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You Can Still Wear Cute Shoes
And Other Great Advice from an Unlikely Preacher's Wife
By Lisa McKay
David C. CookCopyright © 2010 Lisa McKay
All rights reserved.
My Husband's Calling Is My Calling Too
Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails.
I once had an interesting conversation with a woman whose husband had enrolled in seminary to prepare for ministry. "He can take classes all he wants, but I didn't sign up for the preacher's wife thing," she said. Since she didn't believe her husband would actually follow through, she went on to tell me she planned on humoring him until the day his calling affected her. And if that day ever came? Well, she'd just cross that bridge when she came to it.
He is still in school. She is still in denial.
Around that same time I attended a pastors' wives conference that included a panel discussion at the end. Lined across the stage, five women in different seasons of ministry shared the thing they found most difficult about being married to a minister.
I'll never forget the response of the youngest woman. She was a mom of toddlers and was obviously distressed. "The hardest thing for me is everyone wanting a piece of my husband and not acknowledging me in the least," she said. "I feel like the person in the background who is only here to take care of the kids so he can be free to take care of everyone else."
I was grieved by her raw response. All I wanted to do was wrap my arms around that girl and assure her she had it all wrong. That she was an integral part of her husband's ministry. That her calling in that season was her children. That no amount of public success possibly mattered if her heart and home were in shambles. The sad thing is that I've met many more like her in the past fifteen years during my own life as a minister's wife. If anything, this has intensified my desire to embrace and encourage women whom God has charged with supporting the men He has ordained to proclaim His Word.
The fact that I just typed that last sentence still baffles me. You have no idea how surreal it is for me to be writing this book. There are many of you reading who have been Christians as long as you can remember and always knew you would marry a preacher. Many more of you grew up as the child of a minister and swore you would never marry one yourself, only to find yourself eating your words. Some of you have pursued callings to various vocational ministries and met your mate in college, seminary, etc. Some of you married men who were already serving in the church. However, based on my blog surveys, a lot of your serene lives were turned inside out when your husband experienced God's call to ministry some point after you were married.
And then on the lunatic fringe are girls like me whose life and marital background weren't exactly résumé worthy.
A Match Made in Heaven?
My husband, Luke, and I married young. I was a mere eighteen and he a strapping twenty-one. Can I just be honest and tell you there were never two individuals any more needy or any less likely to be serving behind a pulpit?
I always cringe when we run into old high school friends. The question of what we're doing now always comes up, and there is one response that we can count on when we share that Luke is a pastor—after the laughter dies down, that is.
"Luke, you are a preacher? And Lisa? You are a preacher's wife?! Okay, joke's over. Now what are you really doing?"
We would be offended if we weren't just as baffled.
I forgive our flabbergasted friends because I can't hold their excellent recall against them. They remember the dangerous combination of the wild boy and the bitter girl whose marriage was tumultuous at best. Surely, the future they envisioned for us was set in a divorce court rather than a sanctuary. They were within days of being absolutely correct.
There is no human reason why Luke and I should still be wed today, much less serving the body of Christ. Even though we were not yet believers, our union started off well enough. But we soon faced the heartbreaking yet all too common reality of many young couples: The stress of working different shifts, having more month than money, and living the separate lives that developed in the midst of it resulted in our parting ways and filing for divorce two short years after the ceremony.
I despised the not-yet-preacher, and the truth is I loathed myself as much as him. We had hurt each other in a million ways, and all I could think of was getting away and starting over. We were within a week of our divorce being final when one night I received a bizarre phone call from him. He told me he had started going to church again and wanted us to rethink what we were doing.
I went off the deep end! I spewed, "So you are turning into a religious fanatic—and you think that is going to fix everything?" I was so full of hate and bitterness, and it still makes me blush to think of all the horrible things I said to him about his newfound religion. He continued, very patiently, to call and tell me he was asking God for a miracle as the clock ticked toward the day our marriage would be legally over.
One night during that critical week before the divorce was final, I had gone to bed, still convinced divorce was the only answer. For some reason, I woke up around two and the tears began to flow. I missed my husband so badly I could barely lie there. I remember thinking, "What is wrong with you? You cannot stand him! It's almost over, just hang in there." I realize now that voice was Satan's, bent on thwarting God's plan for us. If you ask me how I know prayer works or how I know God can turn a cold heart into one that can feel love, laughter, and joy (Ezek. 11:19), I will point you to that night because it is the one that changed everything.
