I’ve often heard that the greatest ability is dependability, and the second greatest ability is teachability. But in my experience, I’ve discovered that a teachable person is a rarity. Teachability, by definition, means capable of being instructed, as a person; docile. A teachable person, however, isn’t just a smart person, it’s a person who is willing to listen to instruction. Finding a person who is indeed capable andwilling to be taught is hard to find. I would argue then, that perhaps teachability is the greatest ability, because a person who is teachable can be taught to be dependable.
I know how rare teachability is, not because I run around trying to teach people things, but because I find it hard to be teachable myself. I have also observed that others must struggle with the same thing as I have watched my husband try to teach and disciple people in the things of the Lord. Many people buck against him – but really it’s not he they disagree with, it’s God’s Word – because they feel they know the answer, or the right way to do things, etc. Since he is not in the habit of coercion, he can only leave them alone and go about his work.
When my husband and I started out our marriage and our life in ministry work twelve years ago, no one advised me about many things in marriage or ministry. No one warned me about the terrible homesickness I would feel. No one taught me how to have an argument – yes, there’s an art to this! No one taught me about how to show love to my new husband. I’m pretty sure no one taught him these things either. Likewise, no one told me how lonely the ministry could be. No one taught me how to take criticism, and when to just ignore it. No one explained that in the ministry, it could take years for you to gain respect and love from the people you lead. I suppose no one told me these things because they might have thought it would discourage a young person. Whatever the reason, I know they meant well, but still, I’ve had to learn many lessons the hard way! My Dad told me at graduation, “You’ve completed high school, but now you enter the school of hard knocks.” That’s another name for “life” and when you graduate from life, it’s all over. I’m trying to learn, and I’m trying to be teachable. But I have missed some lessons and even failed a few. The good news is, my Teacher is perfect and very patient with me!
So, here are some lessons I’ve learned, some willingly and some…not so willingly. 🙂
#1 Expect Christians to act like sinners.
After all, that’s what we all are! However, there might be a tendency to expect them to be holy and wonderful all the time. I thought that. I tried to be that way myself, but often failed. But it hurt deeply the first time I was treated wrong by a Christian. When I worked at a car dealership after high school, I often heard the salesmen curse, lie, bicker with one another over whose sale was whose, and so forth. But the first time I heard a Christian do these things seemed especially shocking and painful. The bottom line? Well, I do my best to be like Christ in every way, but I don’t expect my fellow church members to. If they do, it’s a delightful surprise! If not, I’m not destroyed by it.
#2 No matter where you are, you will have problems.
Early in my ministry life, when I encountered lesson #1, I thought the problem was my location. If I move to ______, then I won’t have this problem, or so my reasoning went. I would think, “We have Mrs So-and-So” here, but if we go (wherever) we won’t have to deal with her.” WRONG. Mrs. S0-and-So may not be where you go next, but her twin, Mrs. This-and-That, will be! So, if you think moving will solve problems, forget it. Problems are everywhere. They just have different names!
#3 Unsought advice is seldom heeded, and often resented.
Boy howdy! In the ministry, I get a lot of unsought advice, but that’s just how it is. The best thing I’ve learned to do is to grin and nod and move on. I’ve also learned that while it’s okay for others to advise me when I haven’t asked for it, it is NOT okay for me to give unsought advice to others. That usually causes problems, so I try to keep my mouth shut at all times and my opinions to myself. (Key word is *try*! 🙂 )
#4 My husband can only fix so many problems, so I shouldn’t complain to him.
My husband is a man (shocker), so he can take a lot of pressure as most men can. But even a man has his limits. It’s important that I take only certain problems to him, the rest belong with the Lord. (This is easier said than done.)
#5 I have a lot of influence on my husband.
Women are the weaker vessel, but we carry a lot of power. If a woman can make a man abdicate the throne of England, then certainly she can make him either blissfully happy or miserably sad. I choose to carry this power carefully, and use it to make my husband happy.
#6 The ministry feels like a supreme sacrifice at times, but compared to what Christ endured, it is nothing.
It’s very easy for me to get the “martyr” syndrome – to feel persecuted and alone – but it’s a false message. Christ endured far more than I ever will, even if I actually become a real martyr. After we’ve endured some harsh words from some people, or some un-just criticism, I usually cry to the Lord (literally) and He reminds me Who I am doing this for, and just what He did for me. It puts it all in perspective. He also brings someone to mind who has much bigger problems than whatever I am facing.
#7 Take criticism lightly. Oh, and praise, too.
Many people feel free to voice complaint and criticism about the pastor and his family. He preaches too long, his wife doesn’t do enough, his wife does too much, his kids wiggle in church and the list goes on and on. At the same time, there are many gracious and kind people in the church who love their pastor in tangible ways. They lavish him with praise, and perhaps gifts. However, just as the man of God (and his family) cannot let critical voices discourage the work, they must also not allow praise to take root in their heart. That leads to pride, which is dangerous territory to be on, indeed. I heard it said recently by a big name pastor that one should not pay much attention to applause. He said, “The ones who applaud the loudest are the least involved in the work.” That’s probably true.
These are just a few of the things I’m learning along the way as I grow in the Lord as a Christian, and as a ministry wife. I hope it helps to encourage any other young lady who is in ministry – or may be someday – to know that you are not alone. Others before you have faced trials specific to the ministry. They have survived by taking their problems to God, and taking God at His word. They have continued faithfully serving, not because they have the perfect church, or perfect people, or perfect anything, but simply because they face each day as it comes, all the while clinging to God’s Word.
I’ve had to remind myself, more than once, that the grass may look greener over there, but they have weeds, too. 🙂 And through each lesson I’ve learned, I’ve experienced God tenderness as He has dealt with me. He has shown me that while the ministry life isn’t a perfect life, it can certainly be happy one.