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Leigh Lowery gives six words of advice for living in the fishbowl

NEW ORLEANS (BP)–“We’ve come to give you some hope and encouragement and to let you know that you can survive life in a fishbowl,” said Leigh Lowery as she addressed New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary’s chapel audience Oct. 22, the second of three days in the inaugural presentation of the Grace Lectures on the Minister’s Family.
Her husband, Fred Lowery, who spoke Oct. 21 and 23, is pastor of the 6,500-member First Baptist Church in Bossier City, La. A former vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention, he also has been president of the SBC Pastor’s Conference and president of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.
Comparing life in the ministry to life in a fish bowl, Lowery said the husband and father of a family is like the rock in the center of the bowl, the strongest point that everyone can lean on.
The plants and decorations in a fish bowl she compared to the environment the wife creates in the home to make it a comfortable and protected place. “Home should be a place of safety, trust and joy,” she said.
Sharing her testimony, Lowery described the effects of growing up in an abusive home with an alcoholic father.
“I looked great on the outside, but I was empty on the inside,” she said. “I was looking for a way to escape my home. I was searching for love and acceptance.”
Several years later as a college student, while attending a revival week, she become a Christian.
Fred Lowery, the young evangelist preaching the revival, asked the congregation every night if they knew whether or not they would go to heaven. Never challenged like this before, “I felt like my heart would stop beating” as she listened, she said.
The next night, the evangelist spoke about the Christian family and said having Christ in the center of a marriage could make marriage seem like heaven on earth.
“Our home was like hell on earth,” she said.
“That night I began to pray to Jesus, that if he was real he would come into my life and make my home like the home the evangelist talked about,” she said. “I don’t understand it, but I know I exchanged an imperfect earthly father for the perfect Heavenly Father” that night.
“He’s made all the difference in our lives,” Lowery said.
The Lowerys were married two years later in 1973, and though she thought life would be “happily ever after,” she soon discovered marriage was not without its problems, especially for the minister’s family.
“Between 1985 and 1995 life hit us at full speed,” she said. Among the trials they endured were devastating conflicts in their church and in the Southern Baptist Convention; the death of her father-in-law by cancer; her parents’ divorce after 42 years of marriage, followed two weeks later by her father’s remarriage and then his death in a train collision the next year.
“We had to learn about forgiveness,” she said. “We had to lean in really close and learn that we could trust Jesus Christ in every situation in our life. No matter what, he will be enough.”
Lowery shared six things she has learned to help establish and maintain a strong, healthy family through the struggles and pressures of the ministry:
— Put your security in Jesus Christ alone.
“I felt I brought a lot of trash and a lot of garbage into our marriage,” she said. “I was so insecure and I was always saying ‘Do you love me?’ and ‘Do you still love me?'” A wife’s security needs to be in Jesus alone, not her husband or the ministry because they eventually will disappoint, but “Jesus never will,” she said.
— Dare to be real.
“Take off the mask you are wearing,” Lowery said. “I thought I had to be perfect” as a mother and pastor’s wife, she said, but “I was making myself miserable.” Instead, it’s good to be transparent, to learn “to laugh at yourself,” and “to realize you’re right — people are looking at you,” but “get over it. It’s no big deal.”
— Value, honor and cherish your husband and children.
Lowery suggested doing little things “to show you love each other,” such as writing notes and patiently listening. She warned against becoming overcommitted with church responsibilities, taking away from family time.
— Have friends.
“Life is too short,” she said. “We’ve got to have friends” for accountability, for encouragement and “for someone to pray for you.”
— Work out problems and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Lowery said she and her husband made a commitment early in their marriage never to go to bed angry with each other. She encouraged couples to “work out problems one at a time, one day at a time” instead of letting them linger; and to seek the aid of friends, another minister or counselor when necessary. — Stand by your man.
“Be his cheerleader. Be his number-one fan,” she said. “There are so many pressures and responsibilities on the minister. Ask the Lord to show you how you can really love your mate” in a way that would be distinctly meaningful to that person.
Lowery emphasized keeping God at the center of the marriage and the focus of married life.
“If you’re struggling, I can promise that if you cry out to God, he’ll get you through. I realized a long time ago that I can’t be a minister’s wife on my own, but if God has called us, he will enable us.”

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