The Art of Humbleness: Being Married to a Church-Planting Minister in Boston

Lisa (back row, second from left) with the other CTK/Grace pastors' wives and speaker, Wendy.

Lisa (back row, second from left) with the other CTK/Grace pastors' wives and speaker, Wendy.

It was Christmas vacation, two and a half years ago. My family and I were leaving the movie theater at Legacy Place, in Dedham, Mass., where we had just watched the movie The Penguins of Madagascar. At this particular location, there are escalators that take you from the parking lot on the lower level to the theater on the second level. After our movie ended, we made our way back toward the escalators. I was at the bottom of this escalator when I realized our older daughter, Mya, was standing at the top. “Oh, hey up there,” I said, with a smile, “C’mon down, Mya.”  "No. I’m scared of escalators,” she replied. I noticed patrons looking on as I patiently responded with something like,  “Don’t be silly, Mya. You’ll be fine. Just come on down.” “I can’t,” Mya said. The patrons looked from Mya to me. My smile fading away and my voice more firm, I said, “Mya, there is nothing to be afraid of, Sweetie. Just step onto the top step and come on down.” “No,” she refused.

Forgetting the on-looking patrons now, I gave my husband, Bryan, a non-verbal glance that said, “I will bring her down.” Rather than waste my walking to the ‘up’ escalator, I immediately began running up the ‘down’, two steps at a time. As I looked up at Mya, her eyes widened with worry. “Mommy! What are you doing? That is so dangerous! You’re going to get hurt!” I thought, ‘Nonsense. I got this.’ Just then, out of nowhere, a metal step reached up and tripped me, sending me patella first straight into its pointed, metal edge. Searing pain ensued. Lying completely still, with Mya still very much at the top, the perpetually moving metal stairs delivered me straight back to the bottom, mocking me the whole way. Stars floated above my head like a character in a Bugs Bunny cartoon. As I hobbled to my feet, my youngest daughter, Morgan, began cheering for me, “Yay, Mommy!” Bless her little heart. It doesn’t end there. Bryan effortlessly leaped to the top and brought Mya down, safely, calmly, and no longer afraid of the escalator. As if that wasn’t enough, my daughter had been right. What I tried to do was dangerous for me and I did get hurt. I had been humbled!

I was recently asked by a friend, “What has been the single greatest challenge and single greatest joy you’ve experienced (being married to a church-planting minister in Boston)?” That day on the escalator comes to mind. Being humbled has been both my greatest challenge and my greatest joy.

One of the more challenging but tangible way this humbling plays out in my everyday life is with my non-Christian neighbors. Before Bryan became a church-planting minister in Boston, we had this whole other life in Tallahassee, Florida, where Bryan was a college professor. I remember when our neighbors asked me what we did for a living I would say, "I stay at home with our baby and Bryan is a child-psychologist who teaches at Florida State University." Conversation was easy. Now, in Boston, when I tell my neighbors that my husband is a (church-planting) minister, they’re either confused, as many people don’t understand what is meant by the term ‘church-planting minister’ or they’re offended, as many are hostile toward churches, in general. Our 11-year-old has even begun to experience this at a Boston Public School this semester when she tried to explain to her peers what her dad does for work.

Another way this humbling plays out in my life is much more joyful. Once a year or so, I spend a day with the other pastors’ wives of CTK. I’m thankful for both this time and for these women. I am surrounded by like-minded sisters, all in a similar boat, all whom I admire. We read thought-provoking books from experienced people in ministry, we discuss and share insights, we pray, we share updates from our various congregations, we laugh, we shed tears with and for each other and our individual trials, we eat particularly good food, and pray some more. We’re honest about the wonderfully difficult lives we lead, the risks and sacrifices, and we revel in the awe and wonder that God would call us as spiritual leaders. It is humbling to be able to serve in ministry alongside these women.

I’m re-reading a book by Henri Nouwen that I was assigned in college called In the Name of Jesus, and I love what he says this about Jesus’ view of spiritual maturity in leadership: “It’s the ability and willingness to be led where you would rather not go...being led to unknown, undesirable, and painful places...The downward-moving way of Jesus is the way to the joy and peace of God, a joy and a peace that is not of this world” (pgs. 62-63). He’s describing humility.

I was semi-conscious when Bryan and Mya reached the bottom of the escalator and we continued on to the car. Actually, we continued on to the bench outside the theater where I gingerly sat down and waited while Bryan brought the car to me. Several x-rays later, it was revealed that I had a ‘chipped patella’. As I walked out of the hospital that day with my first pair of crutches, unable to bend my knee, I, once again, felt humbled. My noble efforts to help my daughter in distress had not led to heroism as I had envisioned, but instead humility.

Looking back, I resonate with this story as an analogy for my personal life! Being married to a church-planting minister in Boston is full of opportunities, some painful, some joyous, all humbling. Through it all, I am grateful for those walking beside me, helping me to experience His joy and peace.

Lisa and her family moved to Boston in May 2012 to begin a new congregation for Christ the King Presbyterian Church, in Roslindale/West Roxbury. She loves working part-time at the YMCA and working full-time at home with her daughters Mya (11) and Morgan (5).