|The Pepto-Bismol colored blanket draped my shoulders, my legs crisscrossed over the sterile hospital bed. My body racked with sobs of uncontrolled grief. Snot and tears ran down my face.
“Well, this is it. My ministry is over. No one will ever respect me as a leader again,” I cried.
Depression got the best of me and threatened to take my life. Disappointment in who I’d become was suffocating. Pastor’s wives aren’t supposed to go through this. In fact, Christians aren’t. We’re supposed to have the joy of the Lord, I naively told myself.
I’d hidden my pain and played my part: supportive spouse, nurturing mother, happy volunteer. My closest friends and my husband knew, but their encouragement and advice didn’t help; it hurt. Well-meaning words and Scriptures made me feel worse. Only God could fix me, but where was He? I wondered.
“Doing time” in the mental hospital was humiliating. My pastor’s wife image was shattered, and I felt officially “crazy.” I spent the next two weeks alongside drug addicts, schizophrenics and alcoholics. We were failures and outcasts by society’s standards: weak, broken and ashamed.
No hiding here. Hospital patients can’t pretend they’re well. As each person shared their story of deep pain and brokenness, I watched the others come alongside with comfort and empathy, offering kind words, a touch, or silent acceptance of you’re not alone and me too. No one gave advice. No one judged or critiqued wounds and bad decisions.
Through our confessions, our differences melted away, and our commonalities brought acceptance and healing. Of all places for God to show up, I thought. Among the weak and broken. The outcasts and sinners. The same place Jesus shows up in the New Testament.
I blurted out in group: “You guys! This is what the church is supposed to look like!” Many were not Christians, yet this was not an odd thing to hear from the resident pastor’s wife. “If only Christians could feel accepted enough to confess their hurts, their sin; if only other Christians could BE accepting enough to embrace those who confess. But in the church, we’re afraid to admit we’re broken. We think we’re supposed to have it all together. But until we’re willing to get real, we can’t heal.”
What I saw as the end of my ministry was actually the beginning. And I realized we were living out the meaning of today’s key verse, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed” (James 5:16a).
I left the hospital full of hope and unexpected strength, returning to my church with new resolve. While it wouldn’t be easy, it would be necessary. I would confess my brokenness to my community. It might be embarrassing. I might be rejected.
It was definitely a risk, but somebody had to go first. And in going first, I prayed for others to find the freedom to go next, confident that healing would follow. What the enemy meant for evil, God used and continues to use for good.
Father God, thank You that we can indeed find healing when we begin to get real with each other. Help me continue to admit my brokenness and encourage others around me to find freedom, too. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.