5 Ways I’m Pursuing Unity and How You Can Too


Do you drink coffee in the mornings? I got a Keurig for Christmas from my mom, and I love having just one perfect, delicious cup. I don’t drink it every morning, but there is something special about holding the warm cup in my hand on a cold blustery day. And now as my kids are getting older, I sometimes actually drink it while it’s still hot. Not without interruption, but still.


Lately, something else has been brewing though, in my heart. I’ve been putting off posting this for weeks, but if I don’t post it now, I might not ever. I’ve struggled with what it is that’s been percolating, and how to articulate it. The best I can come up with is this – I love the Church. (But wait, there’s more!) We’re NOT unified right now, and it is breaking this Pastor’s Wife’s heart.

I was asked recently what I wish people knew about what it’s like being a pastor’s wife, and I think it’s that we love the church! I don’t know if people really “get” that to it’s full extent. My husband is in this ministry, and I support him, because we have a deep and abiding love for Christ and the Church. Not just the big C church, but our local church too. Our family here is amazing and our love for them is more than we can ever expess. I think I’m pretty bad at expressing it to the majority of people (#introvertproblems), but I truly do.

As I stood in worship one Sunday, we sang “Jesus Christ, my living hope!” and it was everything I could do not to turn around and declare it over our church. The thing is – worship isn’t something done in isolation. Jesus is our hope. He died for our sins. He breaks our chains. He lives and breathes in us. So please don’t mind me while I change the lyrics.

As a pastor’s wife I get a front row seat to so much beauty. I get to see the late night counseling sessions, the discipleship and growth in our youth group students, the ways in which our church provides for members of our community with gas vouchers and utility payments. I don’t know WHO always because of confidentiality, but I know it happens. I see the deep friendships and all of us raising our kids together. The truth is though, the Bride of Christ is a family, and every family bickers. Not only that, but we’re a HUGE family and we’re pretty good (and by good I mean terrible) at bickering. I get to see the ugly side of that too – not typically in name or deed, but in the slump in Brandon’s shoulders, the tension headaches, and the sleepless nights. Our pastors are hurting….because the Bride of Christ is hurting….because we’ve forgotten our King.

Right now, there is so much disunity in our churches, and as I’ve been reading through 1 Samuel and the anointing of King Saul, I feel compelled to encourage the church that we can do better! Maybe encourage is too soft a word…maybe exhort? Admonish? The Israelites wanted a king, and despite God’s warning given through Samuel, they pushed for a king whom they believed would judge among them, lead them, and fight their battles. But they forgot their God.

And that is where I think we are.

I love the Church, but we have forgotten our first Love – God.
Recently I had a conversation with my four-year-old that went like this:
Me: Umm….why did you draw on your legs?
Lucas: I wanted to draw crosses to celebrate Jesus. *long pause* I drew one on my butt too.


Maybe he’s onto something.
At least he’s celebrating and remembering Jesus.

Let’s not tiptoe around the proverbial elephant in the room. Our political climate has been toxic, and even masks can’t protect us from that. (Ba dun dun—that’s a drum sound because I made a joke.) Anyway, it is forgetting God that has created a big ole’ crack down the center of our churches. It’s the same thing that has caused dissension throughout all of the Church’s history!! You might be thinking, “I haven’t forgotten God!” But maybe if I put it another way: have you been loving something MORE than you love God? How are you spending your time? What are you thinking about the most? I couldn’t put a name to it before, but here is what I’m seeing: idolatry. We’ve forgotten our King and demanded another. We’ve put our hope in something that isn’t Jesus. That could be any number of things, but I’m mostly referring to Joe Biden and Donald Trump. Is this hitting a nerve yet? It should be. And if you’re reading this and thinking of someone else and how THEY need to read this and how THEY are acting or saying or doing XYZ, then take a closer look inward, because I’m talking to you, my Friend.

