Do you have a preconceived notion about what type of individual becomes a pastor’s wife? Do you think of the minister’s wife as the dear lady who sets her hair regularly, always wears pantyhose and extremely dark red lipstick? Does the pastor’s wife of your imagination always have a clean house? Does she routinely host ladies teas? Does she have a fully stocked fancy china cabinet? Are her children always perfectly clean and well behaved at all times? Do they all look like they could be extra’s on Barney the Dinosaur? Does her house look like a magazine clipping from Southern Living?
Thankfully, we, like any other group of people are a varied bunch! Thankfully we are not all alike! Sadly, many pastors’ wives have any number and variety of expectations thrust upon them and those expectations vary from person to person within the same church. Happily I can say that I am at a church where people genuinely like me for me. They didn’t give me a job description when my husband took this job. I was up front from the beginning that my main priorities were being a support to my husband and a mother to my children. I am just a regular member of our church. Who happens to be married to the pastor.
Some pastors’ wives have found that they are expected to wear a certain kind of clothes (other than modest) or teach a certain kind of class or bible study or sing solos in church. These are the kinds of questions that are thrust upon her as her husband interviews for a ministry position, as if her gifts are neccessarily going to be in any of the more predictable and stereotypical roles. If other church members were grilled in this fashion before they were accepted into the fellowship, my bet is that they would not care to join! Ought we to expect servant hearts and attitudes from all of our members? Yes. Scripture tells us that by His grace we are being transformed so that what once may have seemed like pure duty is evolving into a choice and one made with pleasure.
It’s always interesting to me to hear what people expect to see in a pastor’s wife. I tend to buck all the trends. While I am a good cook (if I do say so myself!) I most certainly do not host ladies brunches (though I will happily attend.) Dainties are not my specialty. I would be more likely to get together a group of ladies to go to a professional hockey game. (I’m not kidding people!)
I am not inclined or gifted at teaching Sunday school though I am willing to be used in almost any capacity even if it is not my element. I never wear pantyhose. In fact, most Sundays, you will find me in jeans.
I don’t know how you view your pastor’s wife. Perhaps she really is the picture of eloquence and propriety. I have nothing against my dear sisters who are this type of individual. It takes all sorts. Am I right? But I encourage you, if you haven’t, to get to know your pastor’s wife as an individual whose position you are unlikely to ever really understand unless you one day providentially fill her pumps.
Though so many of us desire just to be regular people in the church (which I will never express how greatly I appreciate our church for allowing me) there are many unspoken and unseen burdens that we bear at various times that we wish we could just forget or ignore; things that are almost impossible to explain without a good long sit down in which a couple of years worth of stuff would be unleashed. This is something that few pastors’ wives will ever do with a church member though — sometimes it does happen — because there are so many things at stake, so many people to protect, so much speculation that would likely be involved in the telling. And after all is said and done, she would then worry that she said too much.
So don’t expect to ever plumb the depths of it. But don’t let that make you think any worse of her. She would be doing someone else an injustice by speaking some of it. Just be real with her. Be her friend. A genuine friend. Many might expect her to be an endless fount of ministry when often times she feels unministered to.
While the pastor’s wife is indeed married to the pastor and many would think this means that she gets an unlimited supply of free spiritual counselling and gets the inside scoop on his sermon preparation. However, the pastor is often worn out and frazzled due to the many directions he’s routinely being pulled. He is not a super human and he feels pulled in many directions some of which is priveleged information that he will not ever share with anyone (which alone is a weighty thing); church government related meetings, counselling sessions, sermon preparation, bible study preparation, the spiritual work of applying his teaching to his own heart and practical application in his own life, heeding the call to be a good father to his children (a task that requires more than just quality time but quantity time), making efforts to be affecting his community by just being a normal guy (like your kid’s soccer coach or a member of the community association)… Don’t take this the wrong way. Most of these duties are also his joy. Some of these things are what regularly solidifies to him that He is where God has called him to be. But when he sits down in the evenings he might sometimes take off all of those hats and become amalgamated with the sofa, hardly able to stir, let alone provide a daily spiritual outlet for his wife.
