Bertha said, “Erin, Chuck Swindoll said he sometimes gets an anonymous letter that really hurts. But often the criticism will contain a kernel of truth. The trick, he said, is not to let it become the whole cob!”
Bertha continued, “As I thought about it, I realized that I should have been more diligent in checking Jeff’s pockets before he left for church on Sunday mornings. I had not done that.”
I said to Erin…
Erin, once you become the wife of a minister, you will find yourself the focus of cruel remarks from a few church members. They are people with attitudes of a Pharisee and no self-control. You must not take it personally. They’re in every church.
This past Sunday, I was sketching church members in a congregation where a friend of ours is pastor. The elderly woman posing for me said, “Well, I guess they’ve told you about me.”
“Told me what?” I said innocently. They had, but I wanted to hear for myself.
“I am a person who speaks my mind! If I have a thought about you, I’m going to tell you. If I don’t like something you did, you’ll be hearing about it. That’s what!”
I said, “I suppose that’s OK so long as you give everyone else the same privilege, to tell you what they think of what you are doing.”
She assured me she did. I didn’t believe a word of it, of course.
Selfish critics like her never want people to return the favor. They delight in dispensing their cruel remarks as though the world just cannot wait to hear their judgment.
Later, I thought of something I should have said to her.
I could have helped my friend the pastor, I’m thinking.
Suppose I had said to her: “You know, you’re paying a big price for this privilege, don’t you?” And when she asked what price I meant, I would say to her, “No one likes to be around people who cannot keep their opinion to themselves. They usually have no friends. So, I wouldn’t be surprised if you have very few friends.”
“Faithful are the wounds of a friend…” (Proverbs 27:6).
I could have said it and gotten by with it as a visitor in the church. The pastor could not do that, of course. He and his wife go on doing their best to love this old lady and endure her idiosyncrasies.
Since Erin’s twin, Abigail, is making similar ministry plans as she, I said to them the other night, “One huge thing I have learned in the Lord’s work is that many people will love you far more than you deserve. They are loving people and they bless you just because of who they are. And likewise…
“In every church there are a few people who will dislike you, not for anything you do, but for what is lacking in them. You must not take it personally. They are critical by nature, ugly-spirited to everyone they meet, and you just happened to be their target at the moment.
“You must learn to accept the love and to endure the hostility. In fact, think of the ugliness as a little test from the Lord. He sends these people to you to see if you can react to them in a Christlike way. Do that and you will honor Him and bless your ministry in that church.”
God bless all pastors and their spouses. The blessings of life in the pastor’s home can be enormous. And the pains heart-breaking.
Let us pray for these faithful servants and entrust them to the Lord for safekeeping.