Oh, and not to change the subject, but have you met idolatry’s ugly cousin, Pride? They’re pretty close — where one is, the other is likely close behind. We have been so insistent about our “rightness” and letting our beliefs be more important than our love. Can we do better though? Can we still focus on finding the truth of what’s happening in the world without looking down on one another? Can we live with our hope in Jesus, and not the political figures that we assume will fix everything? I know it seems like everything is getting worse in the world, but that’s a faulty perspective, and one typically held by mostly white people. (I say “mostly white people” because we have a tendency to reference ‘the good ole’ days” while forgetting that they weren’t that great for people of color.) American history aside, in Biblical history we see all of humanity wiped out due to sin, save Noah and his family. We see slavery, wars, rape, the wickedness of Sodom and Gomorrah, and have you read Judges lately?? Phew. In the New Testament things aren’t any prettier. People argue about salvation and whether one has to be circumsized to be saved. This all goes to show that what Ecclesiastes says is right – there is nothing new under the sun. We’re the same old disobedient, prideful people we’ve always been, but we benefit from the reminders to repent. So, I repent of my pride and my idolatry and put my trust in Jesus. May you do the same, and may we grow in our love for Jesus and for others, seeking truth and justice and wholeness and humility, bound together in loving unity. I am saying all of this because God has been working it out in me, and as He has, my love for the Bride of Christ has grown more richly than I even thought possible. I already felt so thankful and so blessed and so fulfilled to be part of my church community and for the Church as a whole. I’m no Paul, but I can definitely identify with him and his letters to the churches. I too want to write in run-on sentences about how amazing you are, and how grateful I am for you, but also how we need to get it together, people!! This is what God has been brewing in me.

This next part isn’t something that I think God has specifically impressed upon me to share, but I value practical advice when I read others’ writings. It’s not enough to say “Do better!” but not say how. Here are a few things I have done or am trying to do that have been helpful:

  1. Do the hard work of introspection. Is there someone you’re mad at? Think about why. Is someone mad at you? Think about their feedback or criticism…figure out what truth is there and then disregard the rest. Especially if that someone is a person you tend to respect and admire. Own your part, forgive and ask for forgiveness where needed. Journaling, counseling, or processing out loud with a close friend can be helpful.
  2. Read or listen to books by people who are different than you. It doesn’t have to do with political things AT ALL. I think it’s valuable to get used to seeing from different perspectives. Whether or not you agree does not change someone else’s experience and we do well to listen. Listening and validating someone’s emotions, does not necessarily mean that you support and affirm their beliefs or behaviors. By reading my posts, you hopefully have a clearer understanding of what it’s like to live with Bipolar, or as a believer in Jesus, as a female, as a mom, as a wife, as a sugar addict. Does that mean you agree with my decision to take prescription medicine to manage my mental illness? Are you jeopardizing your religion by reading about mine? Do you completely 100% support every decision that I make as a mom just because you read about how I handled a situation with my boys? Do you think it’s okay that I have an addiction to sugar because I wrote about it? Nope. Nope. Nope. And nope. But you understand me better as a person, and that’s where true change happens in both of us. So, do yourself a favor and read about what it’s like to be anyone else.
  3. Talk in person. The internet is great, but not for debates. Do you know that we have something called “mirror neurons” that help us to show empathy and connect with others in a conversation? We just don’t get that when we’re arguing with someone on the internet. (“Dialogue” can happen, but I think it’s rare.) I’m not sure honestly how phone conversations or videos work with the mirror neurons. But at least we can catch tones and other nuances that we miss online. So, it’s a step in the right direction, but try for in-person conversations. And if it’s someone you don’t even know? LET.IT.BE.
  4. Choose to think the best about others, and assume they have good intentions. If you have a healthy relationship with said person, remind yourself: “This person loves me and wants what’s best for me. We just don’t agree about what that is.” This reframing can completely transform your tone and drops the defenses.
  5. Focus on doing good in the world. Find one way to bring a smile to someone else’s face every day. This puts emphasis on other people in a positive way, and it will no doubt bring you joy as well. Christ calls us to be others-focused.

In conclusion, I love you and I long for unity to be restored through our King, Jesus. Let us remember our God together.

I hope you receive this in love.

Love,
Ashley

For an even deeper look into what it’s like to be a Pastor’s wife, subscribe to the “This Mom Knows” YouTube channel, or use your preferred podcast source and search “This Mom Knows.” Episodes will begin airing on February 16, 2021 and is hosted by my longtime friend and mentor, Jennifer Uren.

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