His quiet suburban church of one hundred was beginning to fall apart at the seams. With each crunch of the January snow, he wonders again. Was this really where God lead him? Or had he just wanted it so badly he’d made it happen. He’d been working so much lately – easily 80 hours a week. Between preparing his sermon and the nitty-gritty details of running a one-pastor-church, he didn’t have much time left for Gracie at the end of the day. It seemed that the more he worked and tried, the less things happened and the more ornery people became. Wasn’t the blessing of God supposed to be on the work of God? How could the work of God be playing mediator to the contentious deacons who jostled for lead position? Shouldn’t four years of ministry yield more than a few members? “Members?!” he thought, “Don’t get me started!” What kind of members come only when they feel like it? What is it with this new generation, anyway?! Can’t they commit to anything??”
His heart sinks lower and lower as he trudges on toward home.
As he gets closer, he can see the lights and the form of his wife as she waits anxiously in their living room. He glances at his neighbor’s house and their immaculately blown driveway with the tidy garage housing two late-model Hondas. Peter finds himself wishing that for once his neighbor wasn’t so perfect. Really?! Couldn’t he just fall on his rear or else something equally humiliating when he’s outside getting the mail? As he wrestles with the door, it hits him again: his neighbor would never have a door that scraped the floor instead of swinging freely. Finally! He grunts, Door – 0, Man – 1! Ha! He walks into the living room feeling somewhat triumphant after his long day.
His wife has been waiting. Her suitcase shouts the words she’s never had the nerve to say. Second place, leftovers and just hanging on and hoping for a break in the storm is not living. She has been faithful and shouldered with him the responsibilities of ministry and marriage, but unfortunately it’s been in that order. She’s been put last, unimportant. Her arms ache to hold little ones of her own, yet she's the one to organize the multitude of baby showers for others. The last thing she wants is to hurt him, but she knows something needs to change. She’s hoping for a miracle.
He takes in the scene and her pleading look. The ton of bricks slams him to the couch. He sits there stunned. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he realizes that this has been coming for a long time. The only thing he can think of to say is, “Gracie, I’m so sorry.” She reassures him that the nasty D-word is not in her thoughts, but she must take some time alone to seek God. She’s struggling to keep from casting the blame squarely on his shoulders. “Pete, we are heading down a road littered with the wrecks of ministry marriages. If we are not careful, we’ll crash and burn too. I love you too much to just give up and not try.” Looking into his eyes, she sees his hurt and her eyes blur. As the tears stream down her face, she picks up her suitcase and walks out the front door.
Gracie is thankful for the darkness as she loads her suitcase into her little car. At least the neighbors will have to wait until the morning to “discuss” her leave-of-absence. So much of their life was about what others thought. Ugh. What an awful existence! Can’t wear dress pants to church because she’s the pastor’s wife. She’s got to set the example. Yeah. Sure. The example… is that all she is?? So how many others are showing up to play piano, teach sunday school, help in the nursery, glowingly listen to her husband preach (he’s not all that great, honey), keep a stiff-upper lip when the old biddies get to gossiping about why she isn’t pregnant yet, smile generously when her husband is called away on some emergency on his day off when they had planned a date night… she could feel her blood pressure rise. She didn’t know if she even wanted to be a pastor’s wife anymore.