It’s no secret that full-time ministry is a difficult profession. So difficult, that when I made my list of “Must-Haves” for my future husband, I intentionally excluded a calling to ministry. In fact, I specifically asked God not to make me a pastor’s wife. I practically begged. My argument to Him was that I am not pastor’s wife “material”. I am not the put together, well-mannered lady that always used to greet me on Sunday morning with a smile and a hug. I have no desire to be involved in the behind-the-scenes goings on of church politics. I am not the sweet, soft-spoken woman who I picture when I think of a minister’s wife. I’m a fireball. I’m a warrior.
When I met David, I looked to the heavens and sighed. There was no use fighting it. God really has a way of making me do things I don’t want to.
And so I am a pastor’s wife.
David has been working as the Associate Pastor at Whitesburg Baptist Church’s second campus on Pulaski Pike in north Huntsville for the last three years. When I began attending, it was clear to me that this ministry was much different from your average church. The vast majority of attendees are children and teens that volunteer drivers pick up in shuttles and buses. Their parents do not attend. This makes for an interesting Sunday almost every week.
The facility was in need of repairs. The kids and teens had behavior issues that were out of control. There were major reforms that needed to take place. I was terrified by the prospect of taking it all on. But I am not the kind of girl who is okay with the status quo. And it seemed to me that Pulaski was just trying it’s best to stay afloat.
So I came alongside my husband-to-be (at the time) as I knew I should. This is where God had placed David, and so this is where he had placed me. I stepped in and started teaching one of the most challenging groups, the high school girls class. I fought with them, laughed with them, cried with them and -honestly many times – because of them. I joined the praise team, and in that I found the one thing that I could truly look forward to on Sunday mornings.
Through a leadership change at the church, David took on more responsibility. I watched as my husband took the full weight of the campus on his shoulders. I watched as he slowly fatigued and became more and more discouraged. It was hard to see the man I love in true anguish over what to do. Ministry is hard. It’s more than a job. You don’t “leave it at work” like you do with other jobs. Your church is your life. Your church is your family, who you are supposed to be able to go to for support and encouragement. So what do you do when that church is the reason you need support and encouragement?
So we fought for change to advance the ministry to new heights and effectiveness. We made little to no progress, but we pushed on. There was never a Sunday that we left church satisfied. We only ever left feeling burdened and frustrated. We were running on fumes and taking what little strength we could from tiny victories that were few and far between.
We prayed and asked God for direction. David is not a quitter. He will persevere and see things through to the end, so it was hard for him to consider leaving before he knew he had fufilled God’s purpose for him there. We discussed things and came to the conclusion that at some point (likely soon) we would have done all that we could do where we were at, and that God was calling us to something else. So at that time, he began to search for a new job.
It has been quite a while since that search began. We have waited and pressed on working at Pulaski, believing that when the time was right to move on, God would reveal it to us.
A few weeks ago, David came home and told me that his position at the church was being cut due to budget concerns. What should have been bad news and a stressor to us, was in fact the most relieving news we could have recieved. When David sat down next to me and I looked into his eyes, I no longer saw a man swaying under the weight of something too heavy to bear. I saw the man I first fell in love with, a man who is faithful to God in all things and who was finally delivered from the burden he had been carrying.
As the news spreads, people respond in the normal way you respond to someone who is suddenly without a job. They say they are sorry. They remind us that God has a plan for us and that we are in their prayers. And we can only smile, because this was God’s answer to our prayers. We know for sure that this is the time we are meant to move on from the ministry we have labored in. We have no idea where God will take us from here, but we have complete and total peace, because God is good.
It is by no means easy to walk away though. For all of the hard times and hurt, there are still cherished moments and invaluable lessons we are taking away. There are still pieces of us poured out there, forever to stay. Pieces on the stage where I closed my eyes and sang my heart out in worship to my Heavenly Father, Healer and Redeemer. Pieces in our classrooms where we chiseled away at the indifferent and closed off hearts of students. Pieces in the hearts of the kids we love, and who now by some miracle love us in return. Yes, it hurts much more than I thought it would to walk away.
Last night, we were surrounded by friends and church volunteers at a party thrown in our honor. They spoke words of encouragement and affirmation over us. They laid hands on us and prayed. They sent us out to do God’s work wherever He may lead us. The overwhelming theme of the things spoken over us was this picture painted in James 1:12:
A man who endures trials is blessed, because when he passes the test he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him.
I heard people affirm things that I’ve believed all along. That God was bringing us through a test during the time we served at Pulaski, and that – yes! -we passed it. We did make a difference. We can move on knowing we have made an impact. All of the tears I shed are not in vain. All of the battles we fought, they counted for something.
Tomorrow will be our last Sunday at Whitesburg’s Pulaski Pike campus. New things are on the horizon, but I will never forget my first years as a pastor’s wife. I’m a fireball. I’m a warrior. It’s what I needed to be. And God knew that. He always knows.
Please keep us in your prayers. David has inverviewed with several churches and we are praying that God lights the way for our next adventure together.