I have worn a lot of hats in my life, but few have taught me as much as my role as a Pastor's wife. It is a role that has required me to dig deep and give more than I thought I had. It has required me to hurt, to love, to laugh, to weep, to pray, to believe. Words fail me when I try to describe what my role actually entails.
If you ask 10 people what a Pastor's wife should be or do, you will get 10 different answers. When I first became a Pastor's wife many years ago, I tried hard to meet all those varied expectations. I tried to please each and every person -- and I utterly failed. The more pleasing I tried to be, the less I was able to please.
I guess I should have known that. The Bible teaches us to be a pleaser of God rather than a pleaser of men. I was dull and thick-headed, I guess. Somehow, though, even the slowest folks will learn something if they just won't quit.
Now, after 18+ years in full-time ministry, I can give you a short list of some of the things I've learned during my life as a Pastor's wife. This is not an exhaustive list, mind you. It's just the first few things that come to mind.
Things I've Learned from Being a Pastor's Wife
1. Don't Procrastinate. There is enough stress to deal with in life without adding the stress of looming deadlines and unmet responsibilities. Get 'er done ASAP.
2. It's Never a Good Time. Or, as one minister put it, "People need you when they need you, not when it's convenient." When is it a good time for someone to call in sick, have an emergency or need council?
3. Set Boundaries. Set boundaries and protect them. While we need to be there for people during their difficult times, most things that come up are not true emergencies. I can't tell you the times people have called needing "immediate" marital counseling for problems that have been going on for the last 20 years. While it is a crisis, it is not an emergency. We will drop absolutely everything for a true emergency, but our help for a long-term crisis can be scheduled in such a way that our children still have parents and their schooling is not destroyed. Learn the difference.
4. Don't Take it Personally. People can be cruel. They can say hurtful things and do things that cause you great pain. Usually, though, it has more to do with what's going on with them in their lives than it has to do with us. We are just the ones who happened to be around when they exploded. Love them and help them pick up the pieces if you can.
5. Think Before You Speak. What we say and do impacts far more people than we may realize. As a leader (and we are all a leader to somebody), our words and actions set a precedent and an example. They have an impact. We must make sure that we are going to like the outcome before we act. It is far easier to simply not say or do a thing than to clean up the consequences afterwards.
6. Learn to Live in a Glass House. Whether I like or not, as a pastor's wife, people will feel some sense of ownership over my life. They will have personal feelings about my hair, my outfit and how I raise my children. It is part of being a public servant. Deal with it. Focus on helping people, not on whether they like my latest hairstyle.
7. Never Let Your Past Dictate Your Future. And never hold someone else's past against them. Keep your eyes pointed forward. As someone said, "It is hard to steer a car forward when you're looking in the rearview mirror." Don't dwell on past mistakes. Learn from them, grow and move on.
8. Loneliness is Part of the Job Description. People often will not understand what you do or why. They will see things from their own perspective and not see things from a leadership perspective or understand the impact that some things will have on the church. That can isolate you.
Often, for various reasons, you will be unable to fellowship with church members in the same way they can fellowship with each other. For one thing, if you do something with one church member, in order not to be a respecter of persons, you must do something with every church member. There isn't enough time for that if you still want to fulfill your ministry and family responsibilities. Often they simply won't invite you, even on the rare occasion when you could take part. People will go quiet when you enter a room. Sometimes they will shake hands and speak to the Pastor, but they won't even notice you. Some of the people you are closest to and trust the most will betray you. Don't think it's odd. They did it to Jesus, too, and we are not above our Master.
Rather than getting upset, use those times to pull in closer to God. No matter what other people may do, He said He would never leave you and He would never forsake you. These are the times that build our reliance on God. And I can truly say, after nearly 20 years of experience, it really does get easier. What used to be so hard in the early days, I don't even notice now.
9. Judge Not Lest You Be Judged. It can be easy to expect a lot out of people and then judge them harshly if they don't meet our expectations. "They should know better..." can become a common thought, if we don't guard against it. The reality is, they are human beings, just like us. While my role as a leader means I sometimes must correct and train people, I cannot judge. I, too, am human. If it wasn't for the grace of God, I'd probably be doing the same thing. And if I'm honest, in many cases, I have done the same thing at some point.
10. Believe in People. We must learn to see people like Jesus sees them. People will falter. They will fail. They will let you down. It is our job to to see the potential in people anyway and try to develop that potential. Rather than being disappointed, hurt or offended, we need to believe in what they can become.
11. Focus on the Positives. The negatives will always be around, but we can't afford to dwell on them. Find the sunny side of the situation. Sometimes the only sunny thing you may see is that the sun is setting and the day is over, but it's better than dwelling on the way the rest of the day went.
12. Remember How to Laugh. Now matter how low you go, if you can keep laughing, you can come out of it. Learn to laugh at yourself and your circumstances, but never at other people. Laughter can bring you through the most trying circumstances and the darkest times. Learn to see the funny side.
I will leave you with a poem that has always helped me weather the bumps of the ministry:
People are often unreasonable, illogical and self-centered; Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives; Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies; Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you; Be honest and frank anyway.
What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight; Build anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous; Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow; Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough; Give the world the best you've got anyway.
You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and your God; It was never between you and them anyway.
-- By Mother Teresa
Have a great day!
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