Now my husband and I have wonderful conversations about spiritual things, about ministry, about the exciting things that God is doing in our church and a whole host of other things churchy and unchurchy but like any other hard working guy he is pooped at the end of the day and he is human. He struggles to live out the grace he has been given in relationship with his wife.
The minister’s wife might not feel able to really tell her husband what she is feeling because she doesn’t want him to think that she is being unsupportive. Now, I personally do not have a problem with this. I am extremely outspoken (maybe you’ve gleaned that?) and I let my husband know just what is going on in my heart and mind. And sometimes I do it sinfully. Then I am convicted by the Holy Spirit that my heart does not have a Godward focus. While I have to do business with God in regards to my outspoken nature, many women will suffer silently in their spiritual desert because they are worried about what people might think if they don’t measure up to the sometimes incredibly unrealistic expectations laid upon them. And if they are concerned about that, you have to know that they have spent more time than they ever should have on attempting to be someone they are not, or at least feeling guilty
or out of place or out of sorts for not being that person or not making enough of an effort at being that person.
Perhaps they don’t suffer in their concern for their own image but you’ll be hard pressed to meet a lady who likes hearing her husband being bashed and trashed. In fact, many a pastor’s wife will put up with all sorts of negative talk about herself but she will be on the brink of total devastation when she hears some of the things that are said in secret (and sadly, publicly sometimes) about her dear husband who she knows (because she is at home in his absence or because she watches him labor and grieve and strive in love for his people) gives of his heart, time and life for the church and for Christ’s glory. I do realize there are ministers who do not operate in such a noble fashion but I truly believe that though they are out there, they are outnumbered by their spiritually sensitive counterparts.
It’s also entirely possible that many pastors’ wives have what some might consider a nemesis of sorts — a person who won’t leave them alone and seems to be out to get them. Where this person is concerned, the pastor’s wife can do no right. Whole books have been written to pastors and their wives on this subject because it can be one of the most crippling and painful parts of any ministry.
All of these things (and more… but I don’t have the space to write a book right here) can contribute to the heavy burden that a minister’s wife might just be carrying. I truly thank God that some of us, including me, are not in such a spiritual or emotional place! I say this with true joy as I have experienced some of those feelings and toxic personalities in the past and nothing is more draining to one’s faith than to witness how terribly the people of God can be towards their shepherds and their shepherds’ wives.
I think that many pastors’ wives and pastors might find the most difficult part of ministry to be fractured images. People have all sorts of things playing into their ideal image of a pastor/pastor’s wife/pastor’s family; Past hurts, “this is the kind of pastor I had growing up…”, just blatant misconceptions of reality, the feeling that the new pastor is “out to get you” or “out to change everything…” Having a fractured image of anything will ultimately create a false impression of the way things ought to be, thereby creating the perfect scenario for dismay and disappointment.
We do the same thing with God. We put him in a box as they say. We declare always and only that, “God is love.” We leave out that He is just. That He is a “jealous lover.” That He cannot bear to look upon sin. How disappointed and shocked many of us will then be to know that though He is indeed love, that love does not cancel out his many other immutable attributes.
So what is your image of a pastor’s wife? Really? Go outside of what you know the Biblical requirements are and ask yourself what extras you really have come to expect from a pastor’s wife? Place those upon yourself for a moment to see what that kind of pressure does to an already imperfect earthen vessel? Sometimes the weight of it can be unbearable.
And you never know… God sometimes shatters our fractured images of things so that he can put new ones in place.
And what would happen then? The sky might fall. The earth might quiver on its axis. Tea parties might become less frequent. Jeans might become part of your future expectations of other pastors’ wives. And you might find yourself discussing the blogosphere and HTML and Jesus and hockey and life with her.
Scary stuff folks.