Friday, August 24, 2007

Now That You're Married - Be Quiet!

Being dedicated to recording some of the most invaluable lessons learned and experiences had by me, as a missionary wife, I believe I should start with the most earth-shattering lesson that I, in my nearly 8 months of marriage, have learned. The telling of it often produces tears (mostly for the ladies and for me, the teller) as I recognize the very awesomeness of God in my life.

While minding my own business, being the best little missionary wife that I can be (when I'm not whining about something or other), several comments (okay, just three) were hewn at me, seemingly from nowhere. These comments caused me to doubt my identity altogether and made me ask the question, "Why, God, did you make me this way!?"

(These comments are as close to the original quote as possible)
Comment #1: "You shouldn't correct your husband in public"
Comment #2 (or rather, Question #2): "Are you having an trouble letting Jim speak?"
Comment#3: "You really should be careful not to over-power your husband."

Yikes. All in ONE week, mind you.

After Comment #1, I was a bit confused seeing that the "correction" I made was merely a matter of Jim switching the words around in a sentence, hence making it very funny to hear and my suggesting that he take the words and put them in the right order. I then evaluated the situation and decided that I would zip my lips. I didn't think it worth it to cause a stir.

After Comment (Question) #2, I replied, "Not at all! He does the preaching!"

This was followed by the clarification that the word "speak" really spoke of social-like speaking. So, I uttered something about our personalities being different and just left it. I felt quite defeated, especially after Comment #1, so I put a lid on it, and didn't speak.

After Comment #3, I cried.

Here's the situation. One Sunday night, after Jim and I practiced for special music, a very dear older lady, seasoned-missionary-friend, Mrs. So and So, offered her advice.

"Sarah, you are a little louder than Jim, maybe you should back down a little and Jim should sing out more."

Yes, my voice does carry about 1 mile further than his; his voice tends to be blocked by an invisible wall somewhere just past his nose.

I was very ok with this music-type advice. I'm used to it. I decided that writing the dynamics in would be a novel idea, so that Jim and I would be on the same "volume" page when the time came to actually sing the song in the service (which, by the way, went very well).

So, as I'm sitting down in the front pew, pencil in hand, and Mrs. So and So continues to offer advice that goes beyond the realm of music. This advice was summed up in Comment #3.

"You really should be careful not to over-power your husband."

An emotional downpour ensued. I think partially due to the previous Comments #1 and #2. Like they say, "It was the straw that broke the camels back." And I felt like a big, dumb camel with a broken back, uttering strained words through every tear.

"When you're single everyone says 'You're so outgoing and talkative and we love that about you, Sarah,' and then, all of a sudden, when you get married, they all seem to say, 'Now, BE QUIET!'" - Boy, don't I sound confused!

I began then, to seriously ask God, "Why did You make me this way? How will I EVER fit the bill as a 'Missionary Wife' or even a wife, in general?"

All the boys dispersed (awkwardly, I may add,) one being my very sensitive, teary-eyed husband who very distinctly felt my pain (I had been venting to him about it all week), and Mrs. So and So and I had a nice little heart to heart.

The rest of my week was significantly better since the number of comments ended at 3, and my episode of tear-spilling probably deterred any other comment that might have been said. I had no idea yet, but God would answer my question of "Why?" through 3 more comments, each one slowly alleviating the pain of the former 3.

My husband and I attended a special dress-up type luncheon later that week. During this luncheon, the soon-to-be-appointed missionaries of the Baptist Mid-Missions Candidate Class of 2007, which included us, were invited to stand up and give testimonies about the past week and what we have learned during the intense class-attending and note-taking on, basically, "The In's & Out's of Missionary-ness with BMM." Still feeling as though my question remained unanswered, I felt accutely aware that I, broken camel-back, loud, out-spoken, too outgoing, and talks-too-much Sarah, could NOT give a testimony of what I learned. I basically wallowed in self-pity.

"Boo-Hoo, poor me, I have no idea who I am, and why I'm here. I won't fit in anywhere, much less, Germany."

Fortunately, though, many of our other classmates had very encouraging things to say and I was pulled out of my basking-in-self-sorrow moment. But, it was't until this guy from Germany, Stephan, stood up to give his testimony that the 3 Icky Comments began to be combatted. I don't remember word-for-word what his testimony was, but he made a point to mention how "pleased" he was that "Jim and Sarah are going to Germany. They will fit right in there."

