Our Identity Is Not in Doing but in Being

by Shannon Baker

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Many ministers’ wives wrongly equate being a pastor’s wife with doing things for the Lord, according to Debi Sharkey, speaking at the 22nd annual Annie Elias Leavell Lectures at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary last October.

Sharkey, wife of Rick Sharkey, community pastor at Celebration Church in Metairie, La., and doctoral student at the seminary, shared that she has learned that none of the things she has done makes her who she is. “It’s who we are in Christ, not what we do, that matters,” she said.

“We get the cart before the horse.”

She used the parable of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25 to illustrate. “We’ve all heard sermons that explain this passage by pointing out what we do for the Lord,” she said, referring to Jesus’ reward to the sheep who fed the hungry, clothed the poor and cared for the sick, among other things. “I began to realize, however, that Jesus didn’t separate them for what they did. He separated them by who they were.

“Sheep just do what they do,” she noted.

Reading from 2 Corinthians 5:17-18, Sharkey showed how believers are “new creations in Christ” whose giftedness and purpose come from God.

“It’s very important to understand your spiritual gifts when trying to do certain things to be a good pastor’s wife,” she said. Though she longed for gifts in hospitality, service, and mercy—gifts that she believed any good pastor’s wife should have—she found these gifts were among the lowest when she inventoried her strengths.

She tried “growing things and sewing things” and imitating others’ gifts in those areas, she said, explaining her frustration. As she kept scoring higher on prophesy, teaching, and leadership on spiritual gift inventories, she learned that God had a particular plan for her life that matched her unique giftedness and personality.

“God will use you like he won’t use anyone else. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty,” she reminded the audience.

“It is being and not doing,” she emphasized. “I can’t live up to being that ‘pastor’s wife.’ I just need to be me.”

She concluded, “It’s not what you would do for Jesus, but what Jesus is doing through you.”

Baptist Press