Dear Pastor’s Wife: The Value of a Permanent Mark(er)

Dear Pastor’s Wife,

I hope you’re doing well this week. I’ve been praying for you. Has it been one of “those” weeks?  I hope this letter will encourage you!

I recently watched The Christmas Candle (guess I’m getting an early start on Christmas movies!)  I’d like to watch it a few more times because of all of the fascinating themes running through it. Even though the Gospel message is nearly missing, and the “feel” over all is rather idealistic (everyone gets their miracle at the same time!), a different impression settled into my realization as I watched the storyline unfold.

The story follows a young pastor, affectionately called “Reverend,” as he makes his entrance into a new town, and assumes the pastoral role at a new church. We don’t know a lot about his personal life until partway through the movie, when we are told that he lost his wife and daughter some years back. We also find out that, in the wake of his pain, he’s lost his way in believing. (This may come as a shock to those who think pastors and wives always have unwavering faith…but….we know the truth, don’t we?)

Mostly we follow the Reverend around as he tries in vain to wrap his head around this town and its traditions, and as he tries to make the changes he thinks will change both his world, and theirs. But instead of wowing them and revolutionizing them and their town, he stumbles his way in and out of relationships, blunders through his own pain, sets the church on fire after boldly installing the new fangled electricity that no one wants except him….and endures a myriad of other disappointments and mistakes. It leaves him at an all time low, contemplating his exit just as soon as he can manage it.

Sound familiar? Yeah, it kind of reminded me of how we stumbled our way through our first ministry. Not only were we learning a new church, but we were learning a new culture in a different country. And we were still learning ourselves, not to mention still learning God (as we always are.)

We, like most other pastoral couples, entered a new ministry desiring to make a difference. Hoping for change where it was needed. Asking for God’s power. Wanting to leave our mark on the place- for eternity. Brimming with energy, and dreaming big- this is all of us when we begin ministry.

Then….something happens….a lot of somethings, in fact. Life falls apart. And we realize that we aren’t leaving the mark we thought we would leave. In some cases, we learn that we never will. Eventually we leave when God gives the push. We may leave wondering why we ever came in the first place. We hope we have’t been marked too deeply by what happened there. Those people. That place. Whatever. Shake off the dust in our minds and move forward!

But- sometime in the weeks and months that follow, we begin to see what has truly taken place:

That place, and those people- have left their mark on us. Not only have they left a mark, but they’ve left it permanently, in a way that we will never escape.

And we realize, gradually,  that this marking on us from the very place where we intended to leave a mark- is a very intentional process, guided by a gracious God.

You see, He knows exactly what town and which people need to mark us.

And the marking doesn’t always come easily- it comes through pain and struggle mostly.

So- you’ve left Ocala, Florida and moved to Wichita, Kansas. You’ve left Wichita and gone to Bird-In-Hand, Pennsylvania. You’ve left Bird-In-Hand and gone to Harper’s Ferry, Iowa. And from Harper’s Ferry, you’ve gone to Stratton, Maine. {What’s it been about, anyway- all that moving about?}

All those places, and the people in them- they’ve left their mark, whether good or bad (or a mix) in your mind. You went to leave your mark, yet you came away marked. Some of your marks are bright colors like aqua and magenta- vivid hues of God’s goodness in your life. You treasure those marks.

But some are gray and black- dismal colors that seem to mark over the bright ones at times. You wish you could erase those marks. Except for the fact that….. they are permanent.

And marker doesn’t erase. Especially permanent marker. {Which is what God uses}

God is blending all the colors to paint your beautiful life. The palette of colors that He chooses for your life is different than mine- and that’s ok. It’s even a different palette in different life seasons. Maybe you’re under the black marker now, while I’m under the bright pink. Or maybe you’re under the brilliant red, while your friend is under the gray. It’s all part of the marking process.

In Scripture, Paul is keen to remind us that ministry is not about us. It’s not about the pen we take up to write on others’ lives with permanent ink (though we may indeed do this well.) It’s not about the beautiful colors we spread through acts of service. It’s not even about the gray skies and black holes we endure and survive as part of our story. It’s about pressing toward a different mark for the sake of the Gospel:

“Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:12-14

Paul’s testimony for the Gospel was that he bore those marks in his physical body: “…for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” Galatians 6:17 For us, it’s often about bearing in our hearts the mark of the Lord Jesus.

