March 23, 2015

What Do Pastors' Wives Do All Day? (A Review of The Pastor's Wife)

 
As a child, I loved Richard Scarry’s picture book What Do People Do All Day? Its large-format pages are crowded with brightly-colored drawings of pigs and bears and cats, all engaging in the fascinating work of grown-ups, with more than a few disasters thrown in. Construction workers toil under the streets, postal workers scatter envelopes above, and airplane pilots soar over it all. Scarry’s attention to minutiae—the used-car salesman physically restrains a fleeing customer, the laundress gets run over by the delivery boy and sends her laundry flying across the street—impressed my young mind: adults are very, very busy.
 

Sometimes, being a pastor’s wife can feel like a page out of Richard Scarry. It’s hard to know where to look first. This church event is happening over here—Quick! Someone catch the leaning cake! That Bible study is happening over there—Watch out, Mrs. Bear, your leader’s guide is blowing across the street! These people are coming for dinner—Does anyone smell smoke coming from that stove? Those people are fleeing their marriage—Look! Mr. Bear is going to grab their shirts and try to keep them together!
 
Phew.
 
Enter Gloria Furman’s forthcoming book The Pastor’s Wife. From its serene, leaf-twined cover, to its expressed thesis—“wives of ministers need encouragement and refreshment in the Lord, and we find that hope and help in the gospel”—this book is an anti-Scarry. With a large, pink eraser in her sympathetic hand, Furman blurs the frantic church hallways and manse living areas. She sends the quarreling members and impending temporal disasters to the background for a minute and draws a new picture in the foreground: the good news of Christ died and risen for sinners.
 
Pastors' wives are very, very, very busy. They really need Jesus.
 
Furman’s book is helpfully divided into three sections: Loving the Chief Shepherd, Loving an Under-Shepherd, and Loving the Bride of Christ. With a warm tone and rich theology, Furman focuses pastors’ wives on the heart of the matter. True to her anti-Scarry style, this is not a book of fast-paced minutiae—“I realize that your time and energy are in high demand, so I want to honor that and drill down to the things that matter and let you draw out the implications for your unique life and ministry”—it’s a book of essentials. Who do you love? And why?
 
Listen for a minute:
The privilege of participating in Christ’s fullness, filling all in all as more and more people across the globe worship him as the one true God, is why you are here. This is true whether you are in Iowa City, Bangalore, Abu Dhabi, or Juarez. Even on a mundane Monday morning our hearts can be thrilled with the prospect that included among the gifts Jesus gave to his church are your pastor-husband to serve and you to help him serve—for the building up of his body. It throws everything into perspective of the big picture when we remember that Jesus ordained that this body building has a massive, Christ-centered goal: that the church would attain the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of him, to mature manhood, and to the measure of the stature of his fullness.
 
The Pastor’s Wife is a survival manual of the most glorious kind. Sweeping away the busy clutter, we are left with a sense of what is most vital—for pastors’ wives and everyone else. What do pastors' wives do all day?  If you read this book you'll know the answer, simple enough for every day but rich enough for a life-time. Pastors' wives delight in Christ.

March 16, 2015

Of Duty and Other Dirty Words

A guest post by Betsy Kirk.

Just a question: When did “duty” become a dirty word?
We laugh, admitting that sometimes we tell our children to obey “because I said so” as though it is a silly and unreasonable response–when surely shouldn’t it be considered, coming from parent to child, as a full answer? Whenever the word “ought” was struck from our working vocabulary (for struck it has been) we lost something precious: a big, basic building block from the foundations of faithfulness.

If you still yourself and shut your eyes and I say “duty” do you see taxes or laundry? A soldier? A grim-faced lady trotting off to prayer meeting?

Perhaps we see grueling things or get a nasty taste in our mouths because in our world duties are suspect and passions are championed. Doing something because we are “supposed to” is considered worse than not doing it at all. Shel Silverstein isn’t the only one singing, “Listen to the mustn’ts, child. Listen to the don’ts. Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me . . . Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.” I wish it hadn’t been so easy to memorize that as a child because it isn’t true. For me, seeking to follow Jesus, anything can’t be. Some shoulds and shouldn’ts and mustn’ts desperately matter.

Perhaps you don’t see the dilemma. For the Christian, it should be simple: our duties and our passions should lie together. John Piper famously writes in Desiring God (1986) about what would happen if he gave his wife roses and, when thanked, gave “It’s my duty to love you” as a response. He’s right–she wouldn’t like it. Yet that’s a faithful man! Isn’t it true that all of us do things, at times, because they are right and not because we feel it? Perhaps duty and passion ought to go together but duty is there first, like the garden trellis on which we train the vines of our passions as they grow God-ward.
I love my duty very much, except when I don’t. I have a passion for my family. (Today’s duty of cutting the baby’s tiny pinky fingernail was delightful.) But there are times when it’s all dirty toilets and sick kids and spilled orange juice and loud voices repetitively bellowing out of tune. Sometimes it’s five needy people clamoring at once and I’m the sixth (and the neediest). I have a passion for my church. But sometimes events fly thick and fast or attending home group means messing up the kids’ schedule or listening to someone means a lost hour or two. I love Jesus. But there are seasons when waking up and studying my Bible and focusing my mind to pray are the last things I feel like doing.

Do I do my duty anyway? Ought I?
Don’t be so legalistic, we say. But is faithfulness legalism? Legalism is fastidiously holding to the letter of the law in order to gain merit. Faithfulness is obedience–even when we don’t feel like it. I suppose from the outside they appear the same. At least they have the same results. A legalistic mama is pretty consistent. But so is a faithful mama.

Let’s not let the world tell us that duty is self-assigned and we should persevere in it only so long as it suits our changing feelings. I have come to believe that a great deal of faithfulness is simple obedience: the old-fashioned word for that is duty.

From Patsy: Betsy, who lives in Delaware, describes herself as “a child of God, a wife, and a mother of four.” I know her as a warm and friendly person, a talented writer and blogger and a creative mom with a love for Jesus.
Right now, Betsy’s husband is a Pastoral Resident in a Baptist church. The Kirk family is preparing to move to southeast Asia where her husband will be a seminary professor.

To learn more about Betsy and see the rest of her series about duty, check out her blog, Part of the Main (from my end).
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