By Grant Caldwell
About 7:45 A.M., Sunday morning, October 27, 1976, I was getting ready for morning worship. We were to the last day of our meeting and things had been going very well. Just about that time, my wife came into the bedroom from the kitchen, looked at me and totally collapsed in my arms.
At the emergency room of the hospital, the doctor said she had a bladder infection, gave her a prescription, and said she would get better. On Thursday of that week, however, she was admitted to that same hospital. She was now under the care of two of the finest internal medicine specialists the state of Ohio had to offer. Diagnosis: A bacterial infection, a viral infection, infection in the blood stream, extreme (total) exhaustion. With the infection in the blood stream, the problem had rapidly spread from the bladder to the lungs, throat, and ears, and the doctors feared that it was going to the lining of the brain. The doctors explained that the infections were serious enough, but her physical condition was such that she was having trouble fighting it off.
She was 28 years old and I feared for her life. I was scared, and I prayed. What would I do without her? We had two small children. What would they do without their “mom”? The very thought was almost more than I could bear. But thanks be to God, she made it through. While she is now still regaining her strength, she is alive and very much well.
I bring all of this up not to use this paper as a nevus bulletin, but to remind all of us of one of the most serious matters that we must face. Those who are faithful in the service of the Lord and have special jobs to perform such as preaching, eldering, etc., often forget to care about those that are behind us “holding up our hands.” Especially, I believe this is true about our wives. They cook our meals, clean our clothes, keep our houses, and raise our children while we are out seeing to everyone else. And it is all too often that we wear them out.
How often we hear about problems that arise because preachers just did not take enough time to care at home. We have lost so many of our own children while out trying to convert everyone else’s children that “P.K.” has become a by-word with people. And one of the saddest things I know is the number of preachers who have found themselves in divorce courts as the primary participants in the last few years. Some of us (I must confess) have simply put so much on our wives that physically, emotionally, and / or spiritually they have buckled under the strain.
Someone may say, “Well, I don’t have much sympathy for the wife who doesn’t share her husband’s ambition for the cause of Christ.” And I will add that, I do not either. I am not talking about such a woman. But I am talking about good women with human limitations. Some of us take on such a load that our own bodies cannot stand the strain and we have strokes, heart attacks, ulcers, etc. Yet, in all, our faithful wife stands beside us helping us do what we think we must. But sometimes, their limitations as human beings show up, too.
What I am saying is this: The Lord does not expect that we perform in the church to the neglect of the Home. If he does, someone who knows it, please, show us the passage. 1 Cor. 7 applies to the preacher-the elder-as much as to anyone else. Eph. 5 is a law to the preacher and elder just as it is to the other members. My wife and children have the same right to a husband and father and a home-life as anyone else has. And they have the same right to rest and recreation that anyone else has.
I am not upholding a preacher who neglects the work of the church and gives his home-life as an excuse. But just as bad is the preacher who neglects his home-life and offers his work at the church as an excuse. Some of the blame, I suppose, must be put on the church in many places for expecting everything from debating to sink-cleaning from the preacher. But some of the blame, if not most of it, must be put squarely upon our shoulders for taking on more than we are really able to handle.
When we were in school, Brother Homer Hailey used to say, “Boys, remember your wife has a right to your time and your money, too. And your children need a father, too. In my early years I deprived my wife of things she had every right to have because I thought I had to spend it all on the church or put it in the basket. She was put in an early grave. I spent all my time in meetings and failed to spend my time teaching my own children the truth.”
Why, bless his heart, Brother Hailey was recognizing the same problem we are talking about. He was not saying one should not spend on the church, nor was he saying meetings, are not important. But he was saying that one’s home is important, too! Why don’t we give our wives a break. Maybe a night out. (Even if you are broke, the clown with the golden arches is better than another night in the kitchen.) Or how about an evening where you can just sit down, relax, hold her hand, and tell her she’s still the prettiest, most wonderful girl in town and you love her. Anything to give her a break before you break her. I will tell you, brethren, sometimes it is harder for her to sit home and wonder what “hell” you are going through, than it is for you to be out going through it.
Our wives, like ourselves, are human beings. As such, they are creations of the Lord and He alone knows best what care should be given them. Some can withstand more than others, but all have their limitations just as we do. We must “dwell with them according to knowledge” and give to them their just due. Maybe it is time to back up again, and ask, “What are we doing to our wives?”
Truth Magazine XXI: 31, p. 485
August 11, 1977