Beyond Grateful (A Slice of Ministry Life)Posted: March 23, 2015
But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. Acts 20:24
“Just because you go to seminary doesn’t mean you have to be a pastor.” I’m sure those words have been uttered by other seminarians (?) but the first time I heard these words they were coming out of the mouth of my husband. Although I knew he would become a Pastor, he wasn’t absolutely convinced at the time. Silly guy. Called is CALLED…am I right? Needless to say, all these many years later, we are a clergy family–growing spiritually and serving in ministry–and I am beyond grateful for this call upon ALL of our lives! It wasn’t something that I expected or even considered a possibility. In fact, you just might file this experience right up there with “things that make you go hmmmm….”
As a pastor’s wife I’ve seen a lot of stuff. Interesting stuff. Far too much to include here, but one of the things that always stops me dead in my tracks is the way people respond to this vocation. People (churchgoing and non-churchgoing) seem to have a preconceived notion about our life and us. My all-time favorite reaction to this calling occurred at a local restaurant a few years back on our anniversary. While waiting for a table we struck up a conversation (or should I say, Steve struck up a conversation…he’s the talker) with another couple. We were making small talk when the exchange drifted from “what brings you out tonight?” to “California wineries.” (Steve is from the San Francisco Bay Area and we lived there for a few years together early in our marriage.) This was a favorite vacation spot for our new friends and we compared notes about some of our best-loved places in the region. All was right in the world when suddenly the man asked my husband what he did for a living. (Insert screech sound effect here.) Let’s just say in a record amount of time we had gone from potential “besties” to complete zeroes. The guy actually turned away from us. I, of course, can’t help but chuckle when I recall the experience (yes, I have a strange sense of humor!)
Unfortunately, it’s not the first time we’ve seen this reaction. And, I’m okay with that. I only tell this story because time and time again I hear people comment that it must be “hard” to be a clergy family. They feel bad for our children because they wear the “PK” label. The general impression is that we operate outside of “ordinary” life. For some the word “clergy” is quickly linked with judgemental, hypocritical, strict and even boring. Hey, we’re all entitled to our own opinions! But for me, it’s just another addendum to that file I mentioned earlier–you know the one titled “things that make you go hmmmm….” So, I would like to state for the record that we’re just about as ordinary as people get. You don’t have to feel bad for us or think that we live this horrible, sheltered, recluse life. We actually laugh (a lot,) disagree occasionally, hang out at places outside of the church, and sometimes we even have interesting things to say (and it’s not always about church!) Being a clergy family really isn’t all that awful…in fact, it might actually be AWESOME. And that’s really what I wanted to share with you today.
So while every vocation comes with its own share of good and bad…ministry comes with an amazingly huge amount of AWESOME! Not just the parking-angels-smiled-on-me-today or I-found-an-extra-$20-in-my-pocket kind of awesome, but the kind of AWESOME that only God can provide. Working in a church and being a part of a community of believers comes with a lot of God-moments. These are the kind of things regularly lifted up as part of Sunday morning worship, in prayer chains and sprinkled in conversations all over the church. These are the incidents where the impossible becomes possible. The times where generosity and grace exude from every direction and you just know you’re in the midst of something amazing and special. And the greatest part is that these AWESOME moments are not confined to the walls of the church building. This is the part of our life that I wish I could just wrap up and share with everyone…because it’s not exclusive to clergy families. It is ready and available to everyone. God’s desire for creation is that we live with our eyes and hearts open to the AWESOME moments. Saying YES to Jesus is saying YES to life. Taking nothing for granted, grateful for the good things and seeking out the unexpected. This is what God can do!
Throughout Steve’s ministry we have been blessed time and time again. Please do not receive this sentence as boastful. I type it in the most humble manner possible. As a kid I remember feeling God’s presence and the comfort and security only He can offer. Today, as I’ve grown in my own faith, I feel God’s presence not only with the promise of comfort and security, but alongside the assurance of joy and hope! Our life isn’t easy. No life is easy. We all struggle, we all worry, we all fall short, but I am so glad that I never go through anything, good or bad, alone. NEVER. Outside of a loving relationship with our Creator and Savior, I think fellowship among believers is one of God’s greatest gifts to us. Have you seen the good that a church body can do? I can tell you that this kind of support and encouragement cannot be matched. When people say “church family” the key word is family! I cannot imagine life without these treasured friends and we’ve been privileged to be a part of many church families that remain near and dear to our hearts despite the miles.
So, what spurred this post? (Yes, I actually had a point when I started writing today!) Our family has recently been the recipient of something so kind and generous I cannot even begin to tell you how astonished we felt in receiving this gift. It came out of the blue and when we least expected it. It was an answer to a prayer that we might not have even fully realized yet. I would gladly share the details, but we received this gift anonymously and I believe in honoring the giver’s intention. However, I will tell you that this is the sort of thing that qualifies as amazingly AWESOME. We are a witness to God’s love through the hands of his followers. This is the “blessed to be a blessing,” that Steve talks about all the time. This sort of generosity is the kind of thing we practice and diligently try to teach our kids (they’re still learning, by the way.) And I am beyond grateful. Not just for this timely gift, but also for so many other things that God has placed in our lives. To Him belongs the glory. We do not understand, we cannot explain, we do not deserve God’s marvelous love and grace..and yet it’s my favorite thing to file under “things that make you go hmmmm….”
God is good all the time. And all the time…God is good.