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Pastors' Wives--Winning the...Saved?

Scripture has become this incredible feeding tube to my soul the older I get, and especially the longer Ryan and I are in ministry. I absolutely love studying God's Word because it is so simple, yet so complicated. So black and white, yet filled with so many colors and shades. How messages to my heart seemingly appear out of nowhere from passages that I have read many times before is a mystery that I relish immersing myself into.

But sometimes there are passages that trip me up. One of those is in Paul's first letter to the church in Corinth when he starts out saying, "Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible." (1 Corinthians 9:19 NIV) He then goes on to describe how he becomes like a Jew to win the Jews, like one under the law or not under the law to win those under the law or not under the law, and like the weak to win the weak. He ends by stating, "I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some." (1 Corinthians 9:22b NIV)

Those verses had become a HUGE burden on me for many years, especially the last eight years while Ryan has been a Senior Minister. It got to the point where Sunday mornings completely stressed me out, although I hope it wasn't noticeable. If you've ever seen the movie "Mom's Night Out," you'll know exactly what I'm talking about. I think Patricia Heaton did a fabulous job as the preacher's wife in that movie! In one of the first scenes where we meet her, she has just been arguing with her teenage daughter before she slowly takes a deep breath, opens the door to the main foyer, then goes out and starts greeting the people.

Sitting in the movie theatre with some friends, I almost started crying right there. Behind her smile, I could read in her eyes exactly what she was thinking. "Talk long enough to those in front of you to not be rude, but don't talk too long or the others you haven't talked to will think you're rude. Oh, there's a family who hasn't been here for a while. You'd better get over there and speak to them, because you don't want to be the reason they don't come back. So-and-so's child won a tournament this week. Be sure to find them and give a congratulations. That lady just looked me in the eyes and then turned her back to me without a smile. I heard she doesn't like me for some reason. Better go speak to her so she knows that I have nothing against her. Etc., etc., etc."

Whew! I had started taking on the burden in my heart and mind that if people in the church were unhappy or not attending, it was somehow my fault. Not to mention that I didn’t want people to have a poor opinion of my husband because of me. If I could just be a better minister's wife!

Then not too long ago, two of those mysterious moments happened that lifted a great weight off of my heart. First, I realized that Paul was explaining to the Corinthians how to win the LOST, not the found. He was explaining how to be in relationships with, rather than separating ourselves from, those who do NOT know Jesus as their Savior. He wasn’t giving directions how to act in the church to make everyone happy. Surprisingly the real meaning is a MUCH easier task than the meaning I was trying to live out.

Secondly, I found comfort in the very words of Jesus to His disciples when He said, “For John (the Baptist) came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’” (Matthew 11:18-19 NIV) I remember running out to the living room hollering, “Ryan, I’ve found the Jesus-version of ‘You’re durned if you do, and you’re durned if you don’t!”

I mean, who is the “they” in Jesus’ words? The religious people!! It wasn’t the lost who were criticizing and constantly questioning John the Baptist and Jesus. It was those who considered themselves religious.

Now please don’t EVER get me wrong in any of these blogs—and you’ll hear me say this over and over again: I LOVE the Church. She is the Bride of Christ. And she IS beautiful. However, to be totally honest, I have been hurt more deeply, betrayed more cuttingly, and judged more harshly by individuals claiming religiosity than I have ever been by the “lost” I have relationships with.

But the comfort comes in this: If Jesus couldn’t make everyone happy, and we know He was perfect, then how on earth can I expect myself, who is FAR from perfect, to be able to make everyone happy either? And while I will never knowingly or purposely cause someone to stumble in their walk with the Lord, it’s a huge burden-reliever to know that if Jesus the Christ can’t do it, then neither can I. So give yourself a break!


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