by Keren Hamel
My husband recently received a call from an elder at a church in another state. His face fell as his friend described that a third of his congregation and several staff have left in the wake of Covid-19.
Over the past few months, my husband and I have spent many hours with friends whose marriages are falling apart. Our hearts break as we hear the sordid and devastating details.
Plus, we’re experiencing the same thing as many of you. Personal friends have decided not to return to church because we have a mask requirement. Some of our favorite congregants are leaving for new church homes. Church members and staff have said untrue and unkind things.
These are heavy times. Covid-19 has laid bare some ugly realities. As church leaders scramble to respond, we don’t have the usual relational touch points and face-to-face grace that often make resolution possible. In speaking to elders and wives across the nation, I’ve heard the same sentiment: this has been the hardest and most fatiguing season of leadership in our lives – even when we are spiritually healthy ourselves.
As I share the leadership load alongside my husband, I sometimes forget that my first ministry is to my husband. During this season, as our husbands have taken on so much extra weight, God has impressed upon me my unique ability to minister peace and rest to him. As much as I was his primary companion and greatest encourager before, I am even more so during Covid-19. No matter what kind of challenges he faces, I want him to find rest when he’s around me.
In full disclosure, we have a 1-year-old son, I’m 7-months pregnant, and I have a painfully limiting back injury. So, you can imagine how often I fall short and how often my husband makes sacrifices for me! But, I am earnestly trying to help him find rest in four specific ways.
Most importantly, I want to give him the gift of a gentle and quiet spirit. Each day, I set aside my growing list of prayer requests to take time to enjoy the presence of the Lord – to seek God for His sake alone. He’s my peace, and in His presence is the fullness of joy. I also avoid the toxic Covid-19 diet: slanted journalism (both ways), social media, rumors and gossip. I want more of God’s Spirit and less of the spirit of the age. When my spirit is restful, my husband is the greatest beneficiary.
Second – and this is easier said than done – I try to say and do the things that bring my husband rest and avoid the things that bring stress. These lists are vastly different for each of our husbands, but we do know what they are. For my husband, it’s apple pie, sweet tea and family walks around sunset; it’s not packing our calendar with several engagements every single night.
Third, when my husband is extra fatigued, I try to get creative. This month, I asked a friend if I should help my husband get some alone time. She wisely texted, “No! He gets his energy from adventures and good conversations with people he loves.” She was right! So, I invited her family to come to town for a jam-packed weekend of fun. My husband’s tank will be full for at least a month.
Finally, I pray for God to create life-filled moments for us. God loves to answer this prayer. Just a few weeks ago, I told my husband I wanted to build our son a slide from the deck into the yard. The next day, my husband came home with two large, high-quality slides in the back of his truck. He found them on the side of the road with a sign that read “FREE.” Our son enjoys that gift from God every single day.
Though this is a season of heavy-lifting, I’m more confident in my role than ever. As wives, we are essential workers, vital to the health of the men on the front lines.