Having been married to a pastor for over thirty years, I have experienced first-hand the ups and downs of ministry and the toll it takes on a pastor and his family. I have friends who are pastors’ wives, and those friends share a bond with whom few others can relate. Our husbands are fallible, and yet face the constant pressure to balance church and family. I came across an article a year ago entitled, “10 Things Pastors Hate to Admit Publicly.” The author, Matt Bozwell was amazed how it went viral almost immediately. There have been many critics of this message, but the sheer numbers of pastors that have read it and shared it speaks for itself. (If you haven’t read it, please invest a few minutes on pastormatt.tv. It is excellent.)
Although I have read several articles about pastors wives, there are a few things I have never read that I have noticed among other pastors wives that are worth mentioning from our perspective. Here is my own list.
The Ten Things:
1. We have no idea what a pastor’s wife is supposed to look like. When I was in college, there was a joke that circulated about minister’s wives. “She needs to be able to “teach, sing alto, and look good at conventions.” And although we repeated it tongue-in-cheek, there was an underlying truth that was hard to escape. There was an expectation for a pastor’s wife that was different than other women.
So we are tempted to measure ourselves by other pastors’ wives we know, see their giftings, and know that we cannot measure up to the persona we see in them. So, as much as we like to portray that we have it all together, we don’t. And, aside from trusting in the Holy Spirit to lead us, in and of ourselves, we see our shortcomings center and front.
2. We struggle on how transparent we should be. We don’t want to be put on a pedestal, yet we feel the pressure to model “true christianity” to others in the church as a means of encouragement. The flaws in our parenting styles, our appearance, our personal relationship with Christ, our ability to submit as helpmates to our husbands, and the other thousand shortcomings we have but are afraid to admit keep us humble, yet sometimes at arm’s length from others in the church.
3. That thing you read about the pastor’s wife being the loneliest person in the church is very often true. (See number 2.) We don’t want to be seen as playing favorites, so often we keep our relationships superficial so that we don’t cause any women to "stumble." Maybe it's that, or just that transparency is scary. We have many acquaintances, but few close friends. Many of us have been hurt by past friends who have left the church and caused a rift in the relationship, so we are more cautious now. We still need the social outlet of girlfriends, but are unaware on how to fill it.
4. We struggle with our husbands, our children, the demands of our lives, but don’t have anyone safe to share it with. Our husband is your pastor. We don’t want to hinder the work of God through his sermons and ministry, so we cannot share our struggles with you.
5. We feel as though we live in a glass bubble, and it’s not your fault. Not only do we struggle with how fallible we are as role models and what that will do to you, we struggle with what that glass bubble does to our children. Their perception of pastors' kids is that they are being judged by a different standard than your children. We tell you and we tell others that they are just kids fighting the same devil your kids fight, but our kids see it differently. They remember the comments that have been made to them about how pastors’ kids should know better. They have been used as sermon illustrations since they can remember. They don’t understand why other kids can pick and choose whether they want to go to church or youth group and they don’t get a choice. Their social circle is the church. Perception is reality. They believe their lives are on display and some of them handle it better than others.
6. Our husbands are rarely off-duty. We know that a ten minute trip to the grocery store can often take an hour. Our husbands are constantly searching out lost sheep in Walmart, getting caught in impromptu counseling sessions in the produce aisle. Most of the ordinary events in life become sermon illustrations. “That will preach” becomes a regular statement in our homes. Weddings, funerals, school functions, and sporting events become exercises in painting a smile on our faces and greeting all the people that have ever attended our church and have since left. We still love you and want what’s best for you and your family, but secretly feel we have failed you. We believe that had we done our job better, you would still be with us. You are the family member that has found a new and better family. We know what that does to our husbands. The longer we have ministered in the community and the smaller the town is, the more this factors in. (By the way, we read your posts inviting people to your new church and see how much you love your new church pastor and family.) We know that the Church is not the building and that we are only a small piece of God’s infinite puzzle, yet we struggle with the urge to compare our church to your new one, and often feel like we have lost.
7. We owe a huge debt to you. We have experienced your generosity. We have been blessed by you year after year at Christmas. We have seen the hundred ways you love on our children. We see you volunteer in the nursery, teach our children in Sunday School, and compliment us on how beautiful and wonderful our family is. We have seen you sacrifice your time, energy, and money to bless us. We remember your encouraging words when we are tempted to feel deflated. And as much as we feel the pressure to never fail you, we have heard your kind encouraging words. We know that when you say you have been praying for us, you really have. It has not gone unnoticed. We are humbled by you.
8. We truly love you. We see your gifts, we are encouraged by your generosity. We feel your prayers. You hold so much value to us.
9. We know our Source. We see our own limitations, and we know yours. And yet we do not take lightly the high calling we have been given by the One who planned in advance for our lives and equips us with everything we need to continue in this high calling. He is the one who is made perfect in our weakness. He is the one who never fails, even when we fail. Even when we get hurt. Even when we feel we don’t measure up.
10. We love what we do, even when it seems hard, even though we have been hurt. We know we can do better, and we set our hearts on doing this. We feel your encouraging words and prayers and pray that we have encouraged you along the way. And as much as we have battle scars, it is just proof that we have fought the good fight. Our prayer is that we will finish the race well. And we need you to run with us.