I’m not exactly sure why I was so fearful and anxious when I was growing up and early in my marriage—I’ve learned a lot about the long line of anxiety and depression in my family—but I frequently panicked that something might happen to Rick. Those fears were brought to a head one day at a pastor’s conference Rick and I attended. The husbands and wives were separated into different tracks for part of the day, and the speaker in my session was a former pastor’s wife. He told us she and her husband had served for many years a s a ministry team. He had been the pastor of a large church and had an important role in the community. But then her husband had become ill and died. She said, “When my husband was alive, our mailbox was full of speaking invitations from big conferences and other churches. Everybody wanted him to do this and be a part of that. Our lives were hectic and full. Then he died. The phone stopped ringing. Our mailbox was empty, and there were no more invitations to speak. I started to feel like I didn’t belong anymore, not even in my own church.” She vulnerably expressed her fears: “Maybe I only mattered because I was his wife.”
When she said those words, a sharp knife went into my heart. I couldn’t breathe.
In a daze, I stumbled back to our hotel room, where Rick was eagerly waiting to share all the great things that had happened in the session he had attended. He was also anticipating a nice evening alone together in a hotel room with no kids barging in —a rare treat for parents of elementary-aged children. He had no idea how shaken I was by the question vaguely forming in my head; he couldn’t see the darkness that had descended on my soul or the fear that was holding my heart in a vise.
Completely beaten by my baffling responses, he went to sleep. I lay in the hotel bed staring at the ceiling, trying to get my heartbeat to slow down. Suddenly, it was crystal clear to me. My panicked response to the speaker’s story was all about my carefully guarded fear that I mattered only because I was married to Rick Warren. Saddleback church was thriving and demanded much of his attention. He was beginning to gain some acclaim; people were beginning to hear his name and know who he was. Our mailbox was full; he received more invitations than he could possibly accept. What if he were to leave me or die? What if he became ill and was incapacitated and was unable to pastor any longer? Would I still matter? Would there be a place for me? Would I have a significance apart from this man I had spent so much of my life with?
I cried out through my tears, “God, you’ve got to help me because I’ve got stuff really mixed up in my head. I can’t serve you with my whole heart if I have to live in fear every day that I’m not going to matter if something happens to Rick—that I’m not important without Rick.”
That middle-of-the-night divine conversation was life changing. God very gently reminded me of a passage of Scripture I had just taught on the week before. Forgive me if I adapted the passage a tiny bit, but this is how the Holy Spirit applied these verses to my life.
Cursed is the woman who trusts in man,
who draws strength from mere flesh
and whose heart turns away from the Lord.
She will be like a bush in the wastelands;
she will not see prosperity when it comes.
She will dwell in the parched places of the desert,
in a salt land where no one lives.
But blessed is the woman who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
She will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
She does not fear when heat comes;
her leaves are always green.
She has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit (Jeremiah 17:5-8).
What comfort and assurance to know that I don’t matter because I’m married to Rick Warren. I don’t matter because I’m a pastor’s wife of Saddleback Church. I matter because God thought me up. He saved me and preserves, me, and he’s waiting eagerly for the day when we will see each other face-to-face. I matter because I am his beloved daughter.
Reprinted from Sacred Privilege: Your Life and Ministry as a Pastor’s Wife, by Kay Warren. Published by Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, ©2015. http://www.bakerpublishinggroup.com. Used by permission.