Ministry should be about letting God mark us more than wishing we could mark others.

It’s pretty likely that not too long after you leave the church you’re at now, people will forget you. {I mean, you know they’re going to take all those “history of our pastors” plaques and photos down to paint…and they’ll never go back up again.}  Not too long after your death, people will move on.

But oh. The mark that God has made on your life through the people and places where He led you on your journey- those marks are eternal. Those are the marks that set you apart as His. Those are the marks of His sanctifying work in your life.

And no matter the colors- those marks are precious. Don’t take up your eraser- you’ll just make a hole in the page. Don’t try to rub them out with water- you’ll just make the paper heavy. Instead, look for the skilled hand of the Designer. Look for the patterns of grace and mercy. Look for the landmarks of love and answered prayer.

***

Hey friend….why don’t we stop trying so hard to leave our mark on our ministry?  Why don’t we strive, instead, to simply bear the marks that are put upon us by our Sovereign, loving God?

I’m certain that,  in doing so,  we will dwell under our markers much more calmly and happily. Don’t you think?

XOXO,

A Kindred Spirit

P.S. I’m in the process of a re-brand for my website and ministry. What has been Embracing Grace for the last 6 years will soon be Hope For Pastors’ Wives. My website will remain the same- only the web address (domain name) will change. Thanks for your patience with any glitches as we make this change. 🙂

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About Leah {Embracing Grace}

Leah Highfill accepted Christ as her Saviour and became a child of God at the age of 18. Originally from the USA, she and her husband moved to the mission field of Canada in 2005, where she served in full time ministry as a pastor's wife for 10 years. During their tenure there, they became dual citizens. Leah and her family recently returned to NC and are currently enjoying a much needed sabbatical for the year of 2015. She homeschools her children {Small Son is 9 and Tiny Daughter is 7} and teaches private piano lessons on the side. She can be found reading, writing/blogging, playing the piano and violin, or ice skating. A friend to ministry wives everywhere, Leah has a passion to inspire hope and to encourage women in their walk with God. Her first book, Expecting Grace, was published in 2013. Expecting Grace is the story of Leah's experience and survival of a life threatening pregnancy, and of many medical and financial miracles along the way. Her second book is currently in process. Join her grace-filled journey right here at Embracing Grace!

12 thoughts on “Dear Pastor’s Wife: The Value of a Permanent Mark(er)

  1. Love, love, love! Perspective makes a world of difference, and it’s so important to have the right one! Thanks for sharing, this really encouraged me!

  2. This post really grabbed me. I love everything you write, but I am an introverted commenter. Thanks for these thoughts.

  3. This was beautiful and exactly what I needed to hear today! I am a new pastors wife, my husband is in his first pastorate following a time in seminary and a time as a youth minister. I’m always so thankful to find some fresh perspectives and encouragement along the way! This is also my first time so far away from family, so its a real learning experience for me as well. I’m also creating a small blogroll on my blog for ministers wives, and would like to know if you would like to join? The information for that is here: http://www.intentionalmommyhood.com/p/ministry-wives-connect-blogroll-and.html if you would like. If not, I’m still very grateful that I Found your blog! I can’t wait to look around here and read all the insights that you have posted! Thank you for sharing your heart!

  4. Oh my goodness, so I’ve been reading through your blogs, and its such a small world! I saw you are or were at the end of your sabbatical living in NC! We are now in Eastern NC. I grew up in the western NC Mountains, near Boone, NC; and my husband attended school near Asheville NC. Which part of NC are you ministering in at the moment?
    Stacy recently posted..Roanoke Island Festival ParkMy Profile

    1. Hi, yes we are still in eastern NC. We live in Bolton, which is about 45 minutes to an hour from Wilmington, and an hour and a half north of Myrtle Beach. We should meet up sometime. 🙂 It is indeed a small world, especially in ministry. I grew up in PA until I was 10, then moved to Tryon, NC- not too far from Asheville. So I know those areas well. My stomping grounds. 🙂
      Leah {Embracing Grace} recently posted..Ministry Matters: Be Gentle With Your WeedsMy Profile

      1. Amazing! I will have to see where you are exactly! We are close to Nags Head on the outer banks! And I absolutely know where Tryon is, we were in Hendersonville so it’s right up the road! I’m so excited to add you to the list and keep up with your blog, you’ve already ministered to my heart with your words!!! Praying for a meeting someday soon!!!

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