At one of the most difficult points of my life, I found myself crushed under the weight of ministry. Depression mixed with ministry pressures caused me to want to cash it all in. I went to Anne and let her know I couldn’t take it any longer. I needed to resign and, perhaps, find another line of work.
I’ll never forget her words,
“I understand why you feel this way. I don’t agree with your decision. I don’t think the Lord is done with us here. But I will follow your lead to the ends of the earth.”
Did I resign? Yep. What it the right decision? Yes and no.
Part of me says, “yes” because I needed the time to recalibrate. The short period of presenting my resignation and being asked to rescind it was a necessary calm in my internal storm. The other part of me says, “no.” Why? Because Anne was right. The Lord wasn’t done with us. I didn’t know how to deal with the chaos of my heart and my head and I was setting aside what God had called us (not just me) too. I had depended upon me to get out of the struggle instead of the Lord. I had forgotten that God give the provision for the vision and I had supplanted Him as my provider.
The story really isn’t about my resignation. It was about the strong stance that one spouse took with another. Not only did she stick by my side, she didn’t hold it over my head (nor has she ever). I’m not trying to build up an image of Anne that is a model of perfection. Both her and I have so much to learn and grow from. But that (then 22-year-old) young woman showed me a support in marriage and ministry that was indispensable. I may be the preacher/teacher. I may be in the office full-time. But this is isn’t MY ministry. It’s not about her joining my crusade. This is what God has called US to do. And it’s time we brought value (more than ever) to our pastor’s wives.
(I recognize that we’ve got some amazing female pastors out there and, thus, I hope this speaks to your husbands. In saying that, please forgive me for typing “wife” or “wives” and “he” or “him” as I do not want to discount your leadership and position. I just need your husbands to translate this to him.)
To every pastor’s wife…
1. Outside of Jesus, you do not take a backseat to anyone. You need your spouse to have Christ at his/her center. He will know how to love you when he learns and receives the love of Jesus. Don’t try to be first. Let Jesus be first. BUT just as much as your spouse needs Jesus to be first in his life, so do you. Your kids CANNOT supplant first in your heart over Jesus or your husband. Jesus must remain first.
Now…as much as you love your husband, you are the most important member of the congregation he leads. I understand sacrifice and busy seasons the church goes through. He needs your understanding. He needs his helpmate. But he needs to make sure that, through it all, you are his highest priority and love outside of Jesus. Your healthy marriage will help produce healthy ministry. Not the other way around.
2. Be real. Talk like “you.” Act like “you.” Dress like “you.” There’s a fine balance with being you while letting the Holy Spirit continue to work through you and stretch you. You don’t need to live up to people’s ideal of what the “First Lady of the Church” should look like (BTW: Don’t ever call Anne that…that’ll tick her off #petpeeve). Be the best you with Jesus working inside of you.
3. Don’t compare. It’s easy to look at other pastors, their spouses, and their church as better situations. You can look on Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter and develop jealousy and discontent. We want the successes of others without realizing the work/pain/process it took to get there. Let loose of what God has others doing and embrace what he wants you to do. Remember: the grass is greener where you water it.
4. You have a ministry too AND it doesn’t fit anyone else’s mold. Just as David couldn’t wear Saul’s armor, you are not called to “fit” into someone’s mold/shoes/(choose your own metaphor). Your contribution is huge. I don’t care if it’s on the stage or off the stage…in the spotlight or behind the scenes…STEP UP into the role God has called you to regardless of what people say you are “supposed to do.”
5. Wrong/bad/poor decisions cannot be held over your spouse’s head. The pressure he/she feels from the congregation is heavy enough. Home and marriage needs to be a reprieve. With Anne, it doesn’t mean that she doesn’t give me timely constructive criticism, it just means that she knows the proper timing. Recognize the difference between speaking into situations and just piling on.
6. You husband preaches great, but Sunday’s are not enough. Your walk with Christ is essential to your joy. Why? Joy cannot be drawn from anyone/anything else. Nothing of this world was designed to feed and sustain the passion that drives all of us. Be consistent in your devotions. Spend time in personal worship. Follow some blogs. Listen to podcasts. Feed your soul daily with the Word.
7. Don’t see the worst in people. It can be very easy to have a growing paranoia of people when you see your husband come home hurting and/or broken from someone unloading on him. Out of love and defensiveness, there can be a callousness that can develop in your heart regarding people in the church. Guard yourself (attitude, emotions) and see people how Jesus sees them.
8. You need community too. We say it a lot at Kfirst, “the enemy works in isolation; God works in community.” Being a pastor’s wife can be an extremely lonely place. You can worship with hundreds of people on a weekly basis and STILL feel alone. Hopefully, your husband has a network of pastors to connect to. That type of community is necessary for him. But just as much as he needs it, you do as well. Connect via phone, social network, etc. with other wives. It’s not about getting together to unload hurts and complaints. It’s about getting into a healthy connection that will enable encouragement, healing, hope, and joy.
9. Encourage secrets. Anne gave me permission years ago to not tell her every detail of everything that goes on. Even before I recognized it, she saw the necessity for confidentiality. Even beyond that, she didn’t want to know everyone’s issues. Anne didn’t want ANYTHING to affect how she viewed people. If you are pressuring your husband to know stuff because of curiosity, let it go. You don’t need to know the depth of the counseling appointments. First, it’s breeching confidentiality. Second, you are just nosey.
10. Guard your information. People want to feel safe with the information they share with you and/or your husband. Guard it. It’s not the board’s business nor the other staff. Let it be known that information stops with the pastor’s wife and not “information flows through the pastor’s wife.”
Pastor’s wives, you are more vital that you realize and more instrumental than you get credit for. You are highly esteemed and a tremendous gift to the Kingdom of God. It doesn’t matter if you sing, administrate, preach, teach, care, serve, etc., what matters is that you step into the calling that Christ has set you and your husband apart for. Be fearless yet caring. Be confident yet humble. You are a gift.
And your value is beyond measure. Thanks for being who you are.
oh yeah…thanks for letting me ramble…