By Cindy Koch –
On my wedding day, I said a little something that went like this, “I take you to be my wedded husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part, according to God’s holy will; and I pledge to you my faithfulness.” The young man standing before me also said these words to me, his soon to be wedded wife. Our pledge was simple and had been spoken by generations of couples before us. We publically declared before God and witnesses, “I choose you”.
We began a new vocation that day. No longer were we called only to be faithful college students and upright children. Now we were also husband and wife, joined in His name, and given His blessing. As with any marriage, this was a good and happy day! Our friends surrounded us and our families rejoiced! Little did I know about the other woman God had chosen, lurking in our future.
So we began to live as husband and wife. Oh my, this was a different life altogether. We struggled to divide up the household jobs. We miscommunicated about our expectations. There were fun times, for sure, but there were also many opportunities to learn and forgive. Eventually, we relaxed into a rhythm where my husband compassionately loved me by being the head, and I confidently submitted to him. Things were really good, for a while.
Just before our 5 year anniversary, I met a new friend. My husband and I had just moved to an unknown area, and she was the first to greet us when we arrived. She was sweet and kind, she had no family to speak of. So, our friendship began. We learned about her past, her pains and her joys. She became an intricate part of our life. We spent almost every occasion with her. God had indeed blessed our little family with this patient and gentle woman.
But then on one of my particularly grumpy days, I looked around the house for my husband. Where was he? Where was the one I had to hold on this “worse” type of day? My emotions flared because I instantly knew the answer. It had been staring me in the face from the minute we set foot in that little town in Southeast Georgia. My husband was attending to another woman. My husband, the pastor, was taking care of the church.
When my husband became a pastor, he entered into a vocation where a church calls him to stand in for Christ. It’s not that he becomes Christ, of course, but a congregation of people chooses a man to actually speak the Words of our Lord and physically hand out His gifts. This church called my husband to do just that. But what also accompanies this vocation is something very similar to what comes with the marriage vows; this pastor and church say to each other, “I choose you.”
If man is the head of woman, and Christ is the head of His bride (the Church), then the pastor has a strange job. He is standing in for the Bridegroom, speaking exhortation and encouragement and forgiveness to the bride, feeding and sustaining her, all on behalf of her Heavenly Head. The pastor, by his particular vocation and place, is married to the church!
Now don’t be silly, you say. The pastor doesn’t belong to this woman “the church” as a husband belongs to his bride, you may think. But, when she calls him crying in the early morning, when she plays with his emotions with her never-ending story of sin, when she looks earnestly at him for a word of comfort – it is plain to see that she calls him her own.
To most guys in the ministry, this is no big surprise. You hear about this stuff at the beginning of your seminary training. Headship, submission, that’s a normal and beautiful flow of God’s gifts to His people. But for any married gal, the prospect of another woman captivating her husband is terrifying. Once pledged to a man, she has promised to love him and be a helper to him, just as Eve was created by God to help Adam. Her heart would be broken if he chose to love another, to protect and sacrifice for another woman. And when she finds out that the other woman is the church… what’s a girl to do?
Some wives have become bitter. Some have been wounded. Some pastors’ wives are so disconnected from their husband and the church that they are blissfully ignorant of the whole affair. I’ve met quite a few who have very specific advice how you are to handle this “other woman”. There are blogs and support groups and books and advice of all kinds for us. We are searching for a way to live with her, because we can’t live without her.
And this is the problem; I see myself in opposition to “her”. I see myself as the other woman in competition for his time or attention. But that is not actually the reality of the situation. I am “her”. I am the church. I am there receiving Christ’s love and forgiveness, together with you. I’m submitting to God’s Word, and loving every moment. The Church is not the other woman, I’m just her blurry reflection who happens to know the guy standing up front.