My ironing lady recently told me that she would need to reduce the hours she spends on our copious ironing pile. It was a sad moment, but I fully understood. After all, she has been ironing for us for over two years, and I have never paid her a dime.
The fact is, she’s more than just my ironing lady. She’s actually my pastor’s wife.
In Christian circles, there’s often pre-conceived notions of how a Pastor’s wife should look like and act. Being a volunteer ironing lady is not normally an expectation of the duties of a pastor’s wife. In fact, I would hazard a guess that there are Pastor’s wives have volunteers that do their ironing for them rather than the other way around. Which is fine, and I’m sure they are blessed by such service, and so they should be. But generally, Pastor’s wives do ‘important’ jobs like run the women’s ministry or kids program or are on stage on Sunday morning. Which are also great roles for Pastor’s wives – if that co-incides with their gifting.
The wife of our pastor, is not the type to enjoy being in the spotlight. And quite frankly, if she were forced to do this, she really would not be very good at it, because that is not what she was created to do. Which is why we are very blessed that her husband, (our senior pastor) and consequently our church are not the types to accept stereotypes. Within our community people are not forced into ill-fitting boxes, but rather encouraged to shine in the area that God has gifted them, according to their God-given character and personality. Within our church family, we hear teaching illustrating the Kingdom of God as an upside down scenario. This upside down kingdom starts with central ingredient of our faith. Jesus. A king, set to earth from heaven. Born in a shed full of animals, to a teenage girl from a small country town. God, walking about as a man, in the most humble conditions, so that he can serve the people of the world in the best way possible.
Our upside down church is made up of people who feed the poor, reach out to the lonely, minister to the needy. Our little church is well known for fostering unity within the various churches and denominations within the city and voicing the message of forgiveness, healing and unity throughout the nations. At first glance our church may seem insignifcant. Our church doesn’t have a fancy building, just an old warehouse once used for manufacturing. We don’t have an enormous congregation and there isn’t a cast of superstars lined up the front every Sunday morning. But within those walls, you will find Jesus there and you will find people loving others like Jesus loved, unconditionally and without expectation of rewards.
Which leads me back to my ironing pile.
After I became pregnant with the triplets and around the time I was starting to slow down and have to take things easy so that the babies would cook for as long as possible, Betty, our pastor’s wife, came and had a chat to my mother and asked what she could do to help.
Soon after, she started coming around to my house once a week and doing housework. That’s right, the wife of the senior pastor of my church was cleaning my toilet. This beautiful lady who is over 60 was making my children’s beds – bunk beds no less! As time marched by, the ironing pile started getting her attention more and more, and before long this is what she would do when she came over on a Wednesday. (Just as a side note, I will still blessed by another older lady in our church who used to come and do my housework on a Monday morning for the first few months after the triplets were born. Love the body of God in action!)
Late last year Betty let me know that she wouldn’t be able to help me as much. Of course I was totally fine with that. I have often been worried that I was using up her precious time when there were other tasks that she might better use her time doing. Her response to me when I once said this to her was, “Caitlin, you don’t need to worry about me. It’s an honour and a privilege to do this for you.” Who considers ironing an honour and privilege, I ask you? Somebody who understands the upside down nature of God’s kingdom. That’s who.
So, from one of the most unassuming women on the planet, (but I have learned that this makes her one of the greatest) I have learned not just about humility, but also a host of lessons that seem simple, but are actually helping me to become more Godly and a better wife, mother and woman.
Over time, without anything being said, I noticed that Betty developed a pattern of turning up at our place at 8:30 in the morning and leaving by 3 in the afternoon. One day she arrived with her own iron. My iron at the time had been dropped once and leaked water a bit. Betty had solved the problem by wrapping old hankies around the handle as she ironed. On that particular day she had not been able to find her hankies before leaving, so she arrived with her own iron to use instead because she didn’t want to be late. It made me marvel. I am regularly late to things. To give such an importance to a volunteer event with no prescribed time, is not something I would have considered doing. Occassionally Betty has had other things on the time that she normally comes to our house. She always lets me know in advance and most of the time she will come over, get my baskets of ironing and take them away then bring them back wrinkle free and hanging on hangers. I’m still working on not being late to things, but the image of Betty, always punctual and how much I have grown to appreciate her reliability, keeps driving me to improve in this area.
