September 1, 2011

Cut the Shirttail

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by Angie Osborne,

I grew up in the deep woods of East Texas, and deer hunting was just a natural thing for my family.  When my husband and I first met, hew was not familiar with the sport, but quickly became interested.  When the first deer season came around, he was eager to get on a stand as often as he could.  One day he came in bursting with excitement.  He began to tell my dad about this awesome buck he saw and tried to take as a trophy.  Finally my dad asked,  “Well, where is he?”  Mikey explained how he had strategically fired a shot and just knew the deer would be lying right in the woods nearby.  However, after hours of searching, there was still no deer.  He had obviously missed. My dad made the comment, “We’re gonna have to cut your shirttail”.  I had always heard the expression used when someone attempted a shot and missed, but I remember thinking why on earth would you cut someone’s shirttail? Aside from tradition, what’s the point?

Although I’ve yet to discover the point in cutting a shirttail because of deer hunting, I am convinced there is another area where it might be appropriate.  I know as a minister’s wife I get bombarded with the everyday routine of life.  Early up in the morning, off to work, pick up the kid(s) at daycare, go to the store, come home and cook, go to baseball practice, wash the clothes, clean the messes created around the house, do homework, bath time, and then put the kids to bed.  Total exhaustion.  After I am done with all the daily chores, I just want to crash!  Then, Sunday or Wednesday comes and we have our church activities.  My husband has volunteered me to be on the Vacation Bible School committee, take a meal to a family who has had surgery, work in the nursery, and, of course, plan the back to school youth rally.  BUSY, BUSY, BUSY!

Every one of these things are great and to be commended.  However, I often find myself caught up in the busy work of the ministry and neglect the intimate, quiet aspect of the relationship with the Father.  Yes, I will worship and hear from God during services among other believers, but maturity is not developed on that level.  It may seem that all is going well because I appear to be an excellent servant.  Yet, when it comes to hearing from the Lord or spending time growing in the Word, I am “riding along on my husband’s  shirttail”.  Because he is the labeled minister, Mikey usually has a chance to spend time alone at the office with the Lord.  He is able to discover fresh things in the scriptures and sit until he hears from Holy Spirit.  If I sit and listen very long at home, I usually hear “MOM!! I need to go potty!”  or “I just spilled my Kool-Aid!”  Soon these daily routines and events become weekly, and then monthly, and then so much time has gone by without me actually seeking the Lord that I become a surface servant instead of a faithful companion.  Therefore, I often claim my husband’s relationship as my own.  I feel if he is really growing in his walk, then WE are growing in our spiritual lives.  I excuse myself from finding time because of other obligations and assume that Mikey’s walk will cover us both.  After all, I can easily fool people into believing I am the most mature Christian because I am the minister’s wife and so involved in the work (or even programs) of the church …..right?  This situation is comparable to kids who grow up relying on their parents’ faith and think they have it all together.  The reality is we can and must have our own relationship with the Creator.

This summer I was blessed to be able to visit with a friend of mine who is also a pastor’s wife.  She expressed the same struggles of being a wife, a mother, and part of the ministry.  It was refreshing to hear that I am not the only one who deals with this!  Despite abundant involvement in the programs of the church, she often feels like she is hanging on to her husband and letting him carry her instead of walking on her own.  We began to discuss ways to overcome the pitfall of substituting service for solitude.

I shared how I had recently been reminded of God’s desire for “firstfruits”.  Proverbs 3:9 says “Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops”. In Deuteronomy 18:4 the people were instructed to give the firstfruits of their grain, new wine and oil, and wool from the shearing of their sheep.  Romans 11:16 state “If the part of the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, the whole batch is holy”.  Christ himself is even referred to in 1 Corinthians as the firstfruits of the dead.  As I studied firstfruits, I was convicted in my own personal life that if God wanted the first of my money and possessions, why wouldn’t He want the firstfruits of my time?  I realized that in order to spend quality time with the Lord, I needed to start my day with Him.  This may involve the sacrifice of a little sleep by waking early, but it will not be without reaping abundant blessings.  Mark 1:35 tells us that even Jesus arose very early in the morning while it was still dark and withdrew to a solitary place to pray.  I don’t claim that the Scripture commands us to engage in our quiet times in the morning, but for me it was a personal conviction regarding the firstfruits of time.  The morning is a time that I can always count on being free from kids, chores, or exhaustion.

Another step for overcoming is requesting accountability. I had to ask my husband to hold me accountable.  If it took him shoving me out of the bed, I needed him to do that (Not really, but I asked him to help me wake up in the morning no matter how bad I wanted to hit the snooze button).  I needed him to ask me before we laid down at night if I had spent time with the Lord that day.  It was never that I didn’t want to, I just let priorities get out of place.

Finally, consciously walking in obedience to Holy Spirit on my own is a part of growing.  I always hear my husband say things like “the Lord just told me to tell this lady to quit trying on her own, even though I didn’t know her and have no idea what that means.”  Or he would tell me that the Lord put someone on his mind and he just felt like he was supposed to call them. When he would call, that person would start crying on the other end of the phone and begin to pour out their problems.  Huge obstacles to ministering on our own are overcoming self-centered concerns and fear.  I have to get over dwelling in my own world of “to-do” lists and find out what is really important to the Lord.  Just because the church implements a program doesn’t necessarily mean that is what the Father wants accomplished.  We have to be sensitive to Holy Spirit’s leading.  Furthermore, having the courage to do everything I am convicted about is still a struggle, but Spirit is proving to me over and over again that if I listen, He will not misguide me.  Definitely a step out of the comfort zone!

No matter when or how you choose to spend your time growing in your walk, the most important thing is that you don’t skip this necessary part.  Martin Luther once said, “I am way too busy not to spend at least two hours a day in prayer.”  If we want to be the strongest partner in ministry our husband’s can have, then we must not make him carry the entire load.  While physical help is superb, a prayer warrior and someone who hears from the Lord is priceless in Kingdom work.  We need to cut the shirttails spiritually and walk on our won.  Then we will be strong together.

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