I’ve been a Pastor’s wife for three and a half years. The first two of those years, my husband was an administrative pastor, which was a very different thing from the counseling and discipleship pastoral role he has now. It’s not been very long, really, but it’s been long enough to have learned a few things and made a few observations.
Here are 11 things I’ve learned (so far) as a Pastor’s wife:
- First, something practical. Every week, no matter how hard you work on Saturday to try to shore up the mess, by the time you get to Sunday night, the house looks like a disaster. A pair of tights here, little boys’ belts and underwear there, hair gel dripping down the bathroom counter, paper plates and random food littering every possible surface… it’s just bad. Dishes are backed up, and how did the laundry pile get so very high? And now, we’re adding to it with all the Sunday laundry! My solution? Don’t have people over on Sunday night. …Or Monday. I need LOTS of grace on Mondays.
- You will often know people’s most private and heart-breaking information. Medical information not known to the general church Body. Marriage strain. Who has an ongoing difficulty with whom. Financial struggles. Who’s romantically interested in one another. Legal problems and criminal offenses affecting various families. Having access to other people’s personal information is a serious position of trust and it must be even more closely-guarded than you do with your own information.
- And yet you are not to use it against them. It’s been a good reminder for me: God knows about every dark corner of my life– the ones He has cleaned out already, and the ones He is still working on… and yet He lavishes great grace and kindness on me. He offers me encouraging words and tender affection. I, too, need to extend kindness and grace to the imperfect people around me… and all the more when they have entrusted us with the tender and hurting places in their lives.
- People often feel like they know you, more than you feel you know them. This is interesting, given the truth in #2 (sometimes you do know quite personal things *about them*), but because people know your husband, they feel like they know you. They may know your kids’ names and ages when you’re still learning theirs. They may assume things about your life or draw (accurate or inaccurate) conclusions from teaching times, counseling sessions, and general interactions with your husband.
- People may think you can’t understand their real-life struggles. As if your husband is perfect, because he’s a Pastor. As if your children are perfect, naturally bent toward obedience, never defy you with stubborn hearts, and never wake up at night screaming. As if your marriage hasn’t ever faced real challenges, it’s never been difficult for you to financially give, it’s not hard for you to muster up the energy to attend that event, or as if you’ve never struggled or fallen down in your own fight against sin. The real, stinky, ugly sin. Sinny-sin. As if you can’t relate to their real-world problems and your life exists on a totally different plane. I actually forget this one very often… that people here don’t know me as the former-15-year-old rebel who had to learn to submit to Christ.
- We are incredibly blessed in our church family. Many pastors across America struggle financially, experience exorbitant pressure from deacons or other church leaders who act as if they “own” the pastor, are worked to death (to the point where they leave the ministry from burnout), or worse. We have not faced these challenges, and I am grateful we have not. But I wanted to mention it, because it is one thing I’ve learned… our situation is, perhaps, not typical. God has tremendously blessed us by bringing us here to this local church Body.
- It can be a challenge to develop and maintain friendships as a Pastor’s wife. The things that affect you or weigh on your mind are often things you can’t share or don’t want to burden a fellow church member with, and yet they are real challenges. The things that are affecting them may be things related to the church, which can be hard to hear when your husband is already giving so much to this Body… to feel like you’re letting down (or your husband is letting down) your friend in some way. This can make for an interesting “dance” as you figure out how to be a friend to women in the local Body and yet not become a default intermediary between women, their husbands, and the rightful authorities God has placed in church leadership.
- Other people often expect you to be perfect, or do the right things according to their definitions of what is right, and will be disappointed when you do not meet their expectations (which you often won’t, and can’t). I’ve let people down, especially this last year. Though I can help get someone through a crisis moment, I’m not able to be on call as a personal lifeline in an ongoing way. I’m a wife and home educating mom of seven with a fairly new baby. People may expect to be able to drop by the house and have me give attention and time to something else (I usually can’t). Some people may not like everything that’s written on this blog… and yet, I’m writing about the same sorts of things I always have. I’ve never been one to posture and try to put up a front of perfection… I guess my years as a rebellious youth helped me in that regard– I know I’m not perfect… but it can still be difficult to feel like I’m letting people down
- A pastor’s wife needs to be able to be her real, foibly, “messy,” normal, growing self. I’m a maturing disciple of Christ too. I’m a work-in-progress too. I’m the clay pot vessel– easily broken, but shining with the light of the glory of the gospel of Christ. I’m a needy sinner like the other people sitting in the pews behind us. I’m a tired mother, a sometimes-snippy wife, a not-always-reliable friend, and (too often) a lazy housekeeper. I’m an imperfect gal trying to grow in godliness, in keeping my home, in self-control, in purity, in discernment, in service. Our church does a great job not putting pressure on me to “do it all,” and yet I still feel the tug and have to fight against the feeling that I should be perfect or be able to do everything, be involved in every ministry, etc.
- Every month, Potluck Sunday is the day when I’m most tempted toward ungodliness. It’s the perfect storm: husband goes to church early… I’ve got 7 kids plus myself to feed and get ready… and OH YEAH, BONUS!! I get to make a meal and carry it to church too. 🙂 All in the same amount of time I have on a normal Sunday (which never feels like quite enough time, does it?). And– true story– sometimes I forget that it’s Potluck Sunday until that morning. It’s truly always a blessing to be with our church family (and I mean that genuinely), but Potluck Sundays are a serious reminder for me that I am imperfect and very very apt to fall into frustration, fits of anger, discouragement, lack of self-control, and unloving words toward the people I love most when I’m pressed with more than the load I am accustomed to. Truth be told, God is using Potluck Sundays to change my heart and expose areas of self-reliance, love of comfort, and desire for control that wouldn’t be exposed in other ways, and for that, I thank Him. Even if they are, hands down, the most difficult day of the entire month.
- God is faithful. He keeps leading us, as our Good Shepherd, in every stage of life, and He’s still doing it here too. When I get my eyes on me, or on people, I get discouraged… but when I keep my eyes fixed on and my ears tuned to my Shepherd, He is so faithful to lovingly lead us. He cares about me not just as a Pastor’s wife, but as a human soul… His sheep… His chosen one… the pot He has made for the purposes and good works He intended before the foundations of the world. He knows me and loves me and I can trust Him.
IN THE COMMENTS, PLEASE SHARE:
- Are you a Pastor’s wife? What things have you learned?
- How does any of this compare to your experiences?