I feel that the Lord is calling the church to spend more time in prayer," my husband announced at the close of a recent Wednesday night service. "So I am setting apart thirty minutes before each mid-week service for prayer, and also an additional thirty minutes at the close. No one is under any obligation to come early or stay late, but the alter will be open for those who want to spend extra time in the presence of the Lord."
Inwardly I groaned, sensing that I was going to be under an obligation to attend every week. I could see Wednesday prayer time stretching out before me from here to infinity. Every Wednesday evening I would be counted with the faithful band of prayer warriors who responded to the clarion call. I would be on my knees, resenting the fact that I was there, and feeling guilty because of my attitude.
Are you shocked? Am I the only pastor's wife who obligates herself to be involved in everything that's going on in the church. I recognize my weakness in this area, but am often unwilling to open myself to the criticism, judgement, and condemnation that might (note, I said might) be heaped upon me of I don't do my share.
My problem stems from my belief that the pastor and his wife are supposed to serve as examples to their congregation. How can I expect others to commit to a prayer meeting that I am not willing to attend myself? How can I ask others to give generously to the building fund when I put in only a pittance? How can I expect others to go the second mile if I'm not willing to walk along with them?
I know! I have the freedom of choice just like everyone else. I can skip prayer meetings, but then I feel even worse. If I stay home, I find myself locked behind the doors of my self-inflicted prison of guilt and condemnation. There's no question in my mind that Jesus would excuse me from the prayer meetings, but the problem is that I can't excuse myself. I feel that as the pastor's wife I must attend every function and service. The pressure to be all things to all men (and women) is constantly with me.
It seems to be an occupational hazard—being everything to everyone. Which of us doesn't want to be the best possible pastor's wife? We want to bring glory to the Lord, to our husbands, and to the church. So we submit ourselves to all manner of activities that we really don't want to be doing. We move into the "obligation mode" to placate our consciences. Lord, grant me the grace to be 'love motivated" in the things that I do.
I recall the time four years ago when the church was experiencing a real financial crisis. My husband fervently sought the Lord for the answer to the money problems we were facing, and after several days of prayer, he felt he received the solution—the 11% tithe.
It was simple enough. Instead of giving 10% in the offering, he would ask that for one year, the faithful contribute 11% of their income. Of course, the moment I heard his plan of action, I knew that we would be donating 11% for a year. I didn't even pray to ask God if He would have us give. It was a foregone conclusion from the beginning. After all, how could we ask the people to give the extra one percent if we didn't. And it was only for a year. We could certainly handle the 11% tithe for one year!
The people responded and the bills were paid. God was faithful to supply our needs. That year ended and the obligation to go the second mile also ended—for everyone but us. Four years later we arc still "setting the example" and the 11 % tithe has become the norm for our household.
"You can never out give God," Jack explained. "And if we don't give generously, how can we expect others to reach down deep into their pockets? God will honor our sacrificial giving."
Please don't think that I'm stingy with our money, or that I resent giving to the Lord. Neither do I have anything against prayer meetings. But I don't want to give out of compulsion, but rather out of a heart that delights to please God. I don't want to have to go to the prayer meeting. I want to attend because I truly desire to meet with God in sweet communion. Hopefully you understand what I'm trying to express about this inordinate compulsion that attempts to control my actions and my choices. It causes me to cease to be spirit-led and instead become a slave to self-imposed expectations.
There was the time that my husband preached on the need to communicate the gospel. He asked for volunteers who would go to Main Street on a Saturday morning to pass out tracts and take part in some street evangelism. "Who is willing to devote a morning to soul winning?" Jack challenged the people. Three men raised their hands.
"Surely there are more than three in this congregation who will go." he pleaded. "Where are the soul winners?"
Everything within me rebelled against going to Main Street with tracts in hand, but after all, I was the pastor's wife. If I wasn't willing to go, how could I expect the people to take this step of faith. Reluctantly I raised my hand and was rewarded by my husband's smile. It was an act of pure submission.
I would like to say that my tract time was a wonderful experience, but I would be lying. I hated every moment that I spent on the street. God didn't call me as an evangelist, but rather as a Bible teacher. I was completely out of my element and my labor profited nothing. The morning was endless; the minutes dragged by as obediently stood in front of the town tavern passing out my tracts—feeling like I was casting my pearls before swine. Not a soul was won to Christ, but no one could fault me. I was out there doing my part, living up to everyone's expectations. I was serving as the example to the members of the church.
After twenty years as a pastor's wife, I am still battling the compulsion to be the perfect pastor's wife. I am still endeavoring to live up to the impossible standard that I have set for myself. I continue to attend every meeting, take part in all the activities, arrive on time for every function, keep a happy face, and remember everyone's name (and the names of their children). It's exhausting!
Don't fall into the same trap that I have fallen into. You will never please all of the people all of the time, even if you do everything perfectly. The compulsion to be the perfect pastor's wife will seek to grab hold of you, but stand against it! Be a God pleaser. Seek God's will rather than the congregation's expectations.
Would anyone really have cared if I hadn't passed out tracts? Will the Wednesday prayers be less effective because I miss an occasional meeting? Would the church have become insolvent if I had suggested to my husband that perhaps it wasn't necessary for us to continue on as 11% tithers? Would the congregation love me any less if I wasn't perfect?
God doesn't require us to be "super-helpmates" who set unrealistic goals for ourselves and then struggle to live up to them. We need to rest in the Lord and simply be ourselves, knowing that we are accepted in Him. Learn to walk in the Spirit, allowing the Lord to determine your involvement in the church functions. What would you have me do, Jesus?
And whatsoever He says to you, do it!