Women in ministry often labor under the misconception that they have to be an accomplished soloist, hymn-playing pianist or seminary-trained Bible teacher in order to qualify as the consummate minister’s wife. I know women who truly believe they have to be Betty Crocker to be godly. Not true!
As a high school junior, I decided it was time to take Homemaking 101. I can still see Mrs. Johnson’s face as she naively gazed at her new students. Bless her unsuspecting heart! She had no idea the challenge I brought to that class and to her career as a teacher. For weeks, I muddled through each lesson with a respectable but less than stellar performance, until we hit the section on sewing. It would prove to be her undoing where I was concerned.
Being the veteran teacher that she was, Mrs. Johnson took a deep breath and doggedly plunged ahead in determination, vowing she could teach anyone to sew – even me. I decided to make a blouse and chose what I thought was a simple McCall’s pattern. Mrs. Johnson was thrilled with my selection, competent that even I could make a blouse requiring approximately seven straight seams. The pattern looked so simple and even pretty in the package. Then I opened it, gingerly unfolding and carefully arranging each delicate pattern piece, staring at the foreign documents before me. They were simply beyond human comprehension. I concluded that the pattern was actually a sinister trap of some accomplished but sadistic seamstress and quickly stuffed the flimsy entrapments back into their package. After all, I was creative! I didn’t need a pattern! I knew exactly what I wanted to make and how hard could it be? Ignorance really can be bliss!
When I presented the completed blouse to Mrs. Johnson for a grade, her eyes widened as she stared in silence at my first and last attempt at sewing. “Interesting”, she muttered, obviously in shock. I made a “C” in her class, a sympathy grade if there ever was one. And the blouse? I buried it in my back yard – literally. Since that day, I always make sure I have at least one friend who can sew and the name of two seamstresses on hand at all times. However, in all my years of ministry, I can truthfully say that my inability to sew has never hindered God’s work in my life or my calling as a woman in ministry.
Some have even dared to suggest that since I have a daughter, I should not only sew, but teach her to sew. (I buried that proposal along with Mrs. Johnson's blouse.) Another line of thinking proposes that because I am a pastor's wife, I should drag out my silver (if I had any) and host dinners and teas for the women of the church. (Please know that those of you who actually enjoy these tortuous events have my undying admiration and respect.) In our first full-time church, I actually gave it a shot by inviting the entire church to our home for a Christmas open house. Since there were several hundred church members at the time, I concluded it would take three nights to accommodate them all. Looking back, my only defense is a complete loss of sanity.
My family aptly dubbed the month before the first open house as "The Month from Hell". They had good reason. I put them all to work, cleaning and scrubbing every square inch of the house. I bought and hoarded food, threatening to hurt anyone who even thought about infiltrating my "stash". I even managed to destroy Thanksgiving week-end by insisting that we decorate, inside and out, for Christmas, not in anticipation of celebrating Christ's birth, but in preparation for the "open houses" to be held the following weekend.
For three years, I tried to be the “hostess with the most-ess" until my husband put a stop to the madness by asking one simple question, "Honey, why are you doing these open houses? You obviously don’t enjoy them." The answer that popped into my mind and out of my mouth was absurd. "Because that's what pastor's wives do!" I feebly responded. "Where does it say that, honey?" he asked. Dan went on to set me free. "We have done our last open house. Please don't ever do anything else as a woman in ministry because you think it fits the man-made profile of a pastor's wife. Do what God has gifted and called you to do - period - and never apologize to anyone for doing so." I do not have the gift of hospitality, but in every church we have ever served, there have been women who do and delight in using that gift for Him.
Taken from Mary's book, Experiencing God's Power in Your Ministry. To order, go to Mary's online store at www.marysoutherland.com