As I was spending time with God this morning, I began thinking about being a pastor’s wife. Unlike some women out there, I did not go looking for this title. I had no romantic ideas about this–I guess I do not wear rose colored glasses about anything.
I grew up in a minister’s family in a small town in the south where the church where my dad was a Minister of Music was in the middle of downtown–the biggest church around, at the time. My mom and dad were well loved and respected at church and in the community. I was not a rebellious kid by nature–I learned that people were ALWAYS watching and I better be “on” at all times. Boy, did I do it well–as far as learning how to please people and make small talk and not share too much information. Do not get me wrong, people were so loving and kind to me and my family. However, as I aged, I realized just how much all this “role” fed my flesh who wanted to be praised by others and knew the right things to do to please others. I went into college declaring that I would never marry a minister because I did not want to put my children and family through that. Let alone, that pain that I had seen some kids and marriages endure in pastor’s families. If you were not a people pleaser and fell more toward the rebellious side, you did not have a chance to remain unscathed as people tore you apart whether in front of you or, most often, behind your back with a smile in front of you. Do I fault people? Well, I fault everyone because the sin in our hearts comes out in relationships. However, I wanted to self-protect from that as an adult.
When Greg and I met, he was a Christian speaker who traveled the country. I liked and loved him from the beginning, and in the back of my mind, I thought, “he is not full-time at a church.” Even in marrying, he was speaking full-time. We chose a church in Knoxville to call our church home, and enjoyed being able to choose (because as minister, you do not get to choose). Then, they asked him to go on staff part time with college. I was a bit nervous, but it really felt harmless since we would be working with college students–my favorite. Then, it became full time. Then, he split teaching pastor and college, and now he is full fledged teaching pastor. So, we went from total oblivion in our church body to walking down the hall with people staring at you knowing who you are because they hear about your character in sermons. Inevitably, we will be in public where people stare at us and talk to us like they know us without introducing themselves–that’s weird. (Our church has around 3000 or more on Sunday mornings in various capacities).
In going into this, God graciously put us in a place where there were authentic people on staff who tried to be real about their stuff. So, I begin by saying—WE. ARe. BLESSED. I made a committment from the beginning to be as real as I could. When I was weak, I wanted to say I was weak. All my heart wanted to guard against pleasing people and living in a role. (I realize for some of you who are pastor’s wives out there that this is more of a challenge with your congregation.)
Challenge number 1 for pastor’s wives: Be who you are. If you do not know who you are in Christ, spend time finding out. Be in His word. He is the only one you are called to praise and please. Thank goodness you please him through Christ–your righteousness. If people spend time telling you who you are to be, learn how to graciously point back to Christ and say who you are in him. You do not have to be a pianist or soloist or great cook or pollyanna. The greatest gift you can give your husband and the congregation is to be authentically who you are–God has gifted you to serve in that congregation in a specific way that HE chooses not that Prim and Proper Molly chooses for you. Remebmber that God teaches people along the way–your mission is not to put people in their place–GRACIOUSNESS is important.
Challenge for pastor’s wives number 2: It is so helpful beyond belief to be on the same page with your husband. I saw an example growing up of my parents working together in ministry. I NEVER had to wonder if my mom and dad were supporting one another. What a gift to me and our congregation. Ministry is not a nine to five thing–it encapsulates your life, socially, spiritually, etc. There will be times when you may want to escape it–but it is part of the deal. Pray for your husband to set good boundaries–I realize some do it better than others. Like everything in marriage, prayer works much better than a bitter nagging attitude out of our moths. Before marrying a minister, you better check your heart. Are you ready for this committment? In a way, you are sharing your husband with others in a way that you will not be called to in business. The greatest help-meet you can be to your husband is to serve and love others alongside him. For our marriage, this is huge. If you are struggling in this, pray for your heart to be changed and softened right now.
Challenge to pastor’s wives number 3: Life will not be fair. Your husband will be criticized, and you will have to choose to take your heart and anger and hurt to God–who loves him more than you can or ever will. And, you are to remember that we were never promised ease–this job and our lives here are not the reward. All things God is using to sanctify and train us to be more like Him. It is very helpful to remember the grace shown to us by God as we were His enemies and hated him when He gave us life. There will be people along the way that seem to be more than a terror to deal with and may attack your husband, your children, your character—keep going to His word and His truth. Do not let a bitter root explode. God is your defender and your husband’s defender. And, this situation will not last forever. This is an opportunity for you to grow together as a family rather than try to handle it on your own. Not all in the church are wheat–there are tares there.
I am going to keep thinking on this in the next few days and try to post other challenges and encouragements to those of you who are living as a pastor’s wife…