I, like many others, took a marriage oath on the day of my wedding. These vows went something like this, “I Sarah, take you Bradley, to be my lawfully wedded husband, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.”
Upon taking that oath, I knew to expect good times and bad times in my marriage. I knew marriage would be a roller coaster ride, and it has been. However, I wish there would have been the same type of oath on the day of my ordination into the ministry and even on the day I found out I was pregnant with my first child.
Motherhood and ministry both require the same dedication as a marriage. As a mother and minister I have held many people, have stood beside my own child and my church children in the best of times, and the worst of times. I have struggled with what it costs to raise a child and with ministry budgets, but I have always been able to make it. I have nursed my own sick child, have given out many Band-Aids and ice packs, and sat beside many hospital beds. Motherhood and ministry, like marriage, are lifetime commitments.
This all hit me last week as I went from dancing and singing on stage at Vacation Bible School to a funeral visitation within an hour. Ministry is full of these instances. However, I will cherish this specific “for better or worse” moment forever.
I remember the first time I met my ministry mini-me. (For those who have ministered with children and/or youth, you know what I am talking about. A ministry mini-me is that kid in your group who is so like you as a kid it is scary.) It was the Sunday Brad was visiting First Baptist Church, Red Springs to preach his first sermon and be voted on to become their pastor.
We had spent Saturday meeting some church members, but Sunday was the big day. And while on normal occasions I am extroverted and great with crowds, this day was overwhelming for me as a 23 year old wife who knew very little about being a First Baptist preacher’s wife. So I found myself migrating to my comfort zone, the youth room.
There in the youth room I met a young girl. She was around 12 years old, tall and skinny. As we began to talk I realized I had not met her on Saturday because she had been preparing for and performing at her dance recital all weekend. I thought, “Now this is a conversation I am comfortable with. Thank you, Lord!”
We talked a little and the Sunday morning continued to unfold. I met a lot of people. I shook a lot of hands. After Brad preached, the church voted, and he became the next pastor at First Baptist Church in Red Springs.
My ministry has been full of “for better or worse” moments, but no ministry relationship has taught me more than ministering to my mini-me. We both share a love for dance, basketball, volleyball, all things tie-dye and retail therapy. We both but up a strong front, but are sensitive on the inside. We are both hard-workers and put others above ourselves. We both have what I call “sassy mouth.” As a college student, she even worked as a waitress at the same restaurant chain I worked at as a high school and college student!
This beautiful young woman has grown up before my eyes. As her youth minister I walked along side of her through middle-school and high school, some of the hardest years for girls. I have been to many sporting events and awards days. We have taken many trips to Taco Bell. We have spent hours talking. Her name should be engraved on the chair in my office. I have rejoiced with her in her accomplishments and when her heart has been broken, mine has broken. As she has grown, our relationship has become less one-sided. I no longer just minister to her, she ministers to and with me.
Our relationship has been full of “for better or worse” moments. Our relationship has taught me about ministering with agape love, unconditional love. Even though I don’t always like her life choices, and sometimes want to scream at her, I love her with the unconditional love of Jesus.
Several weeks ago this relationship taught me again the value of committing to relationships in ministry. As I entered the funeral home, still wearing my “I Love VBS” t-shirt, my husband grabbed me. He asked if I had seen my mini-me. I said, “No”. He then told me she had not gone to the casket yet, she was waiting for me to go with her.
It was her grandmother’s visitation. Her grandmother was a committed member of the church and a great friend to my husband, daughter, and me. I spoke to many church members, family members and friends, but my heart and mind were solely focused on finding my mini-me. I found her, we hugged and talked a little. I told her I was there and ready whenever she was.
After the funeral home cleared out of guests, we reconnected. She grabbed my hands and we made our way to the casket. We cried, we talked, and we even laughed, the whole time holding each other.
It didn’t matter that she is now 22 and not technically one of “my youth.” It didn’t matter that we hadn’t had a taco bell run or long talk in a while. All that mattered was that we were there together, “for better or worse”.
Life and ministry are full of “for better or worse” moments. Marriage, motherhood, and ministry mean committing to love God and each other “for better or worse.”
(As I type this, the next generation mini-me just made her way into my office! Thankful for many “for better or worse” moments to come.)
Reverend Sarah Boberg is a minister, mother, and PhD candidate. She is currently conducting narrative research for her PhD dissertation.