The Pastor’s Wife: 2 Thoughts on Dealing with Loneliness

Something I heard early in ministry was “ministry is a lonely place.”

And it CAN be a lonely place, but it DOESN’T have to be that way. What I learned was that the enemy works in isolation, but God works in community.

Being a pastor’s wife isn’t always easy. Relationships and friendships can be difficult or complicated. In my first 7 years of ministry, I can say I had 1 close friend and she was only around for a few of those years. Overall, in the FIRST ½ of ministry:

I felt alone.

I could give the Sunday morning smiles, I did my “part”. But deep down:

I was guarded, I had walls up.
I was very insecure.
I was trying to be someone I wasn’t.
I didn’t know who I was in ministry.
Just tried to fit what others wanted me to be.
I was so tired of feeling alone but I felts like I was weak if I asked for help
I was tired of comparing myself to others, which was robbing the joy from my life.

It wasn’t till about 7 years into ministry (2 years into our second position), with the help of some pretty amazing ladies, I started figuring out what my role and purpose was in ministry and then being OK with me being ME.

Ladies, it’s probably safe to say: we’ve all been there. We have had those Sunday’s watching our husband bring the Word, being surrounded by a congregation, yet feeling alone. We feel like we are being jammed into a mold of what a pastor’s wife should look or act like.  Sometimes you feel all eyes are on you and you are being judged. We feel we are not the best moms…wives…preachers…leaders…

People’s expectations can be stifling. They can make us feel stranded in the middle of nowhere with no escape.  And THAT can make it hard to let your guard down, be vulnerable, and trusting. Like I said friendships can be difficult and complicated. It’s hard to find those close, real friendships

God NEVER PROMISED we wouldn’t have times of loneliness. Even Jesus experienced loneliness as everyone close to him abandoned him. I think of Genesis 32:24. It says, “Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak.”  When I feel alone, I feel like I’m in a wrestling match. 

I wrestle with the mold I’m told to fit into
I wrestle with the expectations of everyone
I wrestle against the pressure to have a healthy marriage and family in ministry
On top of that, I wrestle with my own emotions (am I good enough? am I doing enough?).
The list can go on…

I’m so thankful for the Word. It’s full of examples, of people like you and me.  They are people with “issues.”  And one of the great promises in scripture is a promise he gave to people like Abraham, Jacob, Moses, and Joshua:. He promised them: “I will never leave you or forsake you” 

PLEASE NOTE THIS: God would not offer a reminder if he knew we wouldn’t need it

I’ve have felt all those things many times and can still experience them. I haven’t mastered this thing of loneliness, but I think God has given me a great strategy: VULNERABILITY

1 – Be VULNERABLE to God. In your loneliness, draw near to God. In your inadequacies, draw near to Jesus. He didn’t place you in ministry so YOU could figure it out and work it out by yourself. He gave Joshua the promise of his presence in Joshua 5:1 because God knew Joshua would have times where he needed the reminder AND he promises us that MANY times throughout scripture because he knows we need the reminders.

2 – Be VULNERABLE to people. Take some chances. Be open to people. To be honest Dave and I have taken some chances and we have been hurt by some friends (or so-called-friends). And relational pain can make me want to put my guard right back up. But we continue to strive for healthy relationships.

Some of the things that I (or Dave and I) have done is..

    • We have a team of  intercessors that we meet with EVERY month, they have become people we trust and can say really anything to.
    • We are part of a small group (that we do not lead) which have become some of our closest friends.
    • We connect and are friends with many of the Pastor’s in our area! We love reaching our community with these amazing leaders! It’s about the Kingdom of God and not building our own little empires.
    • When we meet another ministry couple (regardless of denomination), we look for opportunities to meet up and develop relationships.
    • I look for ladies to connect with.

But it takes VULNERABILITY to do it. 

I’m not saying you need to spill your guts to everyone, but you’re going to need to make some efforts and get creative. A great pattern to even follow: 

  • Find a Paul (mentor, wiser, mature, etc). 
  • Find a Barnabas (peer, encourager). 
  • Find a Timothy (someone to pour into, find someone to disciple)

But most of all, look around you. There are pastor’s wives around you.  We are all women in ministry. We are all on a similar journey. We are joined by a common purpose. We are filled with the same Spirit.

