I’ve heard it before, but this time it really resonated with me. We had just sat down to Sunday lunch together, the pastor’s family and mine, when I asked the question.
“How are you doing today?”
I watched her out of the corner of my eye as I passed the chips her way, so I noticed the look in her eyes as she slowly smiled and replied:
I waited a moment, then lowered my voice a bit, and leaned forward so as not to be heard over the chatter of the children at the table. “Are you really okay?” I whispered.
“No. No, I’m not okay….
But it’s Sunday. I have to be okay today.”
All across the world there are ministry wives who are answering I’m okay when they’re really not. Because somewhere along the line, we have put them on this invisible pedestal. You know the one. The one that says all ministry wives are perfect and all ministry children must therefore be perfect and we’ve lost all of the humanity of the ministry.
We’ve forgotten that moms in ministry are real women.
Real women who are sometimes exhausted. Exhausted by sleepless little ones, dirty diapers, teenagers who need counsel at all hours of the night, and grown children who sometimes make choices that devastate them.
Real women who are sometimes overwhelmed. Overwhelmed by the needs in their ministry, the needs in their family, and sometimes–the needs in their own heart.
They’re real women who are sometimes completely empty, broken, and filled with pain. At times, they struggle with anxiety, depression, and feelings of hopelessness.
Just like the rest of the church.
Yet week after week, moms in ministry give and serve and love, regardless of the aching of their innermost heart. Most of the time, they do this because serving and giving and loving is a humble privilege and they love their role in Jesus’s ministry.
But every once in awhile, they’re just not okay.
And because we’ve so conditioned ourselves to expect this perfection pedestal from moms in ministry, they continue to answer with I’m okay and hold back the threatening waterfall of true feelings of their hearts.
They fake being okay. Because they’re afraid of what you’ll think if they tell you the truth.
Yet here’s the thing. You actually CAN be doing all the right things for all the right reasons and have everything go completely wrong. Just ask Job. You remember Job, don’t you? The man who was serving God faithfully when his entire world came crashing down around him? Or David. The chosen one. The man after God’s own heart. The one who was mocked, chased, attacked and nearly killed while he was trying to be faithful?
Do we honestly believe that Job’s wife or David’s wife was “okay” during these painful life trials?
Just because a woman isn’t okay doesn’t mean she’s living in sin. It isn’t a sign that we need to fire her husband. It doesn’t mean we need to pass judgment on her, gossip about her behind her back, or tell her she should just trust God more.
It means we need to love her. Support her insecurities. Grace her with a safe place to share her pain. Encourage her with kindness. Give her an environment that allows her to let her hair down a bit and then laugh together. Thank her for her ministry. Stop expecting perfection. Bless her with a meal or sweet card. Surround her with the intensity of Jesus’s love.
Because Jesus loves the hurting. He died for the broken. He fills the empty. He encourages the lonely. He feeds the hungry.
And then he meets us right smack in the middle of our I’m not okay, wraps His arms around us and heals our hearts.
I haven’t always been in ministry so I’ve experienced both sides of this messy situation.
I’ve been the judging church member, questioning the imperfections of women in ministry while neglecting my own heart issues. I’m ashamed to admit I’ve “wondered if so-and-so should be in ministry if she can’t control her child” or judged a woman by the length of her dress or style of her clothing. I’ve forgotten that God sees the heart and passed judgment carelessly and over trivial issues.
Now I’m the mom in ministry. I’m the one who strives for that perfection pedestal but is sometimes just not okay. Sometimes I’m tired. Sometimes I’m upset with my husband for some reason. Sometimes one of my children has a meltdown on the way to church (why is it always on the way to church??). Sometimes there are aspects of our ministry that tug and pull on me until I’m just.worn.out. There have been times when I have showed up to church, served joyfully and willingly, yet had my heart so full of pain that I struggled with each breath.
I realize there’s a time and a place for sharing our soul with someone. And sometimes I’m okay is appropriate due to the environment or audience.
But I believe there should be more grace offered to every Christian woman. There should be less judgment over trivial matters and more encouragement to keep serving our Jesus.
We could all be more transparent, more insightful, more caring to others.
The next time you ask a mom in ministry, “How are you doing?”, really mean it.
And then give her the grace to tell you the truth.