CONFESSIONS OF A PASTOR’S WIFE

From God’s Call to God’s Sanctification: It’s not easy being me.

It made no sense. I’d been born-again all of 8 months. I sat in an auditorium in Ridgecrest, North Carolina listening to Bertha Smith challenge us all to pray for the Lord to bring forth laborers for His harvest. That tiny gray-haired lady charged us to pray that people hear and heed the call to missions, to ministry, to evangelism. She exhorted us with Isaiah’s words: “Here am I, send me”.

I prayed for others. I asked God to call men to ministry. Then I heard a voice say, “You.” I’m hearing things. Bertha Smith must have said that. [For the rest of the call click on SelahV Today at the end of this post.]

I must confess. I was not even close to what I’d consider a mature Christian when I first became a pastor’s wife. There is so much I’d know today that I wish I’d known in our first pastorate. There are so many things I’d have done differently. But I did what I knew to do at the time.

Every minister’s wife carries an image of what her role is to be in her husband’s ministry. Each member of a church carries an image of what her role is suppose to be, also. I’d watched my minister’s wife and grew to believe she was the ultimate model of what a pastor’s wife could possibly be. I began to have severe doubts about myself and thought God must have an incredible sense of humor. I’d told her once in our conversations, “I could never be a preacher’s wife.”

God needed to prepare me to be the helpmate my husband would need as he abandoned himself to the Lord’s call upon his life. Minister’s wives are not like the plumber’s, the carpenter’s, or even a surgeon’s. No. People do not weigh her every action and place any demands upon her to fix the leaky faucet, repair a door-jam or perform an appendectomy. Other vocations do not require anything of a wife to accomplish a task. A wife is simply a wife. A minister’s wife is called along with her husband to minister. It’s a twenty-four-seven position. Our husbands truly need us to undergird, support and encourage.

We are called to be all things to all people at all times in order that we might win some. We are called to turn the other cheek; to be sober and exhibit gentle demeanors. Our attitude must never be guided by our emotions, a slight, a rejection, a burden or a criticism. We are to hold our heads high and smile at all times. We must shake every hand and pat every head and hear every complaint. We must always know where our husbands are, and be ever-ready to relay any message to him, and if he doesn’t act upon that message, we are accountable for his inaction. We’re expected to know exactly how each congregant feels because they shared details with our husbands in a counseling session. (Never mind that our husbands would not divulge such confidences with us-surely we should know anyway.)

Our children must sit in absolute silence like privates at Camp Lejune, North Carolina while listening attentively to every word our husbands say. They must be dressed in spic and span condition and exemplify all the fruit of the Spirit. We are to have a perfectly clean and organized house. We are to live on less than what our members live on but dress above our means and bring elaborate dishes to every potluck.

We must be in attendance at everything at all times to support the work of others in the Lord. We are to answer questions of “What do you think?” with non-answers that have nothing to do with what we think, but with neutrality. We are on call at any moment, at all hours of the night, to carry on without our spouses and we are to get absolutely giddy for the pleasure of not having his company. We are not to be sick or in need of our spouse’s attention. We are to have as much theological and doctrinal knowledge as any seminary graduate and have ready answers to any question posed. All the while our opinions and thoughts are not our own, but representative of our husband’s. And he is held accountable for all we think, say and do.

In other words we are called to be perfect, because our Lord was perfect.

Hmmmn. Do I believe all this? Of course not. Did I believe this? I sure did. When my husband took his first pastorate, I lived in a fishbowl of unreasonable and ludicrous thinking. As a minister’s wife, I tried to be what each and every person expected of me. I failed miserably. Seeking the approval of man rarely succeeds.

As God worked in me through the years, I came to the peaceful conclusion that my greatest calling was to be my husband’s soulmate. I learned that God had called my husband to pastor, to preach, to minister and He could do a much better job with him than I could. I was his cheerleader, his confidant, his greatest fan. I learned to submit to him in whatever way he considered best for me-even when I wanted to do something great for the Lord. I consulted him. It’s when I went against his advice I often found myself swimming upstream.

I learned far too late that my greater attention should have been towards my own children and not all the children of the world. I found that living “without” in contentment was far more wonderful than living “with” in discontentment. I learned to hold my piece when I wanted to give a piece of my mind.

I learned that hospitality didn’t mean a spotless home and fancy dinners, but open doors and empathetic ears. I discovered a cup of cold water and a box of tissues meant more than homemade cookies hot from the oven. I learned I cannot control what other people think of me, nor how they speak of me. I learned that what others think of me or speak of me neither determines my worth nor validates it as truth. I learned that holding grudges and bitterness hurt only me and my relationship with the Lord. I found that people are people and each person is growing in Christ on God’s timetable-not mine.

