Monday, August 27, 2012

Being a Pastor's Wife is an Exercise in Faith

My husband and I got married when we were both in seminary. He was also a part-time youth pastor. We had a short summer break after our wedding before it was back to the grind of school, work, and ministry. My dad was (and still is) a bi-vocational pastor, so I knew what life was like for a family when dad is often getting home from church just in time for dinner on a Saturday evening only to get up way too early the next morning to finish his sermon. When I was eight my dad went to seminary, so I lived in a family where my dad was working on papers, working full-time, all the while trying to be a husband to one and dad to four young children. I had no illusions about what ministry would look like. I knew it would be hard. I knew it would take time. But knowing and believing are two very different things. When it came time to believe that God knew what he was doing, I had a much harder time accepting that this was going to be my life.

The life of a pastor’s wife in a lot of ways is no different than any other Christian wife. But there are some key universally held beliefs that really get tested in the trenches of loving a man in pastoral ministry. These truths are simply what I have learned in these last three years, and therefore not necessarily exhaustive or applicable to every situation. But I would imagine that many wives of pastors probably face some variation of these struggles at some point. If you fit in that category, I hope my struggle towards faithfulness is a help to you.

Believing that God’s Word Changes Lives

If you had asked me four years ago what is the most pressing need for our churches I would have wholeheartedly said, “the preaching of God’s word!” I love the Bible. I believe that biblical preaching is needed in our churches. I believe that when we gather together on Sunday morning we desperately need to hear from God in his word.

But the real test comes on a Saturday afternoon, when my husband is immersed in his final sermon preparation. Do I believe that God’s word preached is the greatest need of his people on Sunday morning? Do I really believe that the people in our congregation need to hear from God, even if it means spending Saturday alone?

If a pastor cannot give God’s word faithfully on Sunday morning, he has very little left to give God’s people. As wives of pastors we have a unique responsibility to help him in this amazing task. From giving him a space to work, to refraining from interrupting him until the sermon is complete (this is hard for me), every ounce of freedom we give him (especially on those lonely Saturdays) is an opportunity for us to exercise trust in the never changing power of the word of God.

Believing that Jesus’ Words are True

Of course we believe that when Jesus speaks it is true. When I was a new Christian I used to boast that I would leave everything for the sake of the gospel, even my family. And while I lived away from my family long before I married a pastor, it did not hit me until that move was permanent. We are settled in ministry. And it’s not near my parents, brothers, or nieces and nephews. Jesus’ words about leaving family for his sake take on a whole new meaning when it’s not an idealistic declaration any longer.

Many of us live thousands of miles away from our immediate families. We miss birthdays, holidays, and important milestones. Our kids miss precious time with grandparents. When Jesus said we would have to deny our closest relationships for his glory he meant it. The cost of following Jesus sometimes implies that we live far away from family. But it also means that we get to experience a little piece of what he was talking about when he said “who are my brothers?” In a lot of ways, our church family is our immediate family now. We are with them at the 4th of July picnic and on Christmas morning. And we give thanks with them around the table on Thanksgiving. While we lose memories with our immediate families, we gain new, lifelong memories with our brothers and sisters in our congregations that are little foretastes of heaven.

Believing in the Coming Joy

Every sermon preached, every holiday missed, and every trial endured is an opportunity for a pastor’s wife to exercise faith in the God who can be trusted. We must daily fight to see that Jesus is better.  He is better than having your husband free all of the time.  He is better than living around the corner from your mom, dad, and siblings. He is better than stuff. He is better than our dreams for a nice house, extra spending money, well-behaved children (or any children), and a perfect marriage.

But there is more to the story. Because we are married to pastors we have a front row seat for all that God does through our husband’s ministry. We are there for the tears and we are there for the laughter. We are there for the criticism and are there for the praise. We get to see lives changed by God’s word. We get to see families restored through the power of the gospel. Even when it is hard, we can know that the difficulty is not all there is. Every trial endured, every lonely Saturday, and every missed family gathering is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison. And sometimes, just sometimes, we get to see a little glimpse of it this side of heaven.

1 comment:

kathryn said...

This is a great post. I know I will be experiencing these same things in the next few years as my husband hopes to pursue the pastorate after seminary. Thank you for your encouragement, experience & wise words (as always).