FIRST-PERSON: 24-hour surveillance
SARALAND, Ala. (BP) -- During a recent spin class I introduced myself to a new, unfamiliar instructor. "Hi, I'm Kathy." Warmly she says, "You're Kathy Litton aren't you?"
It's a reminder that I am often known and observed by others. Not just in a relatively small community but on social media, in my business dealings and on airplanes. I am watched as the pastor's wife at church, while I am playing racquetball or opening a checking account. What I post or tweet or what's in my grocery cart does not go unnoticed.
None of us respond identically to a ministerial environment. The more private souls despise it. Others have their egos stroked by the attention yet enjoy complaining about their constant celebrity. At times this quirk of our culture can be legitimately painful.
Yet, there are a couple of benefits here: I get to put the Gospel on display. And I am made accountable.
Can I be a sports fan and not make an idol out of it?
Do Ed and I have conflicts and learn to hammer them out for our good?
When my son bit kids in the nursery -- what was my reaction going to look like?
Does my behavior reflect a servant or one who wants to be served?
If I lose my cool at the service counter will I go back to apologize?
Or am I a racist or do I have serious anger issues or a problem being honest?
As leaders, we tend to think our most sacred moments leave the greatest mark. Yet in the mundane we may leave the most powerful footprint. Let's face it: Sunday services aren't the only reality. Here's another part of reality: I recently returned to the airport only to find a dead battery in the long-term parking lot. In the rain; not my best moment -- only to be asked, "Aren't you Ed Litton's wife?"
Our moments of reality just may count for double over the times we have a microphone in our hands. The crucible of daily life on this planet where we dwell with real emotions, temptations and failures gives us a platform not to merely talk about transformation but demonstrate it. Being accountable when our buttons are pushed is a good thing because those around us long to see the reality of the Gospel displayed.
Recently I became aware of a neighborhood that learned a church planter's family was moving onto their block. The neighborhood wasn't exactly thrilled. This ministry wife had no idea she was moving to a less-than-welcoming welcome. Yet, the first place this family would plant the Gospel would be under the watchful eye of unwelcoming, cynical neighbors. Long before they would name their church or pick a site, they would begin to advertise the power of the Gospel.
In thinking about them, I tried to imagine the apostle Paul's reaction to 24-hour surveillance as he planted churches. I think he welcomed scrutiny. These words seem to suggest it: "Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me." He also said this: "Not I, but Christ," knowing he was not on display but Christ was.
God is not looking for perfect specimens. So let's get over any attempts to project that. His surpassing greatness, His strength and His glory are most obvious in us when we are none of those things.
In moments at the Little League field or when your child is arrested or when you receive poor service in a restaurant, you may most advertise the power of the Gospel.
Kathy Ferguson Litton is the North American Mission Board's national consultant for ministry to pastors' wives. See more resources at NAMB's www.Flourish.me website, an online equipping community for ministers' wives. Her husband, Ed Litton, is pastor of First Baptist North Mobile in Saraland, Ala.