Qui transtulit sustinet. (He who transplanted still sustains.)
-Connecticut State Motto
Are you ready for an exercise in imagination? Picture a particular flower. (Mine’s a peach ranunculus.) Come on, it’ll be fun. Mentally plant your flower on a plain, grassy hill. Now picture a copy of that flower, but place it in the middle of a verdant garden, wild colors spilling everywhere around it.
Against which background does your flower make a bigger visual impact?
(This post was originally published on the LifeWay Pastors’ blog on July 18, 2018. You can find it here.)
The days leading up to our church planting journey are a golden haze in my memory. As soon as we experienced the first missional pull six years ago, my husband and I consumed absurd quantities of Dr. Pepper and scrambled for every pertinent book, article, and podcast in Christendom. Despite the caffeine-induced fog, one sentiment jumped out from the masses of content and wrapped itself tightly around my heart. It hasn’t budged since. In a session on marriage and missions, the trainer asked a group of hopeful church planters, “Men, who’s your pastor?” He waited. Crickets. His answer knocked the wind out of me.
Self-care has been weighing on my mind like a quick-ripening fruit recently. John Ortberg’s Soul Keeping and The Fringe Hours by Jessica Turner sit dog-eared nearby. Small pockets of peace wait around my home—a facial mask, some doodling pens, the Bible study I’m loving entirely too much to not be considered a nerd. Bits of beauty scattered throughout my space and schedule. I used to think the whole “me time” thing was for weenies with lame theology and weak wills. (Grace abounds, friends, even for this brand of self-righteousness.) The longer I’m in ministry, though, the more crucial tending my own heart feels to me.
Watch National Geographic for any decent amount of time, and you’ll discover a kingdom truth: isolation kills. The zebra that strikes out on his own is easy pickin’s for that cheetah. And a planting wife with no support network is a prime target for the enemy of her soul.
(Announcer’s voice:) “She pitches the ball to herself! She hits it and runs the bases! She catches the ball and throws it! She chases herself! She’s OUT!”
How weird would it be to go to a ball field and see a one-woman show? Nobody expects that. We all know that when we show up, there will be teams. The players will have practiced in a group format. They’ll have shared stories and secrets and probably deodorant unless they’re fifth-grade boys’ teams. They’ll dance and whoop or ugly cry at the end of the game, hugging one another and reminding themselves that they’re not in this alone. Such a microcosm of community life is a glorious picture of what “together” looks like.
“Morning, everyone! It’s nice to see so many of you interested in this class. Don’t worry—orientation will be quick. There’s no syllabus. Show up as often as you feel like this semester. We’ll have an exam at some point that will involve a lot of material we may or may not have covered. I’m not sure how much of your overall grade it will be or how it will be scored. There will probably be other things you have to do to pass, but whatever. You’ll find out how you did when we mail you your final grades. Good luck!”
If you could time-warp back to middle school and give your younger self some hard-earned wisdom, what would you say? How about high school? College? Your first year of marriage? We all live and learn, usually the hard way.
In honor of Pastor’s Wife Appreciation Month, and because I have a particular heart for planters’ spouses, I thought I might offer a few bits of advice I wish I’d been given on day one of this wild ride, life hacks for simplifying ministry life. (Not that I have it all figured out or do this stuff perfectly. There are probably things the future me will shake her head at and wish the present me could have understood. The present me is still practicing all of this, sometimes awkwardly. Want to practice awkwardly together?)
March is Pastor’s Wife Appreciation Month. Well, it was a couple of years ago, but I guess the hype wore down, the sexy wore off, and the champions wore out. Now it’s just a sad trail of broken links. Be that as it may, few groups out there are as missionally essential and as massively overlooked (unless something’s gone wrong, in which case we are the first to hear about it) as pastors’ wives. The gal married to your shepherd finds herself in a unique and difficult place.