Over 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?