FIRST-PERSON: Pastor's wife, be real!

HOBBS, N.M. (BP) -- It is the loudest silence, a moment so brief it is imperceptible to the untrained ear -- that moment between reality and response when faced with the traditional Sunday greeting of "How are you?"

Inside there is a heart crying out to be known. Yet, as we turn up our smiles, we turn down the volume on the voice of truth. I am fine. I am great. My life is in order.

Pastor's wife, we are facing an epidemic in our churches. It is the epidemic of being "fine." Somehow we have bought into the lie that if anyone knew our true humanity and all of its nagging sin nature, we would be ostracized.

Instead of dealing with our struggles and finding in another person the relief of confession and healing, we lock them away in a compartment of the heart where only Satan knows the combination. He opens the lock when he wants to cause you pain and shame and then lets you close it back up until the next time he wants to use it.

Pastor's wife, you don't have to lock away your shame. Christ died on the cross and has removed from you any condemnation. Nothing about your struggles surprises Jesus. It is only when you keep silent that Satan retains his power. It is only in his whispers that you hear a voice of judgment. Yet the proclamation of Scripture is of captives set free and chains broken by a Savior with the power to carry us through life.

In 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, the apostle Paul talks about a "thorn in the flesh" that tormented him relentlessly. We don't know exactly what it was, but we do know that he pled with God to remove it. God's response was that He wanted Paul to see how useful his struggle was! It caused Paul to run to the one place he could go for help, namely, Christ.

So what did Paul do? Did he collect his thoughts carefully and make sure to let the Corinthians know that all was well? Did he write that it really was not a big problem, and not to worry because he had it under control? No. Paul was obviously not accustomed to polite Sunday conversation, because he takes a much more dangerous approach to his struggles. He says, "Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." He lets other believers in on the fact that he does not have his life in order. In fact, Paul has something in his life that causes him great pain.

Pastor's wife, I want you to know that you can and should be real with other believers. Like Paul, we all have things in our lives which seem to be a constant struggle. When I was in school, our teacher assigned us a building project. We had to design and make a bridge out of toothpicks, which we would then test to see how much weight it could hold before buckling. Sadly, I am not an engineer and it only took one or two weights for mine to crumble. Some of the more sturdy bridges lasted for five or six or even ten weights, yet ultimately they all succumbed to the same fate.

Ladies, when we are silent and refuse to share our struggles, we are just loading up the weights. Some of us crumble more quickly than others, but ultimately we will all succumb to the same fate unless we do what Paul did. We must use our weakness as an opportunity to put Christ on display and allow His strength to be our own. In His grace God has given us fellow believers on whom we can lean when we are being buffeted.

So the next time you face trials, even the kind that you think are too much to share, I encourage you to find someone in whom you can confide -- fellow pastors' wives, trusted friends from a previous ministry context, anyone you know who not only will hear you but spur you to godliness in the process of healing.

When you do, you can experience the freedom described in God's Word, which could end the era of the loudest silence. When asked next Sunday, "How are you?" you will be able to respond with confidence, "I am weak, therefore I am strong."

Amy Hebert is the wife of Andrew Hebert, pastor of Taylor Memorial Baptist Church in Hobbs, N.M., and mother of four young children.
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