I've been thinking a lot about pastor's wives lately. Actually, I've been thinking about pastor's wives for years. That shouldn't be too surprising, I guess, since I am one and all.
The thing is, being a pastor's wife isn't easy. In fact, it's down right hard. And your other friends -- the ones that aren't pastor's wives don't really get it. How could they? They have never walked in your shoes. And the even the pastors often don't get it. They haven't walked in the shoes of a pastor's wife either.
But do you know who does get it? Other pastor's wives. They really, really get it, because they have to live it every day, too. They have to juggle the crazy-ever-changing-schedules, the kids, the school, the activities, the housework, the work of the ministry, the prayer, the hospital care, the well-meaning but sometimes hurtful comments from the congregation, the overwhelming expectations, the loneliness and isolation because you aren't really a congregational member, but you aren't the pastor either - so many things.
We need each other.
Sadly, though, we rarely reach out to each other. Although no one will understand what we face quite like another pastor's wife, we rarely connect -- I mean really connect. We rarely get beyond the politicking niceties of general conversation. We rarely look each other in the eye and ask, "How are you doing, really? Are you okay?" or even, "What do you enjoy that doesn't revolve around the ministry?"
I've been watching pastor's wives over the years, perplexed by the irony of our need for each other and our emotional distance from each other. I've been asking myself "why"? What makes us so guarded? Why are we so smooth and sweet on the outside and so cautious on the inside. Each situation is unique, of course, but here are a few things I've seen happening over the years:
1. Once burned, Twice shy. -- Often, I think pastor's wives have reached out to others only to be hurt by them. It doesn't take long for a girl to learn to exercise some reserve.
2. Overcommitment -- Add one more thing and the whole pile is going to take a tumble. We are over-busy, over-scheduled and over-tired. We just don't have a lot of time and energy to put into cultivating relationships with people outside our own churches, families and workplaces. I'll admit it. Sometimes I get a little panicky when someone wants to hang out with me. It isn't because I don't genuinely want to see them. It's just that adding that one thing to my day will throw my schedule out of whack for weeks. And what will I do with the kids while I fellowship? And what about the 10 other things I needed to finish up first? My over-packed schedule often ruins my chance for a friend. Obviously, I need to revamp my schedule, delegate some things and make room for friendships with other pastor's wives. I don't think I am alone in this.
3. Comparison -- Women are notorious for comparing themselves with other women - and usually we don't come out looking better for the comparison. That may be because we pick out the other woman's strengths and compare them with our own weaknesses. Comparison doesn't help anyone, and it sure doesn't make us feel like reaching out to one another.
4. Intimidation -- I think that if we were honest with ourselves, we would admit that we are often concerned that we aren't doing a good job at this thing called "pastor's wife." We feel inadequate. We second guess ourselves. We do all we know to do and a great deal we don't, but we still feel like it isn't enough. Then we see another pastor's wife. She seems like she's got it all together, while we feel like we're barely keeping things from flying apart. Her very presence (and the perfection we assume she has attained) is intimidating. Sometimes people's personality can be intimidating, but often the intimidation is mostly in our own heads due to our own feelings of inadequacy. Regardless of the reasons, it's hard to let down your guard when you're intimidated.
(Here's some food for thought. Did you ever think that while you are comparing your weaknesses with another pastor's wife's strengths, she may be doing the same with you? Did you ever think that you might seem to have it all together and be intimidating to another pastor's wife? It's true. You may look very different through her eyes than you do through your own. We need to be gentle with each other. Just saying.)
So what's the solution? How do we break down the walls that separate pastor's wives from each other? Hmmm... I'm still working on that one. I do know that until someone is willing to let down her guard and try to connect with other pastor's wives, we never will find a solution. I also know that we are called to walk this life as pastor's wives -- there is grace, even when we can't see it. I know that every single thing a pastor's wife does each day counts. I don't just mean the things that seem spiritual. I mean the laundry and errands and stretching the family budget. I mean getting up each day when you feel like quitting and doing it all over again anyway. It's all part of the package deal that makes our ministries possible. It counts. And I know we need each other -- desperately.
If you are a pastor's wife, you matter. God bless you for what you do. If you know a pastor's wife, reach out to her. Love on her. Tell her she matters.
Have a great day!
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