I was young and about to graduate from Bible College and marry a minister all in the same week. In his study one of my lecturers asked me how I felt about becoming a ‘minister’s wife.’
“Just be kind to people and they will love you,” he said. He was a wise and Godly man. Naively, I believed him.
It was always my aim to love and I think I have kept that but the way was not strewn with rose petals. Why? Because people can be so unkind and uniquely so to those of us married to pastors!
Many years ago, unknown to our congregation, a large tumour was discovered inside my neck. For three months I did not know if I would live or die. It proved benign. But in the midst of that time a senior elder came to my husband to complain that some of the congregation felt I did not smile enough!
In the course of being a pastor’s wife I have been subject to people’s bad behaviour at times; anything from gossip to threats of violence! Who knew being a minister’s wife could be so eventful? One man spat at my husband in the street. It landed inside his mouth. AIDS was very much in the news. Lies were written about Kenny: he was a heretical lunatic, a paedophile even. I was amazed when one day he asked me: “Am I what they say?” Repeated unkindness can do that to a person.
In church there will always be some people who have not yet found the pattern for their own life and as they thrash about in the dark waters of sin they may at times try to push our head under with them. It is therefore vital we find our own identity in the kindness of God. When people are unkind we need to take time to notice the bigger picture. In the goodness of God there are always some people of genuine integrity.
Though retired, we have temporarily relocated to help out in a church. Recently I was particularly blessed by two of its members. The first time I was sitting on my own waiting for a meeting to begin. Nearby people were chatting and laughing. Old feelings were beginning to prick my heart. Just then a lady spoke: “I was just thinking it must feel lonely when your husband is ministering and is not able to sit with you.” She continued to chat in a friendly way without patronising me. I felt I had waited forty years for someone simply to understand.
The other time I was blessed was when it was night time and I was in the street on my way home. A man rushed up behind me shouting, “It’s the butcher!” Not the most reassuring introduction to hear in pitch darkness! He IS a butcher but also a church elder. “Is there anything you need?” he said. I smiled and said, “No, we are fine thanks.” But long after, I pondered the way he had looked into my eyes with such sincerity and I thought how much it would have meant if someone had asked that when we were a young and struggling manse family. But I do remember when the children were tiny an old lady giving us a £10 note, “Because medicines are expensive.” Seems like perhaps my old lecturer was not quite correct. I don’t need to be kind to be loved.
Being in my 60’s I now see that if you live long enough some of your enemies may become your friends - long after you have stopped needing their approval. The grace to forgive that God can gift to us is extraordinary. So when some of them come to you, be kind. Rejoice because they are finally finding their way. Christ is being formed in them as He is in you. It is like a sneak peak of Heaven. And why would God let that happen? Because He is kind.
Ephesians 4v32:“And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.”
Ecclesiastes Chapter 11v1 and v6:
“Cast your bread upon the waters …”
“Sow your seed in the morning
and at evening, let not your hand be idle,
for you do not know which will succeed,
whether this or that …”