“I live in a goldfish bowl,” a dear friend, a pastor’s wife, confessed to me one long-ago day. “I feel like I live in a gold-fish bowl with a cat staring at me hungrily.” Her husband was a pastor of a large metropolitan church, and the demands on her time and energy were enormous. She wasn’t always able to meet every expectation which every church member had of their pastor’s wife, and she had grown weary of the watching eyes.
I understood the feeling, because my husband was also a pastor, and I was a very human, harassed and vulnerable wife and mother. We lived right next door to the church, so our family was always on display, and church members often spoke of it. Did they watch us to find fault with us? Or was it because they needed to know if the Gospel of grace and peace Walt preached in the pulpit could work for them? Did they watch to catch me in a fault? Or did they yearn desperately to see something genuine? Did they have a right to expect me to live like my husband preached?
Yes, they did. I couldn’t pretend that I “had it all together,” immune to failure. I have temptations and weaknesses. My children were not always shiny-faced angels. I dared not ever say to the watchers of the fish bowl, “You could be just as perfect as I am if you tried harder.” Often I shared with them some struggle I had faced, and how God had helped me in it.
So a woman asked me, “Aren’t you afraid people will lose respect for you?”
I had to admit, rather shame-faced, “I think they’ve already discovered I’m very human.. So when I share a defeat of mine, I tell them how faithful God will be when they fail.” I say that with confidence, because Psalm 37:23,24 (nlt) promises:
The steps of the godly are directed by the LORD.
He delights in every detail of their lives.
Though they stumble, they will not fall,
for the LORD holds them by the hand.
All of us are flawed human beings: pastors and parishioners; supervisors and employees, politicians and voters, parents and children, husbands and wives, teachers and students. Thank God for the eternal truth that Jesus paid the penalty for our sins. When we come to Him, not only will He forgive us and cleanse us, He’ll help us every day of the journey for the rest of our lives, and then share Heaven with us forever.
First Peter 2:12 says it this way:
Be careful how you live among your unbelieving neighbors.
Even if they accuse you of doing wrong,
they will see your honorable behavior,
And they will believe and give honor to God
when He comes to judge the world.
A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Rice Handford