I called Luke the next day. One conversation led to another, and we called the lawyer to stop the divorce proceedings. I tentatively moved back home with Luke, and we began visiting churches. I was still not very thrilled about the "God thing," but I knew for some reason I wanted my husband back and this would play a part. Would it ever!
One night soon afterward, my hubby came to me in our living room and told me he had just prayed for salvation. He'd gone to church his whole life, but it was only at that time he truly accepted Christ as his Savior. I grew up in a totally different denomination, so this Baptist way of doing things was a little traumatic for me. I was glad for him, but I still wasn't so sure what that meant for me. For personal reasons, organized religion held no real appeal, so I was very afraid of how my husband's becoming so radically different was going to affect me and our life together. Seemingly out of the blue, I began having feelings of not being good enough for this new man, and shame over my own sin slowly entered my heart.
For me, salvation was not a lightning-bolt experience but rather an intellectual process at first. I needed to understand it. First Corinthians 1:18 says, "For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." I know the Spirit of God enabled me to believe what I was hearing because obviously I could have still walked away a scoffer. We were attending my husband's childhood church, and the pastor became a dear friend and mentor to us both. He started a small group in his home, and I was able to ask all my questions in a very nonthreatening environment. That man was very patient with me as I asked everything from "What does 'once saved, always saved' mean?" to "When do you think the rapture will happen?" Sometime in the midst of those sessions, I realized I had already made a decision. That decision was for life—both for Jesus Christ and until-death-dous-part with my husband. I asked the Lord to "officially" save me and soon afterward made that public in the body of people who had prayed so faithfully for us both.
If this had been the end of the story I would have been happily-ever-after indeed. Little did I know our tale was only beginning.
Over the next weeks, I watched Luke transform in front of my eyes. Where once stood a rough-around-the-edges construction worker, I now found a softened gentleman. Where turmoil had churned, peace now reigned. A thirst for the world was replaced by an unquenchable longing to drink up every bit of the Word that he'd neglected for the past years.
I'm in no way suggesting that a called minister is on a plane above any other Christian, but what I will say is that even in my own spiritually immature state, what I saw happening in Luke seemed to be so much more fervent than what I saw in other men. And as for my own walk, Luke's desire made me long for more. If I can be so biased, Luke was special—an opinion I still hold.
I tell you this because I want you to understand that after Luke finally told me he believed God was calling him to minister, my head was shocked, but my heart wasn't. Something in me perceived our life had taken a twist that surpassed simply returning to our old lives as a renewed version of our previous selves. We both were experiencing intense restlessness in our jobs. I had just left an entire career on a lark. And Luke, who had always loved his trade and coworkers, began dreading the alarm clock every morning.
Have you ever read the book The Return of the King in The Lord of the Rings trilogy? In the end Frodo the hobbit leaves his home, the Shire, after risking his life to save it. When explaining to his best friend, Sam, why he has to go, he says, "There is no real going back. Though I may come to the Shire, it will not seem the same; for I shall not be the same." In much the same way, the dailiness of our lives had taken on a sense of not quite belonging in the place that had always been familiar. Accepting the fact that God was calling us to serve Him in some capacity was like turning a dial to the last number on a combination lock. The "rightness" of it clicked, and suddenly the future was wide open.
Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign
Luke and I began to pray and seek God for what He wanted us to do—definitely a first in our married lives. I have no biblical basis for what I am going to say next, but I believe God answers the prayers of baby Christians with a shout instead of a whisper. God has taught us how to discern Him more through prayer and His Word now, but in those early days He had to throw up the flashing neon signs before our own lightbulbs lit up.
The first two of those signs were named Al and Doyle. Both of these men mentioned the name of Clear Creek Baptist Bible College within two days of one another. Al had just returned from a Constructors for Christ project, during which they had built new one-bedroom duplexes for married students without children. Doyle was a longtime supporter of the school. These days I call that type of communication from God a double affirmation, but then we were still thinking, "Hmmm.... That's odd. I wonder if we are supposed to look into this."
And God was saying, "Ya think?" while restraining Himself from knocking our foolish heads together.
Luke hesitated contacting the school to request information because he had no hopes of getting in. What I've not yet told you is that he didn't graduate high school. What dropout had any kind of chance to go to college? He finally mustered the nerve to call, and we scheduled a visit. We still didn't know for what. Both of us realized we wouldn't be able to go right away but thought maybe the school could give some pointers on what Luke could do to become a student someday.
