If you remember, in my last blog post about pastors’ spouses (female), I shared the number one issue many spouses face while in ministry: that of loneliness in the midst of their congregations. I now want to share how I changed the balance of care for myself that brought me back to wholeness. I followed principles, created strategies, and practiced techniques that were reasonable for self-care. I was able to strengthen my life at the core, spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically, which, in return, reduced some of the stress as I continued on the journey with my clergy husband. In this blog, I will deal with the first three: Grow your life spiritually, Put your emotions in check, and Sharpen your mind.
Grow your life spiritually
Spiritually, I had to grow up and develop who I was in Christ and to be clear about whom I was serving. The Bible tells us in Colossians 1:9-10 (MSG):
Be assured that from the first day we heard of you, we haven’t stopped praying for you, asking God to give you wise minds and spirits attuned to his will, and so acquire a thorough understanding of the ways in which God works. We pray that you’ll live well for the Master, making God proud of you as you work hard in the orchard. As you learn more and more how God works, you will learn how to do your work.
The Holy Spirit ministered to me as I read my Bible, meditated on the Word, memorized scripture, praised God, listened to gospel music, and practiced spiritual disciplines. Putting into practice the principles of God fortified my spirit, and I began to feel lighter, happier, and at peace within myself. I could feel the loneliness, but I also knew that I was not alone because God was with me. Deuteronomy 31:8 (NIV) says, “The Lord goes before you and will be with you, the Lord will be never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid, do not be discouraged.” This was very important for me. Though I was frustrated at times, it was not unto death because the Lord was going through it with me, and God knew what I was facing. When I understood that scripture verse and buried it in my spirit, God then sent friends that God wanted me to have in fellowship. They were people who were in the church who had silently stood in prayer for me. As I felt better about the loneliness, I began to make adjustments for the unrealistic expectations and challenges by believing that there were other people more suitable and capable of doing the work that needed to be done without feeling guilty about it. In other words, I began to say no to things I did not want to do.
Put your emotions in check
Emotionally, I was not as focused as I could have been. Sometimes I listened to my own thoughts, thinking things that were not completely true. I was over-processing information from various situations through filters of my past experiences, and that was not benefiting me. I needed help to get my emotions in check. The scriptures tell us in Deuteronomy 28:1-2 (ESV): “And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the Lord your God.” I began my search and found that many people seek help through spiritual directors, counselors, coaches, or maybe a pastor other than their spouse. However, I sought counseling/coaching and worked through some major issues in my life. Somehow when we work on ourselves, we see problem people differently. We can deal with what they say or do because our own issues are not getting hooked, and we can process what is happening much better. When I worked on my own issues, I began to release to God most of the criticism I perceived coming from others. I became more creative with my responses, and that allowed me to see those who criticized me as people with their own problems. I realized that I could listen to what they said and not take it personally. Most importantly, I could look for the opportunity to find something positive in whatever was going on. For example, when someone said, “The First Lady should not wear jeans to church on Sunday, unless it is a suit”. I would say, “It may not be appropriate in your eyes, but it may be a wonderful chance to let others know that coming to church is more important than how you should dress”. I chose not to let criticism about jeans keep me bogged down and angry about something that did not have anything to do with God or the church. Coaching helped me to find the positive in the critical what-I-should-wear statement.
Sharpen your mind
Thinking critically about any situation is always good. When you do this, you look at all the angles first before you make a decision; you increase your memory capacity ad attention span, and have more flexibility and speed in the thought process and ability to solve problems. A sharpened mind allows you to process information easier without a lot of hesitation. Take time to work your brain by reading long passages, learning new things, doing brain teasers and crossword puzzles, playing games, doing arts and crafts (things you put together to create an image in your mind), and exercising. These activities clear the mind of the fogginess that often challenges the thought process as it works to move forward. In Romans 12:2 (ESV) the scriptures remind us: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Some of the things I used to sharpen my mind were memorizing scripture, reading my Bible, meditating, taking online do-it-yourself courses, and going back to school, along with sewing, starting several home businesses, and exercising so that I could stay alert and open to my experiences.
In my next blog post, I will share three more strategies I used to become balanced and whole.
Dr. Joyce Scott Thomas is the Associate Director of the Academy of Preaching and Celebration.
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