(Please Note: the following blog entry is in no way meant to belittle or call into question the ministry or integrity of A.W. Tozer. I have the utmost respect for the ministry he had and the heart for God he had. Tozer’s book The Knowledge of the Holy, is the most important book I have ever read outside of the Bible. This post is meant to merely ask questions and learn from the struggles of someone who has gone before us.)
I recently finished a biography on A.W. Tozer written by Lyle Dorsett (see review HERE). What I appreciated about Dorsett’s work was that he didn’t deify Tozer. Instead he described the life and ministry of Tozer with his human imperfections and struggles included.
What literally broke my heart while reading about Tozer was how much he loved God, and yet how broken his relationships were with his wife and children. There was no abuse, no mean spirited intent to have no relationship, and yet family seemed to be far from “family” for the Tozer’s.
Reading about Tozer’s family situation got me thinking about a number of things: the cost of following Jesus, a call to ministry, the idea or myth of balance, scripture (especially Ephesians 5), and the vows we speak on our wedding day.
Here are some quotes from the book A Passion for God: The Spiritual Journey of A.W. Tozer, that I have been wrestling with:
“(all seven children)…felt somewhat estranged from their father…Lowell, the oldest, sardonically stated that his mother was a ‘single parent'” (p. 104).
“What he (Tozer) did not seem to recognize, however, was the irony of his family’s brokenness in the wake of his successful efforts to build the church. He had no inkling that his zeal for God’s house was undermining his own” (p. 109)
“‘My husband was so close to God, a man of such deep prayer, always on his knees, that he could not communicate with me or our family. No one knew what a lonely life I had, especially after the kids left home.’ How ironic and sad that Ada Tozer experienced such loneliness when Aiden (A.W.) was overhead commenting to a pastor not long before he died: ‘I’ve had a lonely life'” (p. 144).
(A year after A.W. Tozer died, his wife remarried). “During the years 1964 to 1974 several people who were close to Ada lovingly inquired about her happiness. Her responses were consistent: ‘I have never been happier in my life. Aiden (A.W.) loved Jesus Christ, but Leonard Odam loves me'” (p. 160).
Q. Is there such a thing as needing balance in loving your family and following Jesus? If so, what does that look like?
Q. Will our families naturally be loved well if we are loving Jesus well?
Q. Is there anything noble in loving and serving Jesus to the point of abandoning your family (physically and/or emotionally)?
Q. Does our calling to ministry supersede the vows we spoke to our spouse on our wedding day?
In Ephesians 5 it says: “Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord…Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her…”.
Q. What does it look like for us to love our spouses in a Biblical way and follow Jesus?
Take some time to think through these questions and add your thoughts to the conversation.