A New Normal

Be-stillOver the past four weeks I have found myself in the most unusual situation I’ve ever been in as a pastor’s wife. For the past four weeks I have gotten up on Sunday morning, had my quiet time, eaten breakfast, gotten ready, gone to church, and…just been there. No lessons to prepare, songs to sing or copies to make. No nursery schedule to manage, no volunteers to organize, no events to plan…I just show up to church, talk to whomever crosses my path and simply be. You see, four weeks ago my husband and I started at a new church, and we made the commitment from the beginning of this ministry that I would take a few months to rest from all leadership activities in the church.

My biggest worry about the decision to take some time “off” was that my new people would think I was lazy or uninterested or, heaven forbid, unspiritual! Guilt weighed me down as I watched the ladies prepare a potluck without my help in the kitchen, the new semester of children & youth ministry kicked off without my teaching skills, and the praise team led worship without my voice. I felt useless and insignificant as I filled my time with simple conversations, smiles and words of encouragement to whoever seemed to need my time. But God was pressing into my heart the need to be still and let Him be God. He was turning my focus away from tasks and towards people. I was gradually filling my schedule with relationships instead of busyness…and the guilt began to be replaced by peace.

I knew that this change of pace was from God, and that my refocus was pleasing to Him, but I still wished I could explain my actions (or lack thereof) to my people each and every week. What they must think of their new pastor’s wife?! Then God gave me a precious gift. I was speaking to the church secretary and she mentioned in passing how much the people of the church love me. Already? But I haven’t even done anything! “Oh, but you have,” she replied. “Taking time to talk to people or, more importantly, to listen to people, makes them feel special- and that makes you special to them.” What a gift! To be loved and accepted without doing anything to earn that affection–that’s truly from God!

So often in my 17 years as a pastor’s wife I’ve found myself exhausted and depleted because I was trying desperately to live up to the expectations placed on my shoulders. Some of those expectations came from my church people. I remember walking into the first nominating committee meeting at our first church to discover my name on the list as VBS director because “The Pastor’s Wife always directs VBS.” Talk about getting thrown into the deep end! But some expectations come from myself and my own desire to make people happy. Yes, I will take on the nursery schedule since no one else will. Yes, I will host the youth at my house so they don’t disturb the prayer meeting at the church. Yes, I will come to church early and help you make copies for your Sunday School class. But every time I said yes to something that God was not calling me to do, I was saying no to something that He WAS calling me to do: love people.

It has only taken me 17 years to figure this out, so I’m glad to have the opportunity to share this discovery with you. God has called me to do two things: love Him & love people. That’s going to look different during every season of my life. Sometimes I will be busy and sometimes I will be still. But either way I can rest in knowing that as long as I’m loving Him & loving people, there is nothing more I need to be doing. God is pleased with this simple obedience. And church people who also love God and love people will be happy with a leading lady who takes time to do the same. So I am letting go of the pressure to perform. I’m letting go of the need to please people with many tasks. I am letting go of the guilt for being still and resting. And I am getting used to my “new normal”: taking time to simply BE.

What is filling your schedule and keeping you from having time to love God and love people? How can you carve out moments where you can simply be still on Sundays?

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3 thoughts on “A New Normal

  1. Oh, I long for time to be still on Sunday mornings! One of the things I miss most about life prior to this position was the opportunity to walk in on Sunday morning, have my children cared for by someone else, and be free to worship, just worship. The church we minister to now is so short on volunteers that often my husband, myself, and even our oldest son end up filling roles simply because no one else will. I’m struggling to find the balance! And I feel it wearing on our family. We’ve discussed at length the need to pull back from some of the roles we filled “temporarily” that have since become permanent, but it’s hard to know how to go about that. Any suggestions for how to let our leadership know that they are wearing us out? 🙂

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    • I totally understand- I was where you are not very long ago. As much as I tried to let things go & delegate jobs to others, often they would not follow through or I would see them struggling and would pick it back up again. But finally I simply had to let some things go and let them fail. I’ll give an example: we had a children’s church ministry that I was heading up…because it was desperately needed and there was no one else to lead it. I gathered enough volunteers to have a rotation of workers who would keep the nursery, prepare the snacks and teach the lesson. I wrote the lessons, prepared all the materials, and filled in whereever there was a gap. This worked pretty well for about a year and a half. Then the volunteers started dropping off until the only ones left consistently were the snack ladies. Every week the nursery and the lesson were being done either by me or one/both of my teenage daughters. We persisted like this for a few months while begging for more volunteers. When summer rolled around, even the snack ladies were tired and so were we. So I made the announcement at church that children’s church would be cancelled for summer and would resume in the fall as long as we had the volunteers to do it. The next week 20 kids came and sat through church…mostly with me in my row. 🙂 The kids were fine, but as summer goes, their attendance began to dwindle. I received quite a bit of flack from various people about canceling children’s church, and many people thought I was the reason our attendance dropped in summer. But I knew that if God wanted a ministry done then He would provide the people to make that ministry work.

      So… I tell you that story to say that sometimes you have to stop doing a ministry that you’re not called to do, in order to make room for others who ARE called to do it. It will not be a popular decision. And it cannot be made hastily- all care must be given to give notice and allow others the chance to make the transition more seamless… but even if no one else steps in, you need to step out. Find the one or two things that you love doing and focus on them. Don’t take on the guilt that comes from a ministry failing because you refused to do it all yourself. If God wants a ministry to happen in your church- He will provide a way for it to happen- and He won’t build it on the backs of your or your family.

      Praying for you very much during this stressful time. If you want to talk more about it or need more specific prayers feel free to message me: scshouse@hotmail.com

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