I'm so glad I never make stupid mistakes. I'm a pastor's wife, you know. We're not allowed to be stupid.
…Wow. You should be really proud of me. I typed that with a straight face. I'm laughing uproariously at myself now though. The truth is, I have fluff-brained moments all the time. I'm pretty sure I set my brain on top of my car the other day and then drove off with it still up there. Since then it's been all mad at me and giving me the silent treatment.
I wonder how many things I've left on top of the car over the years. I lose more coffee that way. I call it "road-spill." I'm thinking of putting a cup holder up there. Go ahead. Compliment me on the cool vinyl top on my car. We all know it's not vinyl. It's aged and weathered cappuccino. I may put this on Pinterest.
Coffee isn't the only thing flying off car roofs. So many cell phones dying so young. My husband gave his the double whammy. He didn't even need the car roof. He put his phone in his gym bag, then forgot and left the bag behind his car. In case you've ever wondered, your phone can sometimes survive you backing over it with your car. But not if after you get it out of the bag, you accidentally drop it in your cup of coffee. That was a bad phone day and a bad coffee day. A bad car day, really.
I would tease him about it except that just a few weeks ago I had a bad cart day. I was pushing around a cart-full of groceries at the store and ran into a couple from church. The husband looked down at the gargantuan hunk of chocolate in my cart with a raised eyebrow and said, "Is that Richie's?" I said, in a voice that thoroughly betrayed my own surprise, "No. But it's not mine either!" Then I looked over the rest of the contents of my cart. None of that stuff was mine. Including the purse sitting in the cart seat. Mercy sakes! I had accidentally rolled off with somebody else's cart!
By the time I made it back to where I thought I probably made the accidental switch, the lady whose cart I had "stolen" already had the manager waiting for me.
O Lord. Please don't let them use the cuffs.
Every potential headline I imagined in that split second had the words "pastor's wife" in it. Which didn't fit well with the "larceny" I imagined along with it. Or "penitentiary." At least her kid wasn't in the cart!
I made several groveling apologies while she checked to make sure I hadn't snarfed any of her credit cards. So embarrassing.
One thing I'm never accused of: being the perfect pastor's wife.
It must be killer pressure to try to keep up a fake face of perfection. If you're trying it, let me set you a little free with a couple of tidbits of truth: 1) You're not perfect; you're going to make mistakes. And 2) That's okay, because in reality, you don't have to be perfect.
As a matter of fact, sometimes people are actually relieved to find out their minister's wife is human. Granted, some of us are a bit more "human" than others. But I can honestly tell you that whenever I've confessed my extreme "humanness," my weaknesses, and failures—almost without exception—I've been shown grace. I know that doesn't always happen, but I think God honors our open honesty either way.
In those times when others don't show grace, God still does. While He opposes the proud, God has grace ready for the humble (James 4:6,10). I think a lot of people tend to do the same. When someone humbly admits a failure, most Christians respond with a heart to comfort and restore. They don't usually feel the need to further humiliate you when you’re already groveling.
Incidentally, it's one thing when our brains are giving us the silent treatment and there's a faux pas or some kind of accidental blunder. And we still have to deal with those situations with grace—and sometimes hefty doses of humility and humor (humorlity?). But more epic is the failure that involves out-and-out sin. If there's sin, there's only one way to handle it. God's way. We First-John-One-Nine it: If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
I know. Telling ministers' wives they have to confess and repent. It's a weird and rudimentary thing to do. But how easily we can become lazy in the most basic fundamentals of the faith—the things we've done a million times. We can become desensitized, thinking that the "repent" thing is for the spiritually immature or those with big-time sins. O Lord, may our sin always break our hearts. And may we always be quick to humbly fall on our faces in repentance before You.
Sweeping sin under the rug is not the way to go. We end up with a compounded problem. Plus a lumpy rug. Proverbs 28:13 says, Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy (ESV).
Our Father is always beautifully heavy on the mercy spoken of in that verse. Whatever our flub, His mercy is there to cover and restore. And to use that mercy to teach us all the more to extend it to others.
The bottom line: we need to get serious about the flubs that are sin. And we need to try to lighten up about everything that isn't, while still keeping a secure hold on our sensitivity toward others. And we need to guard against mixing up the two.
Then we need to let His grace and mercy pick us up, dust us off, and move forward in ministry. Hit the road, as it were.
And let me suggest we all check the tops of cars first.
Rhonda Rhea is a pastor's wife, mom, speaker, and author and is a regular contributor to the Missouri Baptist Pathway and SBC LIFE. She and her husband serve at First Baptist Church, Troy, Missouri.