We traveled to the college and were in love at first sight. The campus was set in the mountains and was absolute lush, peaceful perfection. Arriving there felt like coming home, which at the time was heartbreaking because we knew this place couldn't possibly be in our near future.
The following day we met the director of admissions, Jay. He was and remains one of the most boisterous, joyful, encouraging people we have ever known. Luke explained his full situation—particularly the part about not having a diploma. Luke expected to hear, "Sorry, son, but you don't belong here. Come back in a year or two when you are good enough." Instead Jay chuckled and said, "No problem!"
No problem? How is not having a high school diploma not a problem?
Brother Jay enthusiastically went on to explain there was a special program in this college for men who did not have a high school degree. They would take regular college courses and also be tutored for high school in the freshman year. Students had two semesters to pass the GED, at which point they would have official student status and all classes would count toward a fully accredited degree.
And just like that, there was Neon Sign Three, and it blinked wildly, "Road Open!"
Our patient, gracious God gave us three signs in an overwhelming answer to our many prayers—and they all pointed toward our new home. (One of the homes Al built, no less!)
Absolutely Certain (I Think)
Well, enough about us—for now anyway! Since I've shared a little backstory with you, I'd like to talk about what I believe is one of the foundational principles of our lives as ministry wives: the nature of our own call.
I realize each of our inductions into a life of ministry was met with different levels of enthusiasm. It's not every woman who looks forward to low salaries and high expectations. Of frequent moves and misunderstood children. Of criticism and conflict. These are just a few stereotypical pitfalls that can understandably cause a woman to put the skids on any plans her man has for serving in vocational ministry.
As Luke was processing the call God placed on his life, I was blessedly ignorant of all the things I just listed. My church experience was limited to a few years of attendance as a child, so I really had no comprehension of the chew-'em-up-and-spit-'em-out reputation of churches where ministers are concerned. Naïveté is not always a bad thing—especially when knowing all the details could result in being too fearful to take the leap into God's plan for your future.
But what part do you play in what God is asking your husband to do? Has God called you in the same manner as him? My short answer is to state plainly that every wife has the God-given role of being a faithful helpmate no matter if her husband is a banker, a mechanic, or a schoolteacher. However, there are unique challenges and more assured uncertainties for the wife who has the high charge of supporting a man directed to leave the familiar behind and follow God's call into the unknown. What are some of those challenges, and how should we who find ourselves in this situation react? Let's learn from someone who has gone before us—Abraham's wife, Sarah.
A Woman Out of Control
We meet Sarah (Sarai) in Genesis 11:29 and in verse 30 are told simply, "[She] was barren; she had no children." In the Middle Eastern culture, Sarah's dignity was directly tied to her being married and having babies. Since she was childless, she would not have risked staying behind without her husband, no matter how unsure she may have been about Abraham asking her to leave Ur. There was nothing but shame for Sarah in Ur without Abraham.
And conversely, there was nothing in Canaan for Abraham without Sarah. It was out of Sarah's infertility that God would perform one of His most awesome works—the miraculous birth of a nation consecrated to Himself. Abraham could have found any number of women who weren't suffering from the heartbreak of barrenness to be his wife. However, the supernatural birth of Isaac was the requirement for properly illustrating God's glory through human hopelessness.
Long before Abraham met Sarah, God purposed for the two of them to be the human agents through whom He would bless the nations. Neither of them could have participated in God's plan alone—each needed the other. That concept is no different for those God continues to call today to spread the good news throughout the world.
When I think of all the quirks and hang-ups that Luke and I both have, it is amazing to realize that for the most part we do not have the same ones. Luke is painfully shy; I'm the social extrovert. Luke is compassionate to a fault, whereas I am more critical. Luke doesn't understand drama, and I am a master of it; therefore, I am able to help him comprehend the underlying issues women have when he has no clue how to proceed. God placed us together as a team to complement one another's weaknesses and to nurture the spiritual children He has entrusted to our care. I have total and complete faith in Luke's ability and he in mine, and yet neither of us believes for a second we could have any measure of ministry success without the support of the other.
Excerpted from You Can Still Wear Cute Shoes by Lisa McKay. Copyright © 2010 Lisa McKay. Excerpted by permission of David C. Cook.
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