I had suspected it all along. But my sweet heart was so nice, polite, and seemingly completely happy with me that I just wasn't sure. How ever, as I continued to collect the evidence, I soon came to realize that it was true. I wasn't like the other girls the ministerial students at my college were marrying.
Marjorie could sing beautifully. She was quiet, pretty, and took theology courses. Bythella could lead congregational singing and also direct a choir. She was a beautiful, poised Southern belle. Martha Jean was so outgoing, she could make anyone around her feel welcome and at home in a matter of minutes. Maxine could preach as well as or better than Wesley, her intended, and Miriam could make the accordion talk as she played it. Sue had the knack of getting others involved and could organize a youth party before you knew what was happening.
As I compared myself with these dear friends of mine, I realized I just didn't measure up. I didn't have the qualifications for being a minister's wife that they did.
So I felt a great deal of trepidation as my husband and I drove from Nashville to western Illinois to take our first charge. He was so intense, so dedicated, and so in love with the Lord. But as I stole a sideways glance at him, I vowed I would make it up to him.
When I had gotten settled into my new parsonage, I decided that I would make my contribution by making visits for the church. My husband and I were the only resident pastoral couple in our little town of 250 people, and I thoroughly enjoyed visiting with the sick and shut-ins in the town. They, in turn, took us in and loved us like children. At Christmastime they gave us so much food that we had to freeze some of it to keep it. We were caroled by every church in town and received cards from some townspeople we hadn't met yet.
"Yes," I told myself, "this is my calling." I was content and happy. Keeping house for two did not take much of my time, and my doctor said walking was good for me—I was expecting a baby in late January. I continued visiting the towns people until the sidewalks became unsafe and my husband was afraid I would fall.
The birth of our son brought a new situation. He was the love of my life, and I didn't want to leave him with any one—even to return to making my visits. When spring came I put him in a stroller and we did some visiting, but gone were the days when I could spend an entire afternoon "going from house to house." With this lessening of my involvement in our church, I began to feel terribly guilty.
My wise husband assured me, "Calling on the people is my responsibility, honey. Anyway, I'd rather have a clean house, a happy, relaxed wife, a contented baby, and a hot meal waiting at the end of the day."
I got the message, but I still had the nagging feeling that I was doing nothing to be a good pastor's wife, helping my husband along.
I later tried to teach a Sunday school class and I also directed a Christmas program. I failed at both. I was able to help in Vacation Bible School and other special programs—as long as someone else was in charge.
Later, as a young mother of two children, I found myself spending more and more time at home with them. My mornings were taken up with housework, laundry, and preparing meals, and my husband used our only car for calling in the afternoons.
I find my place
It was at this time that I learned to do something very valuable something valuable not only for a minister's wife, but also for a Christian. I learned how to pray.
Of course, I had always had my private and family devotions, but I usually just "remembered" people in prayer. Then we had an evangelist conduct a revival in our church. As he preached from night tonight, he could have been preaching to me alone as far as I was concerned. At that revival, I learned to intercede, to be a prayer warrior.
At times now, when my husband comes home he has to rescue the beans from burning or answer the telephone. I lose track of time as I wrestle with God over a problem someone has entrusted to me or for a soul He has burdened me with. I have adopted as my motto "Pray about everything, worry about nothing" (see Phil. 4:6).
Some time after I learned how to pray in earnest, when my two older children were young teenagers and my two younger ones were toddling, I went to a camp meeting where the altar was a row of chairs placed along the front of the room. The camp evangelist preached his best and gave the invitation, and a young girl shyly came forward to pray. But no one went up to pray with her!
As I looked around, I saw the evangelist's wife, Mrs. Edward Lawlor, her white head held high, go to the girl, put her arms around her, and begin to weep with her. Instantly others gathered around, and soon the young girl found the assurance of salvation for which she was seeking.
I have never forgotten that moment. Although the auditorium was filled with professing Christians, everyone held back until the evangelist's wife led the way in prayer. This godly woman had found her place, not in leading the singing, playing the piano, or directing the choir, but in leading out in the praying. And could she ever pray! She prayed as though she was on speaking terms with God. She bombarded heaven, and soon others began to pray until heaven and earth came together and a new name was written down in glory. That incident, along with a certain retreat for ministers' wives, has helped to give me a feeling of self-worth as a minister's wife.
Mrs. B. Edgar Johnson has said, "No one will ever challenge your place at the altar. Some may fear you'll take their place on the piano bench, and others may feel threatened if you have a beautiful voice and are asked often to sing solos. But no one will ever question your place of prayer around the altar."
One word of caution: Whatever you do, do it to the glory of God. When you pray, enter into your closet. Pray in secret, and our heavenly Father will reward you openly. Don't boast that you are a prayer warrior. And don't pray aloud in the presence of others about the Smiths' impending divorce or about the Jones girl who is pregnant.
Pray without ceasing, too. This just means that you should keep yourself in the attitude of prayer. In one of her books, Ruth Vaughn tells of pulling up to the curb to drop her daughter off for school and seeing a lonely-looking boy standing by a tree. She immediately began to pray for that boy. Another person says that when ever she puts her offering in the plate, she begins to pray that God will stretch and multiply it as it's used for His glory. And still another says that when Communion is being served, she picks out someone taking the sacrament and begins to pray specifically for that person.
Pastor's wife, if you can commune with God, you are a talented person. Please know your self-worth—you can pray!
Loving the unlovely
Loving people isn't especially difficult. At least, loving some people isn't. We can but love people who love us. It's easy to love loving, lovely people.
We must love the hating, learn to love the unlovely. Only then can we be sure our affection is genuine love and not worthless selfishness.
To return love for hatred . . . to love the unlovely, that is love.
Frightfully difficult, but gloriously possible.
Difficult because there is nothing there to love and nothing within us with which to love.
Possible because the God Who is Love loved the world so much to send His Son
to love us while we were yet hating.
When the Saviour lives and loves within us and lovingly lords our lives, we love the unlovely with the very Love God is.
We love not just that others need our love, but mostly because we need to love. We just can't help it; love comes naturally: the God of Love has made us lovely, loving persons whose joy it is to love the unlovely.