I Will Not Marry a Minister

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I will not marry a minister.

In my prayer journal, I wrote those words with the conviction of a vow. A lifelong Christian and a committed volunteer, time and again I had seen the demands, pressures, and financial stresses on ministry couples—not the life for me. I was not cut out for the long hours, low pay, and thankless tasks of life in the ministry.

I was a young upstart on my way up through the ranks at a major Christian publishing house. He was a broke and burned-out graduate student with a dissertation to write. I hired him for freelance work and those blue eyes and soft-spoken manner changed his role from freelancer to Prince Charming, complete with a fairytale romance. He was headed for a teaching career; I was going to run a publishing company one day.

To take God seriously is to significantly complicate one’s plans, dreams, and goals. Before I knew it, he was a teaching minister; I was a minister’s wife (wondering if God had misread my journal), and we were dealing with the financial realities of one income instead of two.

One day we sat at our dining room table, enough candles glowing to illume a cave—this transplanted Texan’s strategy to combat Minnesota’s long, dark winters. From the outside, our house must have looked like a Currier & Ives’ print: small and cozy, blanketed in a foot of snow, winter’s dark-afternoon sky framing a clear view inside through the large picture window. Inside, our home filled with the chattering and constant movement of two daughters under the age of five.

We took no notice of a few muffled bumps at our door, assuming it was the cold wind. After coaxing our girls to eat at least a few bites of broccoli and dinner time’s yielding to bath time, we opened the door to let our dog brave the freezing temperatures. Taped to our front door was a small, nondescript envelope. No writing, no names, no note, just a small envelope containing a $100 bill. On our strained budget, $100 could buy groceries for two weeks. We looked up and down the street trying to figure out who might have taped that envelope to our front door on a cold winter’s evening. No amount of speculating revealed the identity of our anonymous benefactor. This would be a lifetime of surprises.

Seventeen years later and still in the ministry, still with tight budget constraints, I sit in my home office. Opaque light comes through windows covered in painters’ plastic, and I hear muffled bumps and thumps. Outside, two young men are painting our house—professional painters we did not hire. We don’t know who did and likely never will.

I was right about the long hours, low pay, and incessant demands of a life of service. But I was oh so wrong about the thankless part. Little did I know those many years ago as I told God what I would and would not do with my life, that giving and serving, yielding and offering ourselves with arms wide open, fills our lives beyond our imaginings. Now I choose to live in a spirit of “arms wide open,” to give of myself and receive in unexpected ways at unexpected moments through the unlikely and many unknown people who grace my life.

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