The Seminarian's Wife
Written by Andrea Guingrich
My husband (Traever), our kids, and I had the privilege of spending the past three years in San Diego while Traever went to Westminster Seminary California/the Institute of Reformed Baptist Studies to obtain his Masters of Divinity. While most of us can rightly assume what MDiv students do in seminary, the question remains: what are their wives up to? The truth is it varies. Some wives work a job or two to stay financially afloat. Other wives somehow juggle both job and kids. And nearly all are handling the bulk of parenting little ones and the housework that entails. While we had various roles, we could all relate to this commonality: our husbands had an endless amount of work before them and so their time with us was limited. This fact would challenge us all in different ways, but for me the challenge was simply remembering my purpose.
From the time our oldest was three, we have asked her this question from the Westminster Shorter Catechism: "What is man's purpose in life?" And her answer is: "To glorify God and enjoy Him forever." In our family, the purpose of life is something that we have sought to etch into our minds, so it was not as if I was clueless as to what our lives were supposed to be about as we began our seminary journey! And being in seminary surrounded by Bible teaching and future pastors, I naively thought that this struggle to keep Christ at the center of my life and forefront of my mind would be easier. It turns out I was wrong. I am so prone to wander!
As we began seminary, Traever naturally became immersed in studies. At the same time, I began treading my way through parenting little ones in a new place and a new chapter in our lives. Traever was careful to carve out time to spend with us. He saw us around the dinner table and administered tickle fights and kisses at bedtime. He was there for Saturday morning pancakes, restful Sundays, occasional picnic lunches, and little study breaks scattered all throughout. But even then, there was always the pressure to get back to the books that loomed over his head. The pressure never leaves until graduation. Traever had enough work to keep himself occupied from sunrise until the wee hours of the morning. All the while, I had four kids to keep me occupied around the clock. We were both busy, but in very different ways. It often felt like we were living in two completely different worlds. Traever's world was full of Greek and Hebrew and interacting with some of the greatest minds in Christendom, while my world was full of four very new and developing minds. Four little ones who were incredibly busy, fun, messy, loud, delightful, and demanding of pretty much all of my physical, mental, and emotional strength. So, it was not difficult (it never is) to get distracted and occasionally disgruntled by the load that was before me. Too often I found myself complaining of the "injustices" of not getting a break or not being able to run to the grocery store without a cartload of small children. Seminary was a temporary busy season, and Traever needed me to pull more weight than in times past. When my heart was irritable, resentful, and demanding, it was a good indicator that my heart and purpose was revolving around something other than God. In those discontent moments, it was likely revolving around me. This season felt unusual, yet it was really no different than any other season of life: it was not about me.
It was not about me having my own little kingdom where Traever was available at the drop of a hat, where children kept their rooms tidy and never needed discipline. And ultimately this season was not about Traever's little world either. It was about God and His kingdom. The truth that life was not about me, but about God, freed me up to look beyond myself and comparing the two different worlds of Traever and I. It actually made our two worlds align and point in the same direction. It directed us both towards God. To serve and delight in the Lord, the only One who never becomes weary in doing good; the only One who is always faithful even when we are faithless; the only One who is holy and perfect in all of His ways; the One who has canceled our debts and given us an eternal inheritance in Christ. With eyes set upon Him I was able to mentally chuck my broken scale that I always tried to use to measure and "balance" our world, our marriage, our duties. Remembering God and His grace reminded me that God has unleashed a never-ending flow of blessings upon me. So my scale will never be balanced again; I've been given more love than I can dish out. I will always be a debtor to love. His love freed me from irritableness, resentfulness, and demanding my own way (1 Cor. 13:5).
Practically speaking, dwelling on God and His mercy upon me made me more conscious about demanding what little free time Traever had or being heavy-handed about him carrying his normal share of household/parenting duties. I was more aware that he needed this short concentrated time to prepare for the next fifty years of ministry, Lord willing. I was more aware that his time to rest and recharge did not have to equate to family time. Sometimes sleep or developing friendships at the seminary were just as necessary and just as good. Sleep, downtime, and friendships were blessings that I learned to rejoice in and not seek to withhold from my husband. Keeping my eyes upon Christ and finding my joy and purpose in Him transformed "ordinary" tasks into opportunities to worship and enjoy Him, whether that was loving on the other souls in our home, feeding little bellies, or home-schooling. Just like Traever's seminary work, those daily mundane responsibilities were preparing me to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Keeping my heart fixed upon God reminded me that Traever and I were in fact living in the same "world." Although our roles looked different, we were still working alongside each other with the same purpose and goal in mind. It is all for the only One righteous and worthy. It's all in an effort to point to Him, to glorify and enjoy Him. It's all for His kingdom.
Meet Andrea: wife to Traever (current pastoral intern at BBC); mama to Adalai (7), Remy (5), Thatcher (3), and Baye (1); and part time Realtor. Most of her time is spent with a baby on her hip, toddler on her leg, reconciling sibling relationships, kissing squishy cheeks, feeding bellies, and continuously mopping her kitchen floor.