How could I?

How often do pastors say "thank you" to their spouses?

Paul Charles, Ph.D., is education and communication director of the Seventh-day Adventist Churches in Southern Africa, headquartered in Bloemfontein, South Africa.

It was one of my most memorable days ever, the day of my ordination—an official confirmation by the church of God’s calling to ministry. Looking back at the service, I now realize that I made one big mistake in what was, otherwise, a perfect day. Though acknowledging my colleagues, friends, family, and fellow believers for being instruments that God used to help me reach this point, I didn’t acknowledge the one who shared my tears, my joys, and my deepest emotions. And that was my wife, Caroline.

How could I?

At times, when it seemed as if I were standing alone, she was always there to reassure me that God has a plan, that He cares, and that He’s near. “This too shall pass,” she would say in her own way, comforting me with the assurance that our Lord would not allow us to go through anything without giving us the strength to endure.

Caroline never made any demands for luxury. She was content with the blessings of God. When separated for long periods (sometimes for weeks) due to my preaching appointments, she faithfully led the home, all the while praying for me. My heart would ache as I sensed the pain in her voice during those separations. And when I was away, and my son would get sick (he, it seemed, always waited until I was gone to get sick), I knew what a burden it placed on her.

How could I? How could I have not have shown my appreciation to her on the day of my ordination? I don’t know. What I do know is that not only am I determined to learn from this experience, I want to share with others what I have learned.

My lapse has made me realize the dilemma of many pastoral homes. Could it be that because our ministry often assumes an open and public stage, the temptation is to focus on our “performance” at the expense of our home life? I believe that this problem has become more common than most are willing to acknowledge.

The minister who invests in the marriage and family will enjoy a more fruitful and exciting ministry than will the one who ignores the home. One of the most dreadful sins that a minister can commit against the spouse is to be ungrateful and unappreciative. As ministers, we need to stop living up to the expectations of people and concentrate more on our homes. I have seen many who, in the name of the Lord and the ministry, have ruined their families. It’s not, nor will it ever be, worth it. Never!

Fathers, our sons and daughters will not remember us for the eloquent sermons we preach, or the number of visits we make, or even how many we baptize. They will remember us for the time we spent wrestling with them on the floor, playing house with them and their dolls, kicking that ball with them, coloring a picture, and being there to kiss the bruised knee. That’s what matters, even more than whatever success we have in our work.

I was not ordained alone on that day, but ordained with my wife. While our roles may be different, we are conditioned by one purpose and intention, to serve our Lord.

Let us, then, value our spouses as individuals as well as the contribution and sacrifices they make. I am taking a day off today just to be with my wife (Don’t even try to call me on my mobile phone!). That’s, perhaps, something more ministers need to do, and more often than we normally do it.

The church, believe it or not, will survive without you. Your family may not.

How could I?

It’s easier than you think.

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Paul Charles, Ph.D., is education and communication director of the Seventh-day Adventist Churches in Southern Africa, headquartered in Bloemfontein, South Africa.

March 2006

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