This morning, at church, I felt vindication.
It’s not a top-of-the-list expected sensation when you walk into a place of worship. But for today, vindication fit.
The pastors preached on wineskins, using Jesus’ words to the Pharisees as a reference.
But no one puts a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; for the patch pulls away from the garment, and a worse tear results. Nor do people put new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the wineskins burst, and the wine pours out and the wineskins are ruined; but they put new wine into fresh wineskins, and both are preserved.” (Matthew 9:16, 17 NASB)
The point for the congregation today is that holding onto our old ways of doing things may keep us from experiencing growth in our relationship with God. And relationships are one area where our pastor sees a new wineskin is needed.
In today’s culture, so many of us spend our time connected to the Internet, hands almost surgically attached to our cellphones or mobile devices. I personally was shocked at how quickly my iPad got its dark tentacles wrapped around my habits.
Speaking of modern culture, our pastor declared, “A lot of people have more relationships via the Internet and social media than they have in face-to-face relations.” By unscientific appearances, because I’m too lazy to find data for what seems obvious, this is the case. Everywhere I go, I see people on cell phones, texting, Facebooking, tweeting, Vining, snapchatting, vlogging, and whatever new thing I’m not even aware of yet.
At least I do when I take my eyes off my iPhone.
Ok, so why the vindication?
Because my pastor’s words spoke directly to a form of ministry my wife has labored in for probably over a decade. And his words lent credence and validity to her form of ministry where others rolled eyes, scoffed, patronizingly agreed, or outright walked away.
My wife ministers the light and love of Christ to people online.
A stay-at-home mom by choice and homeschooling teacher by choice of four children ranging from three years old to teenagers, my wife doesn’t get a lot of time to spend volunteering for the church or doing whatever small group activities come up. When she gets time, she usually takes advantage of the chance to rest, because she earns those breaks.
So when the church wants to go door-to-door, or when they’re asking for nursery volunteers, or they want all the women to come out to a midweek Bible study, or to cook up dinners for the family with the new baby, more often than not, my wife isn’t serving there.
And she gets the looks for it! “Well, if you’re dropping your kid off in the nursery, then we need you to volunteer.” I get that. That makes nursery sustainable. So how about if my excited, willing teenage daughter volunteers in my wife’s place? “Not good enough.”
“Well, it’s so neat that you talk to people on your computer, but you know, we really need someone to come do street evangelism.” Because pouncing on people is a proven tactic, right.
My wife may not step foot out the door, but she clicks across the world and types words of love and hope into the hearts of people she’s never met in person. She may not have a foot on the ground, but she has a virtual hand on the shoulder of a grieving woman, of a new divorcee, of a worried parent whose child is in trouble with drugs. She may not be knocking on doors, but God knocks on hearts through the connection my wife makes with friends and strangers.
Years ago, when I’d log into a chatroom on Yahoo or geocities to debate theology, my wife would talk with people one-on-one to find out what they were going through and share her similar experiences.
Later, when I hopped on forums to post rants about politics and religion in our culture, my wife would trade private messages with people who had been emotionally or physically abused, whether by family, by acquaintances, by strangers, or even by their church. She gave hurting people an avenue to open up, to trust again, to connect with someone who had walked in their shoes and survived to tell the tale.
On Facebook, my wife almost always has a chat open with a friend or two, most of the time just staying connected and sharing life across the country or around the world. That constant reliable bond makes it possible to speak into someone’s life when they are in need of a friend. And sometimes it comes back to bless my wife when she needs encouragement.
Even on World of Warcraft and Farmville, she has made connections to strangers that developed into friends.
All the while, she’s ignored or brushed away the silent criticism and derisive looks from people who should have been excited and supportive.
Sure, if you get her going on politics or draw her into an argument, ministry gets lost in the chaos and flame wars. But that’s true of everyone, regardless of how persuasive we all might believe our memes and rants on Facebook to be.
So to those who laughed at my wife and her “so-called ministry,” I’d like to rise above and be the better man. But she’s the better half.
That means I get to laugh back, feel vindicated, and point out that she’s so ahead of the curve, no wonder they couldn’t see her from way back there.