Unpacking in our new home in a new state far from our families, I opened a box marked “Fragile” in big black letters. Inside, buried under bubble wrap, I found my framed wedding vows. While I searched the master bedroom for the perfect spot where the frame could hang, I read what I had committed to Kyle on our wedding day. Just as it had when I had first written the words, my heart stopped on one line.
I vow to support the ministry that God gives you.
An Overarching Willingness
When I wrote those vows in the weeks leading up to our wedding, I read them several times, each time imagining myself speaking them on our wedding day and, each time, hesitating at the promise to support Kyle’s calling into ministry. Although they were weighty, the other lines about faithfulness and commitment felt right to me; I could confidently make those promises to Kyle. I considered scratching the ministry line because it seemed out of place for wedding vows, but my heart felt unsettled at that prospect, too. I couldn’t pinpoint the difficulty surrounding this one vow.
Kyle had a clear call to ministry, of which I was fully supportive. In fact, although I had rarely voiced it, I had felt a similar call on my life from the time I was in high school. I suspected I would marry someone with the same calling. When Kyle told me what he wanted to do with his life, I thought, “Well, of course!”—as if it were silly to consider anything else. We rarely discussed the calling—it was a given, a natural next step for both of us, something we were willing to give our lives for. The hesitation, then, to put my support in writing surprised me. Possibly for the first time, in the middle of writing my wedding vows, I considered what ministry might mean for my life.
As I measured the future with a moment of God-given clarity, I saw what a lifetime of ministry might entail: shouldering heavy responsibilities, giving ourselves away to others, living far away from family, or possibly enduring criticism or defeat for the sake of Christ. Because Kyle had surrendered control of his future to God, my vow of support meant stepping into his shadow and following him where God led. Was I willing? Was my conviction so firm that I would speak those words to Kyle and to God in front of our friends and family?
A Specific Willingness
Eight years after our wedding day, I stood in our new home, holding those vows in my hands. We had just moved to Charlottesville, Virginia, to start a church from scratch. I recalled hearing the term “church planter” in seminary, but had not known what it meant, certainly not imagining the term would ever describe us. Yet there I stood, dusting off a frame of my wedding vows in a home and a city where we didn’t know anyone.
Although much had changed since the day we wrote our promises down on scratch paper—we had three little boys and Kyle’s experience of serving on staff at a church in Texas—the same questions arose in my heart, urging for a silent renewal of the vow I had made to my husband. When I’d first said those words, they had been a general affirmation of the calling on my husband’s life. Now we faced the difficult work of church planting. My support and affirmation of my husband’s ministry would be crucial.
Was I Willing?
I said yes on my wedding day and I said yes to church planting. And—this is very much the key to being a minister’s wife—I have said yes every day since, most of the time with joy, sometimes with reluctance and selfish resentment, but nonetheless a yes.
I vowed a commitment to my husband, but I’ve discovered the commitment, the “yes that sustains,” is my submission to God. My yes is to Him and will naturally align itself as support of what my husband does as a minister of the Gospel.
An Ongoing Willingness
Three years after the day I laid my head down on my pillow in our new home in a new state far from our families, wondering if something could be made out of nothing, God has done it. He has used His people, so broken and weak, to bring light to a spiritually dark place.
Every so often, I stand in front of my wedding vows, hanging framed on the wall. Just as when I wrote the words, my heart stops on one line.
I vow to support the ministry that God gives you.
Clearly, my support and affirmation of my husband’s ministry has been vital. And, clearly, God has moved powerfully around and among us.
But the work is far from complete. The Lord is still calling on me to move forward in faith—loving, serving, discipling, and leading. Church planting—and all of ministry—is a faith marathon, not a sprint. Daily He asks for my heart, that He might cultivate it, so as to produce fruit in and around me.
Am I willing?
Excerpt from The Church Planting Wife: Help and Hope for Her Heart (2013). Christine Hoover is a pastor’s wife, stay-at-home mom, and writer who blogs at www.gracecoversme.com. She and her husband serve at Charlottesville Community Church in Charlottesville, Virginia. Her latest book From Good to Grace: Letting Go of the Goodness Gospel is available March 3.