I have shared before the trials of raising a strong willed child. Sometimes I’ve felt self conscious as I’ve had to deal with these battles around Betty. Betty and Ian have raised five wonderful children, all adults now, serving God and excelling in their vocations. I asked her once where she thought I could improve in my mothering. She replied that she thought I was doing a great job. Which was encouraging, but I know also, that there are areas I can get better at. So on another occasion I asked what she think most helped in the molding and shaping of her children’s lives, she answered praying for them each night made a big difference. I already prayed for my kids at night, but it has given me renewed vigour to continue doing this!
When you have someone in your house, especially in the centre of the home, (we set the ironing board up in the living room), you know that there is no hiding exactly how your household operates. Betty has been able to see both mine and my children’s strengths and weaknesses. Never once have I felt even a sliver of judgement from her. You cannot know how much of a comfort this is. I also know that she would never tell others of my own struggles. I know that I am messy, and can be bad tempered and forgetful and indecisive. Through Betty’s quiet presence and acceptance it makes me feel that I can rise above it, little bit by little bit. I can listen to the Holy Spirit’s guiding voice to conquer my vices without feeling the pressure of disapproval from somebody else. It also makes me want to be more gracious and accepting of others. Be
cause I have had a fresh revelation of the power that comes in offering somebody unconditional love and acceptance.
To give up a day a week, to do someone’s ironing – what a sacrifice! And that’s not all Betty does. She cooks for others, especially for a girls camp that happens regularly for girls that have not necessarily had great opportunities in life. Betty will give up her weekend to cook for this event, as well as time planning and preparing for it. She also helps look after her grandchildren throughout the week and regularly has guests in their house.
It has made me determined to do what I can for other people. I know Betty’s example will always remain in my mind, and will influence the way I respond to others around me when my own children are grown and I may have a little more time on my hands. There are few genuinely selfless people in this world. Betty really is one of them.
I am so thankful that I have got to know my pastor’s wife so much better in recent years. She has been such a blessing to me and my family. My children love her dearly and have just matter of factly, as children do, consider her a part of their lives. It probably helps that she has been holding them and talking to them for as long as four of them can remember. (Trent wasn’t even two when she started helping around the house.) Jayden has been particularly been perplexed in recent days to see me at the ironing board. I normally iron when he’s asleep, but it was getting out of control for awhile there, so I was doing it while the triplets were awake. My husband has also informed me that I do not iron not nearly as well as Betty. Which really is no problem because now we have gone back to our former arrangement where he irons his own clothes. Betty rang up the other day. She is an avid tennis fan and player and had been watching it on TV feeling guilty that she wasn’t doing anything. (Industrious, that’s another word you can use to define Betty.) She asked if I had an ironing pile she could take. I indeed did. A backlog from Christmas I hadn’t been able to clear. I don’t think I’ve ever been more thankful for the sport of tennis.
So Betty, thank you, from the bottom of my heart. I’m sorry for the embarrassment I’m sure you’ll feel when you see I’ve written this, but I’m not sorry for letting everyone know how wonderful you are and give a perfect example of a Christian woman working in God’s upside down kingdom according to your giftings. Thank you also to Ian, our senior pastor who as often is the case, is the total opposite to Betty. He certainly is not a behind the scenes man, but an out the front, strong talkative leader. Nevertheless, he resembles Betty in his servant heart, which makes the best leaders of all, after all. I’m thankful that he releases his wife, and multitudes of others within our church, city and nations to use our own personal giftings and find our purpose and passion and contribute to the Kingdom of God on this earth while we are awaiting the time we will dwell in our Heavenly home.
What do you think? Is it fair that Pastor’s wives have pre-conceived notions on how they should act? Can you share an example of how you have seen someone perfectly illustrating God’s upside down Kingdom?
Because it’s Tuesday, I’m linking up with Essentially Jess