Monday, March 7, 2011

Can't Duck the Public Life...

Recently I was speaking at a big Baptist Church in Atlanta. I'd just shared a story where Rebekah had a starring role. I was a few sentences into the next anecdote when I stopped for a moment and re-directed.

"I suppose you're wondering why my wife's name keeps coming up?" I asked, rhetorically. "Well she often asks the same question. Why, she says, do you use so many stories about about me when you're speaking, blogging, or writing a column for the newspaper?

"That's easy," I tell her. "I'll stop writing about you in the newspaper the day you stop talking about me in the pulpit."

I think we all know the answer to that.

SUNDAY MORNING: Ah, Sunday morning worship, the time when those of us married to "The Preacher" wonder what exactly our spouse is going to say about us during the sermon!

Yesterday was classic. Rebekah offered a detailed illustration featuring the fact that I have yet to return the Christmas tree to its hibernation spot in the attic (it's currently occupying a large piece of garage floor). She was in rare form and much spontaneous mirth resounded around the sanctuary.

It really was a good story, and it fit perfectly with the point she was making about our relationship with God... but - at least at the 8:30 service - I had no idea it was coming. One more very good reason, I'd argue, for staying wide awake and paying attention when your wife is preaching!

After church someone said something about what a mutually respectful relationship Rebekah and I have (true), and how great it is that Rebekah always asks my permission before she uses me in a sermon (occasionally true).

"To ask permission first," The Preacher responded, "I'd have to have actually known ahead of time that I would be using that story."

And to think I was one of the people who encouraged her when she made the switch to a more extemporaneous preaching style!

Like it or not, there is a real, unavoidable "public figure" dimension to being the preacher's spouse. And it's more than the ubiquitous "Last two seats at the remote end of the head table" thing or "Derek, would you lead us in the blessing?"

Sometimes you get to stand in the rain at a funeral, holding an umbrella over her head so she can speak, each trickle of water running down the sleeve of your best jacket a reminder of why this is a life, not a job. Other times it's fielding tricky phone calls, holding someone's baby while they talk to the preacher, serving tea to a bereaved family, chatting up a room-full of strangers at a wedding unrelated to our church, or being willing to fight Tampa traffic to just be there, when she has an important message to deliver at a contentious Presbytery meeting 40 miles away.

I'm still wondering (and I really hope you're listening, seminary presidents) about classes/workshops/seminars for the spouses of those going into ministry. Preacher's wives, preacher's husbands, the preachers themselves - we're all in the same boat. I wouldn't mind standing up to tell you all a story or two.....

Love and blessings - DEREK


  1. That's my sister, and I love her very much. If it wasn't you Derek it would probably be one of her three brothers. What a great fraternity.
    Roy A.

  2. I reminded her that I have office hours on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday if you both need to come by and chat. Lord knows the preacher/spouse relationship is extremely unique.