So, I thought that maybe there could be hope...or maybe he's just being nice. I wasn't willing to believe the former yet, as I was still gaurding my pride.

"What a nice comment," I thought, ignorant still that it would be the first of 3 new comments that would reverse the effects of the arformentioned 3 Not As Nice comments.

The next day (that sounds like such a cliche transition), Jim and I were approached by Mrs. So and So's husband, Mr. So and So.

"I thought you might like to know this," began Mr. So and So. "I was talking to Stephan after prayer meeting on Wednesday, and he mentioned to me how happy he is that you two are going to Germany...."

I'm thinking here, "We've heard this already, but how nice of Mr. So and So to be encouraging and relay the message on again."

"He said that your personalities will fit in well there," Mr. So and so finished.

What's this I hear? Do my ears decieve me? This comment had a little more meat to it...he said, "your personalities will fit in..." The defeating feeling that Comment #2 laid on me was soon diminishing with the aid of this wonderful new realization.

"Thank you, Mr. So and So. Thank you for sharing that" was my VERY genuine response.

Only about 10 or so minutes following Mr. So and So's conversation with us, Mrs. So and So arrives with her beautiful smile in tow.

"Sarah, I really wanted to tell you this..."

My mind traces the last conversation. I'm almost sure it will be the same thing. But, I hold out and decide to hope a little. After all, she is a woman, and we have this way of communicating this with great gusto and detail.

"Sarah," she said in her very kind and calming voice.

"I have been praying for you, that God would show you His purpose for making you the way He did. I felt awful for making you cry and I thought, 'Who am I to judge God's creation?' So, I began to pray about it."

I was already very blessed by her very sweet and genuine comments (this easily took care of 1/2 of Comment #3).

She continued, "My husband came back from prayer meeting on Wednesday and said he had a conversation with Stephan. Stephan mentioned that your and Jim's personalities will fit in well in Germany..." tears began to well up in her eyes, thus, mine as well.

"He said that the men (Pastors and Missionaries) in Germany are expected to be authoritative and out-spoken behind the pulpit," (which Jim is).

"but are expected to be more reserved outside of that," (which Jim is).

"and," she continued, "the wives are expected to be more outgoing and friendly," (which I am).

What an entirely welcoming relief! See, God did have an answer to my question the whole time. It's amazing enough that He allowed me to see that in the same week I began asking Him. But, to think, He planned that personality compliment between me and Jim long before I was in ministry, long before I was saved, long my mothers womb. How very incredibly awesome is He.

Well, there you have it. My "why" question was answered. Oh, I know there will be variables in the ministry. That is to be expected. But this is the sum of what I have learned. I should always be myself. God made me to fit in wherever He puts me.


Yvonne said...

Wow, this brought tears to my eyes! I remember talking with you about this. Have to say you've encouraged me with what you wrote about the expectations for wives. I'm hoping that applies to single women as well to be more outgoing and friendly. Can't wait to get there!

Lisa Long said...

Sarah ~ it's good to hear what God is doing in your life! It's encouraging to me. Sometimes I feel like I'm just going through life, living the monotany of it. Sure I'm having fun but what's it all for. So it's encouraging to me to hear what God is doing in your life!

Melodie Sheppard said...

Wow, you and I sound a lot alike (I think we aready knew that...) only I'm not married yet and I often get comments like those you received. I am constantly working on humility and being outgoing but not being abrasive. I want to be me, but in the godliest sense. I know things will be even harder when I do get married someday, but this note was a good encouragement and reminder that God did make girls like us for a reason!

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful story! Thank you for sharing!
Love Lauri

Susie Chilcote said...

Sarah, God did truly make us special! It is truly amazing how God formed each one of us special and different. William and I are complete opposite in many ways, but is neat how God uses it to help us in ministry and just balance in our marriage. It will be neat to see how God will continue to use you both for His glory!

Emily Kothmann said...

Sarah, I think a lot of girls can empathize with your story. It was a great encouragement to me. Not only about God making each of us a certain way, but also about the powerful effect our words can have on people. Have you ever thought of writing a book? Seriously.

Ashley Straight said...

Thank you, Sarah! That really is a wonderful, encouraging story. :)

Jeremiah Byron said...

Sarah, I just have to say, "Man Does God Rock all the time or what?" That is an awesome story. I'll be praying for you guys.

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