We are here.  

And it’s going to take you stepping out and being a little vulnerable to God and others. 

Above all ladies, don’t let the enemy work in your isolation. Choose to work in community.

– Anne Barringer

Highly Valued: 10 Thoughts for Pastor’s Wives

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…

 

Permission Granted: 4 Reasons Why Unity in Your Marriage is Better than Permission

Permission is a funny thing. Permission, defined, is authorization or consent. Sadly enough, this is how a lot of marriages work. The reason why marriages work that way, is there is a misunderstanding of unity and Lordship. One of my favorite scriptures comes out of Acts 17:28.,
“in him (Jesus) we live and move and have our being.”
It’s through Jesus’ provision and authority that we live our lives as well as our marriages.  
This is where we screw it up. This is where we like to take authority that belongs to him, and exercise that over our spouse. Instead of working with our spouse, we want to lord over her spouse.  It rips apart our oneness, and places us in the seat of a dictator.  We make our spouse seek permission to spend money, to travel, to spend free time, or anything that they desire to do. The “permission thing” might seem healthy to you, but it’s caging up your spouse and making them live in concern and or fear of you and your opinion. Fear has nothing to do with love. In fact fear wants to drive out love. 
I want the two of you to stop asking for permission. I want the two of you to get the mindset out that you would need permission from your spouse to do anything.  It doesn’t mean we go and do everything that we desire to do regardless of how our spouse feels. Means we communicate out of a desire to get a unified heart. 
When I ask Anne about spending money, hanging out with friends, or to simply go out to a store, it’s not about permission. 
It’s about unity. 
I don’t need my wife’s permission for anything. I do want her unity. When I look in Psalms 133,  spells out 4 blessings that come from unity. 
1 – Psalm 133 says unity is “wonderful and pleasant.” What a great description for the atmosphere you bring to your home in marriage. I don’t know if you’ve ever walked into a very awkward home or place, but if you have you want to leave it immediately.  Homes with atmospheres where you must have “permission” is everything but “wonderful and pleasant.”  It’s constructive, painful, and awkward.  A unified heart between a husband and wife creates an atmosphere where the marriage can grow and where children can be raised because it is “wonderful and pleasant.” Needing permission stinks up the room.  Unity clears it up. 
2 – Unity makes your marriage “precious” (verse 2).  This speaks of value.  The greater unity you foster the more value you bring to your marriage and your spouse. Working in unity will bring value to your parenting. Your kids will see the family as valued. Is unity easy? Absolutely not. But the hard work and focus of unity continues to shape your marriage to make it precious and of extreme value.  You want to show your spouse how valuable they are? Show that you want to walk in unity with him/her.  Want to lose value, remove freedom and demand permission.
3 – Psalms 133 says that unity is “refreshing.”  There is enough of this world that wants to suck the life, joy, and love out of your life.  When you come home, you should experience refreshing. Having to seek permission steals the joy from marriage away. Constantly having to ask for authorization, rips away the freedom Jesus desires you to have. Fostering a unified hard between the two of you gives a place of refreshing. Conflict is not avoided, struggles are not bottled up, and issues I’ve never ignored because the two of you choose to walk in unity. Please note this: unity does it mean there’s never a disagreement.  It just means you choose to walk in unity regardless of opinion.  
4 – Psalms 133 says where there is unity God “commands His blessing.”  I think one of the biggest reasons here is because we’ve left the Lordship up to Jesus. We leave the “permission” thing up to him. We allow Jesus to have the authority.  And when we walk in unity with each other and with Jesus, his blessing continues to rest upon our lives. This helps remove worry and exciting from marriage. When we go through rough patches and storms, when the season of life is treating us to well, we don’t have to wring our hands in a worry. We know that the command and blessing of God will be upon us cause were choosing to walk through it together in unity.  
Unity thing works in every aspect. Even if your spouse is broken trust with you, The accountability he/she needs nothing to do with them asking for “permission.”  Has everything to do with communication for the sake of “unity.”
If you been exercising Lordship over your spouse, today is the day to relinquish that to Jesus. Today is the day to ask for forgiveness from your spouse. Today is a new day for you to walk in unity in to see amazing results of God’s blessings on your marriage. 
Thanks for letting me ramble…

Marriage Blog: “It’s just not me.”