So many things God set me apart to be in my life: Daughter, wife, mother, pastor’s wife, employee, writer, friend. But the greatest relationship and role I’ve ever had is a child. His child. God used my mother and father to bring me into the world, but He, alone, is the creator of my life. He knew me before I was formed in my mother’s womb. He protected me from my own mother as she carried me in her womb. He knitted me together. What others counted as worthless, God counted as significant. He had a plan for me. He feeds me with His Word and lives within my heart. He abides in me and I in Him and He never lets me go. Every day God works out more of His plan with my life.

I am awed. After all these years, He still is interested in me.

To all ministers’ wives everywhere, I offer this: The best of oneself is all one can give and, at times, what we think is our best is the worst of us which must be surrendered to our Father’s merciful hands. If a pastor’s wife gives herself first to God, He will fill the role most needed in her for all. selahV

[copyrighted, 2008, SelahV Today, hariette petersen]

Comments

  1. says

    Dear SelahV: How precious. Your husband and children and church members ought to get on their knees and thank God for you. I do fOr my wife. Now I will tell you a story (true) that makes me tremble today, when think of doing such a thing. In May of 1972 My wife and I sold our home in SC where I gave up a good, well-paying job (teaching history in college), loaded our furniture, two-children, and a mother-in-law in vehicles and moved to NC to go to seminary. What scares me about it now was it was a second marriage. One of the children was a dau. from a first marriage. The mother-in-law was my wife’s mother. We moved in June and used the money from the house to survive until a church called me (Oct. ’72). If I had known that having a second marriage would be a problem (I just never never knew how really hard, grievous, painful, and miserably difficult it is)! And yet we survived, and I had 11 yrs. of the best ministry of my life in a little country church and then 12 1/2 yrs. of one of the most difficult ministries that one could have. This Sept., if we live until then, we will have been married for 40 yrs. Our son will have completed 10 yrs. in April as a pastor of one church. My daughter is gainfully employed. The one person who has been the linch pin of my family and ministry after the Lord Jesus Christ is my wife. She made my service of nearly 24 yrs. of actual pastoring possible. We have seen some great times, and we have seen some very grievous times. What a blessing it is to have a wife who cares for the Lord’s work and her husband as an instrument fo His work as well as for every one else connected with it.
    My pastor who ordained me to the ministry and who had serious qualms about ministers with second marriages wrote to me at the beginning of this marriage these words: “The Lord will restore to you the years that the canker worm has eating.” I can testify that the Lord did it; He restored nearly seven sad yrs. of a failed mrriage with nearly 40 yrs of a good marriage and with opportunities to serve and honor our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. The lady who made that possible by the grace of God is my wife. I can now understand what Solomon meant, when he wrote, “HER PRICE IS FAR ABOVE RUBIES.” ALL PRAISES TO THE LAMB THAT WAS SLAIN FOR HIS EXCEEDING KINDNESSES.

    Dr. James Willinghams last blog post..The Climax of the Reformation

  2. says

    I haven’t heard anyone mention Bertha Smith in a long long time. Our former pastor was friends with Jack Taylor, Manley Beasley, Ron Dunn, Jim Hylton, and Miss Bertha Smith. If you know Miss Bertha, you probably know some of the others that I just mentioned. All of them except Miss Bertha have preached at our church or in joint services in our city.

    Barry Wallaces last blog post..Forgiveness and Fred Winters’ widow

  3. says

    Hello Barry, No, I do not know the other people you mention. I do remember studying and still have a copy of Manley Beasley’s workbook on Faith. It is absolutely one of the greatest helps for those who struggle with their faith and how to dissect it’s very nature.

    I hope my post did not imply that I know or knew Miss Bertha in any way other than her inspirational message at Ridgecrest where I first believe God called me to full-time ministry through her praying for laborers. If I did, forgive me. I read her book on How the Spirit Filled My Life. And her words were used in a mighty mighty way with me and folks in New England who read it. She is a true saint of God. I am grateful to the Lord for the blessing of hearing her in North Carolina as a babe in Christ.

    I welcome you to share any testimonials of times with those you know. I have another website where I’d love to spotlight those kinds of memories. Manley Beasley will live in my mind as a man who didn’t just write about faith, but understood it and proved it’s power. Thanks so much for commenting. selahV

    selahVs last blog post..DELETE OR NOT DELETE?

  4. David R. Brumbelow says

    Hannibal Books has just published a biography of Manley Beasley.

