Monday, October 6, 2008

Valori on balancing home-making and ministry

I want to share with you this response to the question how do I balance home-making and ministry?. It's from a letter I received from Valori, the wife of Kenneth Maresco, one of the executive pastors at Josh Harris' Covenant Life Church, where C.J.Mahaney used to be the senior pastor. She talks about the example of Carolyn Mahaney, who wrote Feminine Appeal and gave the talks To Teach What is Good, which we'll be looking at together this term. Here's what she says:

I came from a background of a very strong “ministry” mentality. What I mean by that is that being a full-time minister was highly esteemed over, say, a “secular” job. It wasn’t necessarily stated that way, but that was what was clearly transferred. We were all young, zealous college students or recent graduates, and our passion was to spread the gospel. Full-time ministry seemed to be the most whole-hearted way to do it.

When I got married and moved from Guatemala to Maryland to be a part of the church here, I began to see a different model. The women seemed to be so content as wives, mothers, and homemakers. Carolyn Mahaney had young children, and although she was leading the women’s ministry and the pastors’ wives at the time, it was clear that her number one priority was her home. I began to understand more and more of the calling and value of being a wife and mother.

As I began to have children, Kenneth (my husband, of course) and I were leading a caregroup (what other people might call a small group or a house group), and I was busy leading the ladies and caring for the women within the group. Right before our third son was born, Kenneth became a pastor at Covenant Life, so I had 3 children 3 and under at the time that I was beginning my journey as a young pastor’s wife. Thankfully, I had the example of so many women around me who provided encouragement that I was doing the most important job I could be doing. There was never any pressure at all for me to feel that I should be doing more ministry outside the home. I mainly focused on caring for my children, having groups into our home, and being by Kenneth’s side to reach out in the public ministry contexts that he was a part of.

A few years later, however, the Lord graciously helped me see something that was in my heart and that was hindering me from enjoying the peace and contentment I should have been experiencing in my role. It was very simple, really, but I was blinded by the deceitfulness of my own sin at the time. A dear friend called me after I had been complaining about how hard it was with my three children (I’m sure I probably did it in a joking way in order not to be blatantly sinful!) and humbly shared with me that it didn’t seem that I was content with being a wife and mother. Was there, she asked, possibly some selfish ambition in my heart that wanted to do ministry for my own satisfaction and glory?

The answer for me was “yes.” (And I am definitely not saying that is what is going on in other people’s hearts.) I think it was because I still didn’t have a biblical conviction that what I was doing at home was really that significant to God or others. I think the “significant to God” issue was a matter of growing even more in biblical convictions, and the “significant to others” had a lot more to do with me and my own glory. Serving at home is a lot of serving in secret. It’s a lot of doing things that are constantly undone. It’s a lot of work on things that nobody notices unless they aren’t done. So part of my discontentment, if I was honest with myself, was that I wanted to be doing something that made me feel significant. Somehow I would get feeling significant mixed up in my mind with being significant even before the Lord, if that makes sense.

Since that time, through different teachings, repentance, and trials, I have seen the grace of God busy at work in my heart, and I can honestly say that I LOVE the primary ministry God has given me – loving and supporting my husband and loving and caring for my children!

I personally think that the error in thinking comes in when we form a dichotomy between ministry outside the home and ministry inside the home. Do I think there is inherently something more significant or important about leading a ladies’ meeting than I do about my service at home? If all of life is to be spent in service to God, any sphere of service he gives me is important to his kingdom, and Scripture is clear that serving in secret is esteemed by the Lord.

In really throwing myself into seeing this ministry of wife and mom as my number one priority and not seeing my life as being on hold for some time in the future when I will be able to really do something to serve the Lord full time, I have experienced great peace and contentment, and I have found it so much easier to wisely determine which outside ministry activities I am to pursue. And I have actually found that so much of my other ministry flows out of my ministry in my home. Believe me, there is never any shortage of opportunities to minister, and learning to live this way has mainly helped me to learn when I should say, “No.”

I think your friend mentioned that she wanted to know that she was not just being submissive, but that she was doing the right thing. I think the way I prefer to think about it is that, if I am asking for my husband’s input and following his leadership, I don’t need to worry about whether or not I’m doing the right thing because God has called me to be this man’s helper. If I have questions or disagreements about what I should be doing, we can always discuss those things and even bring other couples into the discussion if we can’t resolve something, but ultimately God has made his will known to me in that he has called me submit to my husband. Thankfully, I have a godly and humble husband, and what I most often need from him is help in knowing what he would see as a priority at different times. Sometimes he will say, “I don’t think this is something you should really devote your time to right now with all that is going on with the children,” and other times he may say, “I think this is pretty important, and even though it will be challenging to juggle with your responsibilities at home, I think it’s something you should do.” And there are times when he says, “I think it would be good if you could do this,” and I say, “What? Are you crazy? Do you know how busy I am?” Well, I don’t actually say those words, but what those times lead to is a discussion of whether or not it would truly be unwise for me to do that given my priorities at home, or whether I am just in unbelief at the time and need to trust that God will meet me as I pursue that course.

Overall, though, I would say that I have been able to look at ministry outside the home as simply another way I can serve the Lord when my priorities at home are in line. There has been a lot less striving when I can’t seem to do all I want to do, and a contentment based in faith in God. Even in the busiest seasons of my life with a new baby, home-schooling a new elementary student, and home-schooling through high school, I’ve seen God provide other ministry opportunities where I’ve been able to serve the women. However, now I don’t look at those as real or more important ministry anymore — just a different way to serve. That has been a big transformation for me, and I think it has been the result of the Lord helping me to humble myself and be content and thankful with where he has called me.


Sharon said...

Thanks for posting this response you received to my question, Jean. All your commenters have been very helpful.

~ Sharon

Felicity said...

Thank you for posting this letter. I needed to hear all of what she had to say. I have become too involved in minstry outside the home lately, and I am feeling discouraged in my role as a wife and mother. This term I want to get back into focusing primarily on my husband and family, I appreciate the reminder about how important this is.