UW4A7335-14

We’ve all used it to get out of things we don’t want to do.

“Do you want to ride the roller coaster?” “No. It’s just not me.”
“Do you want to try escargot?” “No.  It’s just not me.”
“Do you like country music? “No. It’s just not me.

It’s kind of our nice way of telling people that we have absolutely no interest in what they are offering.  As long as you say it in a nice tone, it’s amazing the stuff it can get you out of.  It’s like a “get out of jail free card” for moments in public places.

FreeJail

Sadly, it’s a line used to often in marriage.  If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a hundred times.  I have heard the line used all over the place and in numbers of situations.  Casual conversations with couples, in small groups, dining, counseling…well, you get the picture.  I’ve heard it too much

“All he/she wants to do is talk…it’s just not me.”
“He/she wants to get all romantic…it’s just not me.”
“He/she wants to be involved in volunteering together…it’s just not me.”
“He/she wants is sex…it’s just not me.”
“He/she is more the disciplinarian for the kids…it’s just not me.”
“Well that’s just his/her thing…it’s just not me.”

thats not me

cop out  n. An excuse designed to shirk responsibility.

That’s all this line really is…a cop out.  It’s the marital line we use to shirk responsibility of being an “other-centered” husband/wife that serves our spouse.  (as I type this, I’ve noticed there has been a common thread being woven through my latest blogs…And that thread is simply being a spouse ready to take up not just the JOY but the responsibility of serving our husband/wife.)

We live in such a self-centered ego-driven manipulative culture that is fascinated in pleasuring self.  As blunt as it sounds it’s completely true.

“I have to receive something for me to be happy.”
“What do I get in return if I do what you want?”
“If I get what I want, then you can get what you want.”
“I don’t feel like it. He/she just has to deal with it.”

We feel entitled to have our own needs met with little thought what our spouses needs are.  We justify our actions by calling their “needs”  as “wants” as to calm our conscience.  It is no wonder why people start emotional and physical affairs.  We send out our spouses empty and thirsty and we get upset when someone has stepped up to the plate to fill them up.  Note: I’m not giving ANYONE the excuse for having an affair.  Affairs are wrong no matter how you package them (Matthew 5:27-30).  But as a spouse, we cannot empower what the enemy is wanting to do in our marriage by neglecting our spouse as well as give our significant other an excuse to go looking for attention elsewhere.

Proverbs 5:18-19 Bless your fresh-flowing fountain! Enjoy the wife you married as a young man!  Lovely as an angel, beautiful as a rose – don’t ever quit taking delight in her body. Never take her love for granted!

This last part is what this blog is all about. The longer we are with someone (we’ve been married for 16 years + dated for 3 years) the more apt we are to taking them (their wants and needs) for granted.  We assume too much and neglect them.  I would love to assume I’ve never given the excuse “it’s just not me”, but honestly, I think I used it last weekend when she wanted to go for a “romantic walk” on a beach and I was comfortable in the shade.  I’ll say it this way: the more we put off our spouse, the more we push away our spouse.  It could be a walk, a conversation, a date, sex, or a simple cup of coffee, but to ignore them is to take them for granted. And to take them for granted is to stifle the love and passion in your marriage.

Be a listener to your spouse.  Then take that next step from being a listener to serving your spouse.  Get past the “it’s not me” phase and realize, if you are married, whether you like it or not, IT IS YOU! Never take your spouse for granted.

Thanks for letting me ramble…

2 Minute Marriage Devo – Day 3

Welcome to our 2 Minute Devos. This month we are in our Annual Marriage Series at Kalamazoo First Assembly of God and we’re going through devotions for couples. Take the time to read through the passage of the day and listen to the 2 Minute Devo.

Genesis 2:24

Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.