No one could have fully prepared me for being in full-time ministry. I was terrified in the beginning and have felt so unqualified at times over the past 15 years of ministering alongside my husband. I literally have said to God and to others out loud that I think God has the wrong girl. I have never been one-on-one mentored extensively. Some have definitely poured into me over the years though. Others, I sought out but they were not willing. I have point blank asked older women who were pastors’ wives to give me any advice they can from their time serving alongside their pastor husband. I was given shocked looks and stutters and they pretty much said they could not think of anything at all to pass along. So my personal growth feels really slow at times. And it can feel like I am just groping in the dark.
I have met some different types of pastor wives along the way.
There are the First Lady types who are basically divas who think their position entitled them to preferential treatment, unlimited power and adoration. It makes me wonder who the pastor really is.
There are the jack-of-all-trades types that are expected to be AWANA commander, VBS director, pianist, children’s choir director, women’s ministry director, co-counselor, etc. all for free because the congregation sees her not as an individual but an extension of her husband.
There are the ones who have been extremely hurt and/or burnt out by full-time church work and go to the opposite extreme of barely even attending the church their husband serves but seek community elsewhere. They may show up right as service starts and slip out during the invitation. Or maybe they just never felt the call themselves. Maybe their husband was called or even saved after they were married and she feels roped into something she never agreed to.
There are PW’s who are so “together” and seem so perfect that those in their flock feel both intimidated and jealous and can tend to idolize them.
Then the ones who are so distracted and scatter-brained they cannot seem to really invest much because they themselves are so needy and self-consumed.
No pastor wife is perfect, no matter how attractive, hospitable, talented or organized. Each one is uniquely gifted by Gods Spirit (if indeed they are saved) to serve alongside their pastor husband for the building up of the Body. But each one is also very human and imperfect just like everyone else. She doesn’t come into ministry knowing all the right answers or having an unlimited supply to give out to others.
I also recognize that being a wife period is hard. Non-ministerial wives have their own personal struggles and challenges and I am in no way diminishing those. It’s just different challenges in many ways. A woman whose husband has a secular job probably doesn’t go to church and feel like it is work or that she cannot be completely at ease because there are certain expectations and an imaginary tight rope she must constantly walk so as not to do or say anything that could jeopardize her husband’s reputation and effectiveness as a leader and in extreme cases cause him to be fired and even permanently disqualified from further pastorates. Maybe a wife of a politician would experience a similar kind of pressure. A woman with a husband that works in the secular world does not have the burden of caring for the eternal souls of others. It’s one thing to be responsible for employees in a physical sense-but quite another to feel like you hold others spiritual growth and well-being in your feeble hands. A woman whose husband works outside the church may have more a sense of community and comfort from other believers because she is more free to just be herself and be transparent without fear of her husbands job being jeopardized and therefore their family’s income. A woman whose husband attends church with her but doesn’t work at church can have help with their kids and they can see church as a family worship experience where a wife of a pastor sometimes feels like a single parent, but then has the expectation that all her family look their best and behave their best or else it must mean he is not a good husband and father. And she better do it all with a smile!
But, lest I wallow in self-pity and self-indulgence of my woes, I would like to express the gratitude for the blessings of being a pastors wife as well.
A pastors wife has the unique built-in opportunity to be held accountable to staying faithful in church whether she feels like going or not. It is so easy when nothing is expected of us to let ourselves off the hook spiritually. Is it a lot of pressure? Sure. But we can flip it around to our benefit and see it as a high calling to holiness and faithfulness. A holding our feet to the fire of sorts.
We also get a front row seat to seeing God work in and through our husbands and the Body. Being on the front lines of battle also means seeing up close the victories God wins for us and others. I have been so blessed and have felt deep admiration for my husband when I see him selflessly and sacrificially love on people and give when he feels he has nothing left, or when he lights up because he is employing his spiritual gifting and the Spirit flows through his giving and serving. There is also a sense of camaraderie when my husband can talk to me about difficult people or problems and I know the same people and can listen with understanding and help him process things. Then there are those moments when you both get to minister beside each other as a team and it is so beautiful and fulfilling. Those are the silver linings to the rain clouds and the rainbows through the storms.
In conclusion, though a pastors’ wife has some unique experiences added to the challenges of being a wife there are many lessons all wives have to learn. One, marriage isn’t for you and your will to be done. A wonderful book that expounds on that is the Chan’s book You and Me Forever. Any time a wife is looking to her husband, pastor or not, to make all her wishes and dreams come true, she has slipped into idolatry. Either she believes herself to be a god and he must bow to her needs/wants, or she believes he is a god and has unlimited resources to give her and she must constantly come to him for everything. The reality is every husband is simply a fallen creature in need of a Savior. And we are all desperately sick in need of a Healer. Only the One True God is both worthy of all worship and all-sufficient to meet our needs. When we stop looking to each other for our God needs and instead support and encourage each other towards God then marriage is beautiful and peaceful and joyful. When idolatry ensues all kinds of chaos and conflict occurs. God is a jealous God and can tolerate no rivals. Idolatry is self-destructive. (See James 4:1-12)
God is our Holy Husband. We are the Bride of Christ. He is our Living Water and Bread of Life. Let us strive to daily drink and eat of His life and ask Him to bless our marriages and make them more and more a reflection of His goodness.
If you’re interested in reading another blog post on pastor wives, Pastor Matt Ellis did a fantastic job in this post: http://mattsmusings.net/2020/08/19/nine-obstacles-of-being-a-pastors-wife/