A Preacher’s Wife
Richard had been called to the ministry as a young man before his thirteenth birthday. His life became defined by that calling to God. To be a part of his life was to be equally yoked to that calling and to be married to it as if the calling were your own. Paulette chose her role as a faithful and dedicated wife of a Baptist preacher. “So dedicated and so committed,” as she was, the stress of sharing her husband with his ministry day and night sometimes took its toll on her, and yet she never complained.
“She always loved me,” he said, showing a moment of vulnerability, “and I didn’t know how to love her as I should…I must admit, I put the ministry ahead of her.”
Richard’s father had been authoritarian and stern. He never lived the example of how to be a loving husband to his wife. Richard really didn’t know how to love a woman; he didn’t put her first. And so Paulette shared her husband with another mistress, his congregation.
The Family Ministry
After graduating from seminary at Temple, Richard moved his family to Brandon, Florida where he served as associate pastor for six years at First Baptist before moving his ministry once again to Griffith, Indiana, 40 minutes south of Chicago, Illinois in 1979. Kelley, their daughter, was now 10, and as much as her mother had embraced her husband’s calling, playing the piano every Sunday, now so would Kelley in her adolescence. At Griffith Baptist, Richard served as the head pastor, but he made a point of always staying connected with Kelley’s peers at church. Her father’s ministry would become hers as well.
Paulette and Richard loved the young people at their church. They often enjoyed entertaining large groups of teens at their home. The energy of the youth they surrounded themselves with filled many holes in their marriage. Paulette’s gift was mercy. So where Richard would play the stern and corrective “father” to keep their flock on track, Paulette would offer only motherly love and forgiveness, extending boundless kindness to all she encountered regardless of the strain it put on her health and well-being.
In Sickness and In Health
By age 40, after 10 years of service to the church and her family, the evidence of her failing health became all too apparent. First, she developed a lump on her thyroid resulting in goiter surgery. Then, during a routine check-up, another lump was found on her breast. Within days, the biopsy that revealed cancer became a double mastectomy and a long bought of chemo-therapy that cost Paulette her hair and many of her teeth. During this time, the goiter returned on her thyroid resulting in additional radiation to eradicate it. In the worst of health, Paulette never missed church, she always played the piano.
“The suddenness of that situation brought me to realize how important she was to me.” Richard, forced into awareness of his wife’s needs for the first time became humbled by all that he now realized she had given to support him in his calling. Now she became more than just a preacher’s wife. Richard could see her as a mother, a caregiver, and a survivor, showing great courage and strength. Her compassion for others never faltered.
“I can’t remember Paulette ever letting anybody down,” said Richard, “and I know I had. But she had never, ever failed to answer somebody else’s call. She never disappointed.”
A Change in Destiny
In time, however, Paulette could no longer handle the physically and emotionally demanding challenges of church and family combined. She was reluctant to give up her ministry to the youth and her commitment to Richard’s calling, yet the task was just too great. So after 25 years, Richard stepped down as pastor in Indiana and moved his wife and daughter back to Memphis.
This decision could not have come easily for him, still so young in his career. But his ministry was far from over. God’s destiny for Paulette in June of 2005 would transform that ministry into something more powerful than Richard could have imagined. But more importantly, it would transform him into the loving and compassionate husband he had always longed to be.