What's on my mind today is the close-up view the minister's spouse tends to get of the messiness of ministry. Oh, sure, everything I say about my home church being a phenomenal community of faith, and a place where affirmation and encouragement define the way that we love one-another, is all 100% true. But you don't get to be such a close family without bearing witness to some serious pain.
Fact is, pain is part of the definition of life. Struggle is a key element of growing up. If we fail to suffer then I fear that we will have failed to live. In this regard our church is authentic. This congregation is alive, so of course this wonderful collection of real-life people - who we love from the bottom of our hearts - run the gamut of tragedy, triumph, celebration and loss. We are privileged to be as much a part of the hardship as we are their joy.
And this has been a week where there's simply been too much heartache and heartbreak - not in terms of strife in the church but of pain in the lives of its members. The Preacher and The Preacher's Spouse are almost broken under the weight of it.
Relationships: I'm not talking so much about the cancer - although there's certainly more than enough of that terrible disease to occupy our prayers. And I'm not referencing the car accidents, the unemployment, the back surgeries, the heart conditions, the anxious wait for transplants, the loved-ones posted overseas, or the frail lives we see slipping away inch by inch - much as they concern us and are on our minds.
What hurts most - and sometimes leaves us frustrated and even angry - are the broken relationships. It's the failure of people at times to allow faith to work love's way into the core of their innermost selves. It's watching men... or women... or both... stop short when it comes to loving their spouse with enough grace, or patience, or self-giving sacrifice, or even offering the balm of simple kindness. It's watching spouses - and parents - withdraw from commitment, stiff-arming the promise of reconciliation found in and through covenant community.
Faith and Courage: It takes a lot of faith and even more of courage to follow Jesus when things are difficult at home; but there really is no alternative if we're serious about being healed. We can hold people's hands along the way, but at some point it becomes their journey - to either take or to turn away from - and it hurts like crazy to watch the people we love make a series of wrong choices.
It doesn't matter how many times we go over the essentials of love, or how readily a church full of shiny Christians nod their heads in agreement, or how sincere a friend is when you sit in their living room and pray and cry together... because when those same people put the brakes on and pull the curtain across their soul and shut out the light (for whatever reason) the result is always going to be more pain than their family can stand.
I've seen that happen more than I care to.
Just do it! - It's the hard slog-it-out discipline of choosing to love out loud. Being a Follower of the Way doesn't necessarily make this approach to love come easily. I like the way Peterson translates the iconic Corinthians13 passage in The Message. This is what needs to happen in every Christian home:
So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I'm bankrupt without love.
Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn't want what it doesn't have.
Love doesn't strut,
Doesn't have a swelled head,
Doesn't force itself on others,
Isn't always "me first,"
Doesn't fly off the handle,
Doesn't keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn't revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.
There's enough pain in this world without letting one-another down.
That's this week, and what's on my heart and mind, from the perspective of "The Pastor's Husband"- a.k.a. DEREK