Thursday, September 6, 2007

He's working for the Lord...

My husband and I have worked together side by side as equals in ministry for the past twenty years, sharing the role of pastoring a youth group or, as we have done for the past 13 years -- an entire church.

Despite the fact that Larry sees my role in ministry and my work as important as his very own, that has not always been the case with others. Although I have not been on a soapbox to right that wrong, I will say I’ve taken a lot of arrows over the years that have pierced my soul and really hurt. The Lord has gently bandaged my wounds many times and kept me going over these last two decades.

A prime example of this type of situation occurred years ago in our previous church where we were pastoring. If I close my eyes and picture it, I can remember it so clearly, even the temperature outside, what I was wearing, and other very vivid details. It’s kind of like remembering where you were when 9/11 happened, or when JFK was shot. There are times in your life that are significant, not for good but for the bad and you never forget them. This is one such time.

We were outside hanging many thousands of lights on our church property for Christmas time. Every year we did this and were even featured in the local newspaper for our magnificent display. My husband and I were always right in the midst of leading and helping with this project and that year was no different. Larry had been up on the roof that afternoon putting the finishing touches on the roof light display and I was out on the edge of the property on the hill where our sign was, working there. My team discovered we needed something from the hardware store, so I went to find Larry, knowing that he often makes trips at times like this to get things. Most times, he always asks me first, “do you all need anything while I’m out?” This time, he forgot. When I went to ask his team, “where’s Pastor?” they said, “gone to the hardware store.” This was before the days of cell phones, at least a cell phone that didn't cost an arm, a leg or your first born child. Actually it was even before he had a beeper. Wow, this makes me feel really old writing this! Anyway, the point is - there was no way to get ahold of him. We would just have to make two trips. Although I didn’t explode with anger or anything (it wasn’t that big of a deal) I was a little frustrated that he never let me know he was going because we needed so many things for our work out front on the hill. So, a little frustrated, I said, “oh no! I wish he would have told me he was going…” To which an older lady in the church quickly chastised me and said, “Don’t be upset with him! Remember, HE’S THE ONE WORKING FOR THE LORD. You need to just support him.”

I wish I could say that I just sweetly answered back with a “that’s right” or “praise the Lord sister” but unfortunately I can’t say that. I was so mad when she said this, that I said, “WORKING FOR THE LORD? OF COURSE HE IS, BUT WHAT DO I LOOK LIKE…CHOPPED LIVER?” And then I strode away back down to the hill to work on my lights. I worked in silence most of the afternoon, just repairing Christmas lights and fuming inside that somebody viewed my husband as working for the Lord, but evidently did not view me in the same way, although I work just as hard for our Lord.

I’ve come to realize in the past twenty years of ministry that many people will never have the same understanding of our roles as Larry and I do. There are still those that view him as “working for the Lord” and me as the one supporting him. Or to use an illustration from Pastor Tara, they view him as the baseball player who is on the field scoring all the home runs and me as the bat boy, running out to give the weary player some water and encourage him as he “goes back out into the game.” Thankfully I don’t have too many people in the church we currently pastor who view it this way, but of course there are many out in the world who do.

I’ve learned some people will always see things from this viewpoint, as it is the only paradigm they have ever known. Getting angry over it or stewing really does me no good and is very unproductive. I realize that most people are simply uneducated about the subject or have been indoctrinated another way through the years and they really know no better. In such cases what helps me is to simply focus on those who “get it.” It helps as well that I have a husband who cares about educating people as to my role and equality in the ministry.

When it comes down to it, even when others don’t understand, no matter what anybody else thinks, God knows I’m working for Him, and so does Larry. And really, the rest is chopped liver in comparison.

Rev. Deanna D. Shrodes, Equal Time Co-Founder

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