The beauty and confusion of ambiguity as a planters wife

Ambiguity is a new word for me in regards to my role as a ministry wife. Never once have I heard it used in my context but it is exactly what we have all experienced.

am•bi•gu•i•ty : unclear, indefinite or inexact

Fascinating material from a studyon church planters wives by Shari Thomas for the Presbyterian Church of America:

For the clergy spouse, role ambiguity has been recognized as a source of stress. As stated earlier, other professions do not demand the same level of involvement that the Christian ministry demands of the minister’s spouse and family.

The lack of clear expectations for the spouse, combined with a lack of friendship and community support (Zoba 1997), causes extremely high levels of stress.  

In the area of role ambiguity, the wife often struggles with her own internal expectations (“How much service is enough?” “Should I do more or less?”) more than those of her husband, (“Can’t you be my secretary/children’s church director?”  “I need you to lead this until we get staff.”) and the congregation (“Why doesn’t the pastor do this?” “Why don’t they have us for dinner?” “Don’t they care?”). This lack of clearly defined boundaries for her and her family causes much of the stress she experiences. We have role ambiguity. It’s ok to say that out loud. It shows up clearly as we return to the never-ending conversation about “boundaries”. We struggle to maintain healthy pace and juggle demands because most of us are attempting too much. Since our roles are ambiguous we can easily try to find a road map for our lives from public opinion, the pull of tremendous demands or expectations we feel whether conceived or real. The central source of wisdom and direction should be our husbands. Hopefully he is a solid, healthy, helpful source for us but clearly that is not always the case. It’s confusing isn’t it? Go out another night of the week to connect with new family or stay home to focus on the needs of your preschooler and his sister who is struggling to adjust to first grade? Preschool area in your new church plant requires your constant attention yet you can’t mingle with interested adults visiting your plant for the first time. The voices we hear in our heads all seem to have their own agenda. (You’re getting a knot in your stomach aren’t you?) (And yes, we do hear voices.) [Let me dash any hopes we will arrive upon a clear, sure-fire formula. We will get right on that equation for you after we discover the way to lose 10 pounds in two weeks with no diet or exercise.] #fairytales So ambiguity is confusing … but beautiful? The beauty of our ambiguity is that it drives us to Christ-which is the Sunday school answer I realize. Yet it is an amazingly beautiful “formula” with no rules except striving to value and pursue the heart of God for our lives. The beauty is that this is relationship driven not task or expectation driven. Recently while reading this very familiar verse it spoke to me profoundly in the context of our lives as ministry wives: “I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court: indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the LORD who judges me.” 1 Corinthians 4: 3-4 Two unreliable sources to judge and direct our lives: Others and Ourselves. This falls only on our Lord Jesus Christ. Thanks Kathy, now what do I do with this? This is a spiritual work sisters. We get quiet, push a reset button or two and work the following scriptural pursuit into our hearts day by day, moment by moment: “So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” 2 Corinthians 5:9-11 In the maze of options for your lives aim to please Him. Do what matters most–pleasing Him– we begin with our hearts and it will show up on our calendars.

Published January 1, 2012