|True Stories: Oprah, Rosie, and the Pastor’s WifeThis story was orginally printed in the October 2000 issue of Alliance Life (a publication of the Christian & Missionary Alliance denomination) and is reprinted by permission.by Heather Smith
With personal stories and advice firmly rooted in Scripture, this book offers hope for peace with God, peaceful relationships with others, and genuine peace within.
My husband and I have one of those storybook romances. It’s the kind of romance where people stare in amazement as we speak of God’s “matchmaking” of us—the kind that they have to rush to tell “so-and-so” who is patiently waiting on God for a spouse.An older ministry couple, Don and Dee Bubna, had come into contact with both Paul and me through different ministry ventures. They thought we would be perfect together. Paul had just finished serving as an interim pastor in Alaska, and I was a staff member at Peacemaker Ministries in Montana. So, distance was a problem. But could it work? They gave Paul my business card and told him to e-mail me. Ten months later, after numerous e-mails and a wonderful courtship, Don performed our wedding in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
New Marriage, New Ministry
We had been married for only two weeks when we moved to Lewiston, Idaho, to begin our ministry together at Warner Avenue Alliance Church. It was a lot of change for a newly married couple, but we were confident in God’s calling and His plan for us. My husband, at the ripe old age of 27, was the new senior pastor, and I was to begin my role as the pastor’s wife at age 25. You can’t help but walk into all of this—new marriage, new ministry, new town—with humility. You know you don’t have what it takes to get the job done in and of yourselves!
The church we were called to had just come through a stormy time. Broken relationships, saddened hearts and hurt feelings had resulted. The church welcomed us with open arms, but that did not change the amount of personal and corporate reconciliation needed.
Since both Paul and I have a passion for peacemaking principles and reconciled relationships, we had great plans for teaching an adult Sunday school class on peacemaking. We wanted to make needed church bylaw changes to incorporate peacemaking as regular protocol and even teach peacemaking in some of our children’s Sunday school classes (all of which we have done one year later). The thought of personal and corporate reconciliation was exciting to us, and we knew it would please God. But little did we know that we would have a personal opportunity to demonstrate peacemaking to our congregation within the first month.
I was sitting in the front row of the sanctuary. Paul was preaching. It was our fourth week there. In the middle of the sermon, he started talking about the importance of where we get our theology—what our beliefs are based upon. Then he decided to make a joke. Paul looked directly at me sitting alone in the front row and said loudly to the congregation, “Some people get their theology from people like Oprah and Rosie O’Donnell.” He smiled. The congregation laughed. I turned beet red.
To appreciate this fully, you must understand that I take theology seriously. I read theological books, and I have attended strong churches that have educated me carefully on what God’s Word states. I ascribe strongly to one biblical, theological framework. I most certainly do not get my theology from Oprah or Rosie.
So, you can imagine my embarrassment when my husband, in front of the congregation, said this and laughed. They may have believed him, for all I knew, and that was embarrassing and untrue. I had heard about pastors embarrassing their wives through humor, but I never expected to be one of them. My husband would never do that! And I was so new at this pastor’s wife thing. He should have known better!
A Humble Apology
We rode home from church separately that day because we had company coming for lunch and I needed to get things ready. However, when Paul walked in the door, the first thing he did was rush to me, his eyes filled with tears. He knew his mistake. I never even had to say a word. He pulled me into his arms. What followed was the most beautiful confession. He told me that he should never have abused humor in such a way, that he knew he had embarrassed and hurt me, that it was unloving and unkind. He expressed sorrow for his actions, and he told me he had sinned against me and was sorry. He then asked my forgiveness.
Having worked for one of the foremost Christian peacemaking organizations in the world, I know a good, sincere and thorough confession when I hear one. I knew that this confession was indeed adequate. He had followed the Peacemaker’s Seven A’s of Confession pattern perfectly. And yet, I was still hurt.
His words had been embarrassing and unkind. Who knew how many of those people who had just met me thought I sat around watching talk shows all day, being swept away by false teaching and empty entertainment?
However, because I worked at Peacemakers I also knew the Four Promises of Forgiveness. I really had no choice. God has forgiven me (and for much worse), and I am to express godly forgiveness to others regardless of my feelings. Paul had confessed; I must forgive. And I did verbally and committedly. We hugged and it was over. But was it?
The following Sunday, the praise and worship had ended, and I again took my seat in the front row. Paul was making his way up the stairs to the platform. He put down his notes and Bible on the stand and then looked soberly at the congregation. He said this:
I need to confess something to you as my congregation. Last week I did something sinful in your presence, and I must ask for your forgiveness. During the sermon, I made my wife the object of some humor. The joke alluded to something untrue, and I embarrassed her and hurt her feelings. I have already expressed my sincere sorrow to her, and she has forgiven me. However, because it was a public offense, I need to confess this also to you. As your pastor, I must model the way a husband is to love and honor his wife. I did not do that. I did not use humor in a responsible way. I will aim in the future to only use humor in appropriate ways. For all of this again, I am sorry and I ask for your forgiveness.
I was in tears at that point. I was amazed at the humility my husband had just demonstrated. He truly had done the biblical thing: confessed to all involved in the situation. There were more women hugging him after that service than I have ever seen! He truly won the respect of many that day by modeling biblical peacemaking.
One year later, Paul and I continue to enjoy our work together in the Lewiston church. We desire to honor God as our church grows into a peacemaking church. We teach the principles corporately, we use them in much of the counseling, but most importantly we work to be a model. We use peacekeeping at all turns: in our own marriage, in conflicts that arise in the church and in more formal mediations.
Understanding this issue has radically healed some of the broken relationships here at Warner Avenue Alliance. We have seen God do mighty things, and we anticipate much more. It is our hope that eventually when the Lewiston community looks at Warner Avenue Alliance Church, they will say, “Those people at Warner—they must be the children of God.”
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the sons of God. (Matthew 5:9, NIV)Heather Smith is the wife of Alliance Pastor Paul Smith. She is currently studying for her master’s degree in counseling from Trinity Seminary. Heather continues to share her passion for peacemaking as a traveling adjunct instructor for Peacemaker Ministries in Billings, Mont.