As I peak my head around the corner and look down to the end of the dark hallway I’m able to see what made the noise. From the bedroom emerges a little girl. She’s got a blanket in one hand and her favourite stuffy gripped tight to her body with the other. Her hair is dishevelled; a mess that only a sleeping toddler could make.
When she spots me, she shuffles down the hallway with purpose. Without making any eye contact, she presses her body up close against my leg while I finish brushing my teeth. She waits for me and doesn’t move.
Stacey has been out of town on a mom getaway-planning-shopping retreat for the past couple of nights. I’m not sure why this particular child is up at this particular point of the night, but I know we’re all a little zapped from the feeling of just not having mom around.
I finish brushing my teeth and begin the inquisition.
‘Why are you up? Are you scared? Did something happen? Do you need to use the toilet? Are you thirsty? Do you feel sick?’
No answer. No eye contact. Just pressing against me and hugging my leg. No words.
We’ve All Got Questions
We all have questions we’d like answers to. But sometimes the questions we have of God can be the scariest to ask: we want to be reverential, not blasphemous. What if the question offends God?
More than that, deep-down we can be kind of afraid that there is no answer. What would that mean for our faith?
For some, the persistent presence of questions unasked has been a catalyst to their rejecting or abandoning of the Christian faith all together. That need not be so. In fact, the people in the Bible — those God uses to write his very word! — often asked the toughest questions of all.
Have you read them?
Many of you earnestly desire to hear your pastors preach better sermons. While you can tell that he labours away, you long for more passion, more earnestness, more deliberateness, or more clarity. That’s understandable. Most preachers would like to grow in these ways as well. (And the ones who don’t really need prayer.)
One of the best ways you can help your pastor’s preaching is by praying for him. But did you know you can do even more than that? And it’s not that difficult, either.
A Word for Pastor’s Wives
Being a pastor’s wife is a tough calling. And it is one that very few women sign up for, knowing what they are getting into.
When you are a pastor’s wife there are high demands and lots of hard work. You know people have high expectations of you, but they are never clearly defined. There is only ever a vague sense of whether or not you’re meeting the standards of the people you’re aiming to serve.
Against the notion that ‘the pastor’s wife is special,’ pastors encourage our wives: Be a normal member, be a normal wife, be a normal mother. That sounds nice, doesn’t it?
But there are still unspoken pressures. You have to be exemplary.
If your home isn’t right, or if you don’t invite the right people over enough times, you’re not hospitable. Simply having a bad Sunday can mean that people think you’re unfriendly, or unwelcoming. If you have friends in the church, people may perceive you as ‘cliquey’ and say you have favourites. And if you don’t have friends, you might look ‘stand-offish’ or ‘unavailable.’
And on top of that you have a husband who, more often than not, works weird hours, feels burdened with anxiety for the church, and is weighed down by other people’s sins and sorrows (many of which he can’t share). He is relationally drained long before he enters the home at night — right when you need him to engage. And even in sharing your struggles with him you feel guilty, like you’re ‘piling on’ to someone who is already carrying too much.
But for the pastor’s wife who is truly, first of all, a wife to her husband, there is a great promise of great reward.
You don’t have to be involved in many discussions on the issue of gender roles in the New Testament and the church today before someone cites the ‘culture Paul / Peter was writing to.’
They usually argue that the culture ‘back then’ was different. Women weren’t educated, had no opportunities to grow, teach, express themselves, attain to leadership positions. Paul was going along with some of the cultural assumptions he had inherited from the ancient world, so as to earn Christianity a hearing.
But our culture now is far more progressive. Things are different now, it is argued, and so our understanding of the roles of men and women must also progress from where it was ‘back then.’
One of the (several) things that is wrong with this argument is that it often assumes a simplistic and monolithic view of gender roles and identity across all swaths of society in the Roman world. But such was not the case then, as it is not the case now.
‘Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is’ (Ephesians 5.17)
Paul is not messing around when he speaks to the Ephesians. They are to know that ‘the days are evil’; in other words, time is short. Once they realize that, there is only one appropriate response: Figure out what really matters.
That’s why Paul says, ‘Understand what the will of the Lord is.’ Because, really, there’s not a lot of time to mess around with things that don’t matter.
But can we talk about ‘the will of the Lord’ for a minute? Because typically in North American evangelical contexts, we refer to ‘the will of God’ like it’s some existential, mystical path for our lives that we need to discover. It’s behind door number three… or two… whichever I choose, I just hope I get to ‘live in God’s will.’
We think it has something to do with what job we take, where we buy a house, whom we marry; this determines if we’re ‘in God’s will.’ Sometimes we talk about it like it’s a secret for unlocking the good life where there is nothing but ease and blessing, as if it’s some kind of fortune-cookie sweet-spot with the Divine.
But do you know what Paul is getting at by the phrase ‘the will of the Lord’ here? He’s talked about it earlier in the letter. In the working of his plan to forgive sinners, through the redemption of Christ, he has made ‘known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth‘ (Ephesians 1:9-10).
One of the many questions Christians face (especially young Christians) is, ‘What career path should I take?’ Or, ‘What kind of work should I get into?’
There are lots of good ways to think about that and lots has already been written. One of the more helpful thoughts is an old one from St Augustine: ‘Love God and do as you please.’ Surely, if true love for God is the root, he argues, whatever comes as fruit cannot be evil.
There is one more consideration, however, that I think should be a part of the conversation. And it is this: What if God really blessed your work?
I mean, what if God actually did abundantly beyond what you could ask or imagine and your work prospered wildly? If everything you started finished well and everything attempted was successful, what would it look like?
If God blessed your labour beyond your wildest dreams with fruit a hundredfold, what would be the benefit to the world? What would the blessing be? Would the world be better off? How so?
As God’s children, we’re called to be his agents of blessing. We’re called to be salt and light. We should be leaving the world a better place than we found it. So why not let that be part of the conversation when we’re considering our career choice?
If we are going to be doing something five days a week (or more!) for the rest of our lives, why not at least ask if the end result we’re labouring for actually blesses God’s world?