Monday, April 4, 2011

The Reluctant Messenger

I never wanted to be a pastor’s wife. In fact I’m very sure I told my young fiancé years ago that it was something I could never do. He shrugged it off with a laugh and assured me that I wouldn’t have to worry about that. We would probably spend our days in foreign places, teaching people who were poor and desperately seeking hope, a prospect that held no terrors for me.

Having been raised by missionary parents who valued spiritual possessions more than material, I was never quite at home in America and certainly not ready to embrace a system of values which exalted fashion over character. It seemed to me that I would make an impatient listener, and my confrontational tendencies might wreak havoc should I be presented with a spoiled congregation. The pastors' wives I had observed during our furlough visits were of different types. Some were perfectly coiffed and manicured ladies, formidable, domineering figures, who ran the ladies’ social groups with diplomacy and iron. The rest were still-smiling but exhausted women who balanced the needs of their families and sometimes their jobs with the demands of the ladies’ social groups. It seemed to me that they all played the piano—by ear, in whatever key the song leader requested—and sang alto, or tenor if the occasion demanded. They could cook marvelously, teach any-aged class, organize large groups of chattering women, coordinate “darling” baby showers and fellowship pot-lucks with equal aplomb. They printed bulletins, filed sermon notes, even preached, if their husbands suddenly came down with tick-fever or laryngitis. They visited the sick and left little gifts of home-made apricot jelly.

In short, my list of qualifications was woefully inadequate. True, I could teach any-aged group and sing alto—as long as someone showed me how the notes went, if they weren’t half steps and abrupt, oddly-placed naturals after a cataract of rapid sharps. But my cooking was either burned or doughy, my piano playing repertoire consisted of one song, Amazing Grace—and that one was pretty terribly "amazing". I didn’t really want to preach to a whole congregation, and I didn’t and still don’t like organizing large groups of anybody. Surely God would understand that!

Yesterday, our congregation threw a surprise celebration for our tenth anniversary of being their pastors. Looking out at my closest friends, I thanked God, once again, that they are unspoiled, generous, and simply marvelous folks: they play piano, and organ, and sing alto and tenor. They organize breakfasts, coordinate showers, make quilts, do book work and benevolence work, and make gorgeous coconut cream pies. They let me do what I love to do—teach—and they put up with me in choir.

Years ago, Turtle and I realized that we weren’t called to do everything.
We were just called to be messengers, and the message is more important than our meeting ideal standards. We teach the message…and we love the congregation; everything else just falls into place.

11 comments:

aftergrace said...

It's all about he gift with we have been blessed. God knows what is in our hearts, He has blessed you with so many wonderful gifts and talents, dear cousin.

Lisa said...

But you do make apricot jelly!

oldegg said...

This is a truly stunning post. That you know your faults (and talents) is one thing, that God does too and loves you for them is quite another.

Old Altonian said...

You are truly blessed with a humble fervour that far outweighs any technical weaknesses. It must be very rewarding to be a member of your congregation.

jaerose said...

Sounds like you were sent to the best place for you and your congregation..I just love that photo as well..seems to illustrate the great passion and warmth you have for where you are and what you do..Jae :)

Lilibeth said...

Lisa, yes, I confess, I do make apricot jelly, but I'm not really good about delivering it to people. Turtle does most of the visiting. When I was writing this I first put calves'foot jelly, but decided that, since I had no idea what that was, other people might not either.

oldegg said...

Yes, I know what calves foot jelly is, glad you decided on apricot!

Carina said...

You've created a new definition for Pastor's wife. One which few women could live up to.

bunnygirl said...

You do what you can, and that's the greatest gift. Anyone who can't understand that isn't getting the real message.

Roshelle said...

This post makes me love you all the more... I don't ever see you in my mind as a pastor's wife. You are so humble and lively and talented... all in one package. You are a teacher, a trainer, and a child of God and a lover of childern. Then, yes, you might be a daughter, a wife, a mother, a grandmother and then- possibly a pastor's wife :)

Linda May said...

To sneak the words of a Billy Joel song... I love you just the way you are>>>>> :)