Blog/CYM Blog

Kid’s Table

I am blessed in a lot of ways. I don’t always realize it, but in the quiet moments when I think about what God does in my life I realize how little I deserve it.

One of the most amazing parts of what I do with Life Teen is that I get to travel and speak about Jesus. I get to train youth ministers. I get to write resources and books. I get to see God’s glory firsthand. I receive both criticism and affirmation for those things. Often, I only recognize the criticism, but the affirmation far outweighs it if I’m honest.

That isn’t all I do, though. My primary vocation is as a husband and father. I have two incredible children and an amazing wife. Usually, people see me on a stage speaking or know that I am working on curriculum and resources for Life Teen, but they don’t see the “why.” They don’t see the reason I can do that.

They affirm me, but they really should affirm my wife. 

As I read through the Gospel this week (Luke 14:1, 7-14), I think about her, and I reflect on every ministry spouse. I imagine them at the kid’s table, not the head table. I think about them doing bedtime routines on their own and running errands while we are on retreat. I think about their sacrifice and humility because when everything is said and done the congregation thanks the youth minister for the great retreat but not the spouse that had the most harrowing weekend of his or her life while the retreat happened.

I step off a stage, and people affirm the message while my wife informs me that our oldest son just peed all over his sister’s crib. I have a conversation with a youth minister that transforms both of us, and my wife lets me know the car broke down. I get 900 square feet off stage to proclaim God’s word, and she gets 900 square feet of an apartment to take care of two kids (and let’s be honest, me). She sits at the end of the kid’s table, and you don’t see her.

When I heard the Gospel this week that was the image I had. The readings focus on humility and the life of a ministry spouse embodies it. I had the image of Jesus telling the parable and looking at me and saying, “You already have an example of this kind of humility; the kind that puts itself at the service of others. The kind that doesn’t seek recognition for sacrifice but makes sacrifices out of a deep love. You have your wife.”

And it isn’t just her. There are thousands of people that demonstrate what it means to place yourself at the foot of the table. Women and men that empower ministry by supporting, loving, and challenging their spouse. They aren’t dressed in the hipster youth minister “uniform” – they are in the cry room while their husband or wife makes an appeal for extra funds for the mission trip at every weekend Mass. They don’t get thanked, and wouldn’t want it that way because they do it for the Kingdom. They play with trains and dolls on the floor so teenagers would know Jesus. They understand part of their primary vocation of marriage means living out a secondary vocation of youth ministry.

Look, my wife is getting into heaven before me. It is a fact. I have thousands of diapers waiting for me in purgatory. Without her, I cannot do what I do.

And this isn’t just about her. It is about the countless others that endure the late nights and long weekends taking care of families on a church budget so their spouse can lead teens closer to Christ. Thank them. Affirm them. They may be sitting at the kid’s table tonight, but one day God is going to call them up. God sees their sacrifice, love, and joy. He sees the trial and hardship. He blesses it. He exalts it. So should we.

 

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About the Author

Joel Stepanek

I spent most of my 8th grade year in detention because there wasn’t a dare I wouldn’t accept. But in high school, my youth minister dared me to follow Christ and I haven’t looked back. I love all things Wisconsin, especially the Green Bay Packers. I can probably eat more cheese than you. (Please don’t dare me to prove it.) Follow me on Twitter and Instagram at @LT_Jstepanek.

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