasks demanding daily attention, how is a wife to keep herself loving and lovable? There is one thing that takes first place above all else and will cement the hearts of husbands and wives.

Ruthie Self, a pastor's wife, writes from Goodlettsville, Tennessee.

Ruthie Self, a pastor's wife from Nashville, Tennessee, is a graduate of Southern Missionary College with a major in elementary education. Undoubtedly, her training has proved to be a help in rearing three boys! Her spare time is precious, but when available is used for practical hobbies such as refinishing furniture and gardening. Ruthie, to her credit, considers cooking and baking a hobby! Her practicality will be seen in the following article, which addresses a very serious and important subject. Husband-wife relationships constitute the major factor for a happy or unhappy marriage. But more than this, the role model of the pastoral team impinges on the health of the congregation. Ruthie beautifully points out that a strong relationship with Christ is the foundation of a successful marriage. I know you will benefit from reading her message —Marie Spangler.

My husband, Bob, was frustrated. Despite his most winsome invitations, he couldn't get the husband of a church member even to visit our services. One day Bob visited him while his wife was shopping. After they shared a prayer, the husband opened his heart. He wanted no part of his wife's religion, he said, because the church had made no change in her. She was unloving, uncaring of his needs, and unresponsive to him.

How would your husband describe you? How would you describe yourself? It has been said that the strongest argument in favor of the gospel is a loving and lovable Christian. Do you fit such a description?

During my career as a pastor's wife, I've seen more than one husband get involved with a woman less attractive and less talented than his own wife. And sex didn't seem the great attraction; rather, the husband had found someone he could communicate with and who was willing to accept him for what he was.

I remember a wife who was intelligent, a good cook, an immaculate housekeeper, and very particular about her children. But she had become a slave to the 105,823 things that seem to demand daily attention. Each of those things was no doubt important, but she had forgotten what was most important—being a loving and lovable wife to her husband! Although we can never place all the blame for a failed marriage on one spouse, apparently this wife, in her preoccupation with household drudgery, had neglected to fill her husband's needs. The case went on the church records as adultery, but "drudgery" could well have been listed as accessory to the fact.

It is no secret that homes are breaking up at alarming rates today. And these are not newly established homes in many cases. Divorce is claiming marriages of fifteen, twenty, twenty-five years, and even longer. Nor is the parsonage exempt. Pastors and their wives are finding that their marriages are coming apart almost in the same numbers as the general population!

How can we become more loving and lovable? The daily demands on a wife usually are not the priority items in her marriage. Most important are relation ships. First, our relationship with Christ. We become more loving by allowing Jesus first place in our life. But like the disciples in the sudden storm on Galilee, we stay busy bailing as fast as we can until we see there is no way we can keep out the sea and we give up. Then, when we have no other options left, we call on the One who has always been there and who is able to help us at any time. The answer is to put Jesus at the very center and in first place in our lives.

This experience must take priority. We cannot wait until the 105,823 necessary tasks are finished, for if we do we will continue to bail and bail until the lives closest to us are seriously injured. When we spend quality time with our heavenly Friend who knows all the answers and has all the power, and wisdom, we will know what the most important things should be in our lives and homes. He will quiet the storm of anxiety over a work that is never finished; He will give us power to cope with the overwhelming responsibility of lives depending on us. His methods will become ours.

The results of this relationship can improve marital relationships. By studying the methods Christ uses to make us His friends and lovers, and applying them in our marriage, we give happiness a head start.

For example, do we accept our mate and love him as he is? Or are we trying to change him? God doesn't insist that we change before He loves us. He loves us unconditionally. He loves us while we are yet sinners. He loves us even when we are His enemies. He sees the best in us even when we fail, and loves us still. Unconditional love doesn't demand transformation; it inspires transformation. The hen pecked husband spends too much time dodging the pecks to make progress spiritually. If he feels condemned and criticized rather than accepted and loved, he will keep his feelings to himself, and communication will be broken. Some times a husband (or a wife) needs a listener, not a counselor.

Yes, we may be all too aware that areas of his ministry need improvement: he should spend more time with his family (isn't that always at or near the top of the list!) and more time visiting. He needs to be more (or less) aggressive and put more illustrations in his sermons. He attends too many meetings, dresses sloppily or overdresses. Marriage means communication; problem areas demand candid discussion, so that each knows how the other feels and why.

But instead of nagging (we usually call it counseling), should we not give the problem to the only One who knows the answers? God alone can convict of need and bring about change. And while we're seeking for a minor adjustment, God may be working for transformation. So instead of bailing all the time and becoming more and more frustrated, cast "all your care upon him; for he careth for you" (1 Peter 5:7).

God created us with the desire to love and be loved, and only the Christian can experience the depth of meaning and fulfillment in the marriage relationship. One reason is that the Christian interprets love to mean more than two bodies meeting; love—and sex—means commitment of body, mind, and spirit. We should be open with our mates in discussing what pleases us in sex, a gift God gave not only for procreation but for pleasure. Someone has said, "Sex isn't the most important phase in marriage, but it surely helps grease the wheels so that all parts run well." Husbands and wives have many pressures from every direction. Especially is this true of pastors. The pastor-husband needs to find satisfaction, fulfillment, and acceptance from a loving wife. The wife who does not fill her husband's wholesome sexual needs may be more responsible for adultery than she would care to admit. (If you need a bit of help on the subject, I'd recommend The Act of Marriage, by Tim LaHaye. If you need more help, don't hesitate to seek professional counseling.)

Are we continuing the early attentions? God Himself wants to continue the "first love" relationship; should our husbands not expect it? While dating, we learned our lover's favorite perfume, color, sports, and foods. We showed our love by writing notes and giving him gifts. Has that attitude fallen casually to the years? Maybe the rut of inattention has become too deep. Maybe we're too busy bailing to notice. Perhaps we excuse our lack of attention by feeling sorry for ourselves. After all, we are taken for granted too. Often we don't get gifts or even verbal thanks.

The word is selfishness. It begins to creep in. It's the root of all evil. Our Lord kept no record of rights and wrongs. Though unappreciated and the recipient of few gifts, He served us lovingly, unselfishly. His love is described in 1 Corinthians 13: ". . . suffereth long, and is kind . . . seeketh not her own, is not easily-provoked" (verses 4, 5). We need to read this chapter often.

The loving wife. Greater than an immaculate house; greater than 105,823 jobs finished; greater than being a superb cook and an excellent nutritionist; greater than a prestigious career; and even greater than being the esteemed minister's wife is simply to be a loving wife.

The strongest argument in favor of the gospel is a loving and lovable Christian. The strongest bond of marriage is a loving and lovable wife. The right relationship with Christ and the right priorities in the home can make our homes a shelter from the pressures and demands of the outside world—places where love holds forth supreme. "The greatest of these is love" (verse 13, N.I.V.)."



* From The Holy Bible: New International Version. Copyright © 1978 by the New York International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.



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Ruthie Self, a pastor's wife, writes from Goodlettsville, Tennessee.

July 1982

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