Keep Pressing On (Ministry Wives Retreat 2023)
Over a few sunny days in May, more than 50 wives of men in FIEC ministry gathered in Derbyshire to build relationships and be refreshed.
There’s a wonderful line in Ed Welch’s book Side by Side that reads: “we move towards others not because we can do these things with ease but because of Jesus.” That’s a fairly apt summary of how I tend to feel about conferences.
Whilst my husband launches himself into a conference with abundant joy and chatter, I’m one of the people who tends to hide out at the book stall, praying that the Lord would give me the confidence to move towards people - not because I find it easy, but because of Jesus.
The recent FIEC Ministry Wives Retreat was no exception. I went knowing I would know very few people there, and not really knowing what to expect. And yet, as my husband comes back from conferences refreshed and rested by the company of likeminded peers, I knew the benefit that awaited me at this gathering – even if it meant stepping out of familiar and comfortable territory to receive it.
No doubt it’s a benefit that grows over time, as relationships and ministry experience deepen. But as I look back on our time away, here are just a few snapshots of why it was so thoroughly worthwhile.
A time to be fed
Literally! With food we did not buy, or prepare, or cook, or have to wash up after.
It may sound simple but to be amongst a group of women who are so genuinely thankful for each meal, knowing how much of life is taken up serving in this way, was such a gift!
But not only literally for, at the centre of our time, there was a feast on God’s precious word. Elinor Magowan spoke from Paul’s letter to the Philippians – the ‘letter of joy’ – with both rigour and thoughtfulness.
Philippian riches were applied deeply into the contours of our lives as ministry wives, as the themes of joy, prayerfulness, contentment, and humility were impressed on our hearts.
A time to be known
Or to begin to be known. Without the busyness. Without the familial stretch of regular rhythms.
Within discussion groups, or just in conversation over a cup of tea in the sunshine, there was ample time to move towards one another with the welcome Jesus offers.
With no agenda, other than to listen, learn, and pray for one another, as life stories and the inevitable joys and sorrows of ministry life meandered their way through conversation.
A time of reorientation
It feels like a constant surprise to me that, even as someone serving alongside my husband in full time ministry, I need my heart and gaze to be continually recalibrated towards the glories of heaven, and of my saviour Christ Jesus, over and above the world.
It’s not a given. But under the Lord’s gracious hand, gatherings like this are a catalyst and spur.
They quicken the heart. They ground the feet once more. And they reorientate, with the encouragement of like-minded individuals, to keep pressing on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called us heavenwards in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:14).