Tribute to my Wife
This 13th of November in the year of our Lord 2004 is the fifty-first birthday of my wife outside the womb. (I specify that for my Jewish friends.) I know, I know. Those of you who know us personally now realize that I was what they call a cradle robber. She married me, when I was a young non-commissioned officer, just three days after she turned 16. This accounts, well at least a little bit, for why she looks so much younger than me. She is. But I think she looks just fine without the benefits of Mary Kay and Revlon.
She probably did not realize what a difficult life she had signed on for when she married me. True, she was a preacher’s daughter, but the only person who seemed to have an inkling that I would one day “trod the boards” in those days was her father, and perhaps her mom. In retrospect, I have to say that Sarah, her mother, picked me out for her daughter, and had as big a part in our union as we did. I am not a man who can tell those mother-in-law jokes because I had one who truly loved me and took pains to show me and help our betrothal and marriage succeed. This was not easy for I was more often gone than present. This is not only hard on an engagement, but it is also hard for a marriage. My wife was her mother’s daughter. Over the years she coped with things when I was not there to take care of them.
During much of our military time life was not easy. Pay then was not what it is now and promotions were slow in coming. The soldier was not a popular item on the government budget. I have had to pick up coke bottles for the deposit to buy gas to get me back and forth to duty when I could not pick up odd jobs when off duty. It takes a lot to organize a house and stock it with what is needed when you barely live payday to payday. But Kaye always seemed to manage it. Looking back on those days, I think in many ways it was harder on my sweetheart than me because she had the babies that came and my needs to look out for as well. And just about the time we began to get a little bit ahead it would be time to change duty stations. We always lost on that deal because every time you have to set up housekeeping all over again. There is a lot of cost not covered in any table of allowances or reimbursable expenses. We used to have a joke between us that by the time we got our yard looking nice we would have to move somewhere else and start all over again.
When I went into the ministry things got harder. We had to deal with the problems that go along with the work and also some of the prejudices we encountered within the service. I know that some people appointed over me tried to hurt me on things like performance reports from time to time simply because of the stand I took for Christ. Kaye was not immune from these problems and she was also now caught up within the internal problems of church work that so many who merely attend know little of. One thing I know hurt her deeply, though she never said a word about it, not even to me. When I was a candidate for Licensing to the Gospel Ministry a rumor was started that I had been married before. Of course Kaye knew it was false, she knew my whole family as they knew hers. But rumors are hard things to deal with, and that sort of thing drew out the process greatly. Not many even realize the stress that the wife feels when going through that extended process where people are careful to do things right. It is even harder when unnecessary foolishness is added. And life always seems to deal some extra foolishness.
Serving as a Minister of Education in churches was not an easy matter for her either. She has seen me have to contend with pastor’s who wanted to quit, others that wanted to travel instead of taking care of the flock, as well as other problems. When those things did not exist then there is the problem of simply being allowed to do the job and recruit and train people to work within the church. All of this a wife has to contend with and silently, which is something church members she has to interact with frequently are not. When I was a pastor, I did not have the benefit of other ministers to help me. Once I thought I would have some help, but the man chose to have an affair with the wife of one of the members of my Church Council. We found he had been sowing discord among the saints against the day he would be discovered. My wife was often the longsuffering victim of the things that went on. She was always in the position of supporting me and keeping silent as I tried to deal with problems in a biblical manner. I admire her for her wisdom, because since those days I have seen the confusion caused by preacher’s wives who were not so perceptive of the hard role they needed to take when the devil manages to bring trouble into the church.
During the years that I “pastured” I was a bi-vocational minister. I was still on active duty in the military and served, among other things, as the NCOIC (Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge) of a Detachment. Whenever you are the guy in charge you always wind up working longer hours than those who are not. For my wife, even when I was not in the field in the military I was often either on duty or in the field as a pastor. I remember one time she drove home the point that she needed more of me than she got. One evening we were setting at the dining room table, the kids had left and gone upstairs to their rooms. She came over to me and put her little hands on each side of my face and turned my head to look into her eyes. The she said, “Remember, you are my pastor too.” That was all she said. I have heard women proudly announce they were Colonel or General so and so’s wife. Not once did I ever see my wife put on airs about who she was. But she was the wife of both a professional military man and the wife of a minister of the Gospel, and she was good enough at it to make that old bum look pretty good at both. Remember what the Scripture says about the reputation a virtuous woman brings to her husband? She makes him known in the gates of the city.
This Veteran’s Day I was talking with some friends from the military. I was working as a minister even though it was a holiday, and one of the men who came to see me came from his work place. He remarked that as a soldier he never used to get the holidays off that honored soldiers. If there was not some duty to perform there was always some parade or function to go to. Soldiers do not get soldier’s holidays. Wives like mine do not get holidays from being wives either, even when we go on holiday. She never stops thinking about the mission she has undertaken in life. Me! There was one thing in the military I used to like to do. There were those special meetings of professionals where we would put on our dress uniforms and our ladies would adorn themselves in their best dresses. We would eat a formal meal and toast our leaders beginning with our President and Commander in Chief. As a Baptist preacher living under Church Covenant’s that say “I will abstain from the use or sale of alcohol as a beverage,” we were often one of the few that drank these toasts with water. Sometimes that got us criticism. My wife was often a finer lady than the critics were gentlemen and ladies. I was always proud of my wife when we went to those gatherings. I always thought she was not only the finest lady there, though others were more richly dressed. She had the beauty of her person and the grace of a true lady. I was proud to have her on my arm. I still am. This morning I lift my coffee cup to the lady who has adorned my life and made it rich in love. Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you Beverly Kaye Ford, my great love, my companion in life, my dear friend and helpmeet, my wife. May God bless her in this world and the next as she has so richly blessed me in the years since she first said “I do,” and proved over and over again she meant it.