(The 2nd in a series.)
I’m blessed to have been a pastor in a most excellent church now for over 17 years. One of the reasons Gail and I have (she’s not a pastor, but she is my partner) have been here so long is that the church has never put any unreal expectations on her as my wife. She’s not up on a pedestal here, and if someone tried to put her there, she’d be the first and loudest protestor. She’s gifted as a servant, so she prefers to stay “behind the scenes”, although she doesn’t have to be asked to roll up her sleeves and do whatever needs to be done.
But being a pastor’s wife has its own levels of stress and trial. Yesterday I wrote about some of the burdens shepherds face as they care for and lead a congregation. But what about his spouse? Here are some things to consider:
His was a calling from God. Her's was more likely a calling to him. Becoming a pastor might have been the desire of his heart, but chances are she would have preferred something a bit more normal. However, because she is his better half, she is a pastor’s wife. It might not have been her first choice in life, but it’s where God has placed her.
Her husband is in demand by lots of people, both in the community and in the church. It’s a fact of life that she has to share him with others much more so than husbands with other occupations. He's on call 24/7. Call him at home IF absolutely necessary. Otherwise, leave a message on his office phone. That also means that her children have to share him as well, and that’s not easy on a mother.
She better be good at biting her tongue, especially when others are criticizing her husband. It’s not easy seeing the one you love being attacked, especially by those who don’t know all the details or see the big picture that he sees and often can’t share publicly.
He often can’t share things with her. He’d like to, but sometimes he has to keep things within, not only to protect those he ministers to, but more often to protect her. And no marriage likes there to be secrets.
If he’s not Superman she’s not Wonder Woman. Yet, she’s expected to be a housewife, a mother, and too often to be at every church activity looking like she stepped off the pages of a fashion magazine and with a perpetual smile.
Guess what? She’s got her own life, too! So if you drop by the house, don’t be surprised if it looks “lived in”. And if you need to drop by, do her the favor of calling first! (That especially goes for those of you whose pastor lives in a parsonage. That’s their home, not yours.) And nobody wants to live in a fish bowl. Nor should they.
She struggles with the same life issues that face every woman in every stage of life. Often the biggest fear she has is for her husband’s job security and their family finances. (Churches don’t have the best reputations in those regards.) And because she’s the pastor’s wife doesn’t mean she has all the answers, either.
Just like you, she’s got a few special friends. That doesn’t mean she doesn’t like you if you’re not one of them. It means she’s normal. Be glad for that. It’s the abnormal ones that are scary. Chances are she has moved a lot during their marriage and ministry. It’s not easy saying goodbye to friends, so realize she might be afraid to build deep friendships just because of the heartbreak that comes when a move is necessary.
Let her be free to be who God created her to be. Let her first ministry be to her husband and family. Respect her time and her space. Just like you, her first priority in life is not the church.
Pray for her. Encourage her. Do something unexpected to bless her. Remember that behind a every good pastor is an amazing and strong spouse who is his greatest support.