    And, good article, SelahV. Pastor’s wife is one of the most demanding jobs. One that I think God richly rewards in this life, and the life to come.
    David R. Brumbelow

  5. says

    David, thanks for telling us about that book. I am going to go order it right now. I loved being a pastor’s wife. I loved all of it, even when I didn’t like part of it. God used it to sanctify my life and grow me. Just hope I didn’t do too much damage to his sheep as I learned my lessons. selahV

  6. Dr. David Phillips says

    Concerning Chris Poe’s comment:
    I wonder how many Southern Baptists need to be evangelized???
    Just an honest inquiry!!

  7. says

    Dr. Phillips, I’m sorry. Did you mean to post this on another article? Chris Poe hasn’t commented in this stream. However, I will take a stab at your inquiry. Only God knows how many Southern Baptists need to be evangelized, which is why it’s so important for preachers to preach the Gospel with as much ferver as the Holy Spirit can unleash. I for one, have seen deacon’s wives, youth leaders, Sunday School teachers and preacher’s kids come to Jesus and they had been Southern Baptists for years. The key is to keep getting them to church until the Gospel grips their hearts and fills their soul with God’s arresting grace through the undoctored, unfiltered, undiluted Word of God.
    thanks for a very probing question. don’t know where you planned for it to pop up, but I’m grateful it popped up on this post. God bless you . selahV

    selahVs last blog post..PASTOR, HERSHAEL YORK’S PRAISE IN AN AGE OF DESPAIR AND FEAR

  8. says

    Wonderful post!

    For 20 years, my wife had what many people see as the toughest job in the world. As a matter of fact, she had a window sticker on her car that said, “World’s Toughest Job–Air Force Wife.”

    When God called me into the pastorate from that carreer, she was terrified. Even after enduring all that a military wife has to endure, she didn’t think she could handle being a pastor’s wife. She looked at some of the pastor’s wives she knew and saw them as “plasticly perfect.” She knew she wasn’t like that and knew that she couldn’t be like that–becasue she didn’t want to be.

    It’s not often in our marriage that I have the exact right thing to say at the exact right time–but I think I got it right then. The only thing I could tell her was that God called me to be a pastor. He didn’t call her into the mythical position of “pastor’s wife.” All He called her to be was my wife and the mother of my children.

    I consistently try to make that clear with our church as well. Are there unmet expectations? Of course there are–concerning both her and me. But as long as we continually point ourselves and the church to the only One who fulfills and exceeds all expectations, it’ll be okay.

    Thanks again for the post!

    Pastor Jims last blog post..Edwards Wednesday

  9. says

    Pastor Jim, thank you. It’s a scary and exciting combination of feelings that mingle within the heart of a prospective minister’s wife. As time goes by you learn to let go of others’ patterns and become who God calls you to be. No comparisons necessary. Because whereever you are, that’s where God wants you. If he wanted Ruth Graham, He would have put her there. If he wanted Beth Moore to lead the ladies Bible study, He’d provide the video. We are each marvellously and specifically made to fit the church wherein our Lord has called our husbands. And that is the best advice I could give a new pastor’s wife.

    Thanks for you comment and your gracious words. selahV

    selahVs last blog post..PASTOR, HERSHAEL YORK’S PRAISE IN AN AGE OF DESPAIR AND FEAR

  10. Amy says

    AMEN!!! Thank you for putting that out there! This past weekend I realized that I wanted out of the fish bowl…. I want, my husband wanted and needed, ME the ME my husband married 7 years, two houses, two children, and two churches ago!
    I have broken free from the chains, I let others put on me… Thank you, thank you for writing what I have soooo longed to express!

  11. says

    Amy, bless your heart! God wants that for you above all else. He made you to be you; no other can do what you are doing where you are. I have found that church congregations are incredibly forgiving.
    But they also, have the normal penchant for comparing one preacher’s wife to the last preacher’s wife, or the one before that. In general, I’d say most folks just want you to be you and to love them where they are. And that is all we want from them–to be loved where we are. When we practice that and keep the main thing the main thing, Christ, Husband, family, church—then all else falls in place. And God honors our heart’s commitments. Love you gal, go buy yourself some flowers and celebrate your place in His meadow. selahV

    selahVs last blog post..DISCERNMENT…DEVINED, DEFINED, REFINED

  12. Mom4Christ says

    Thanks SelahV, I really needed to hear that right now. My husband just finished bible college and will be ordained on Valentines day. He is volunteering as associate pastor at our home church until God calls us to a full time position. I was already feelling the pressure to be more than I am. What I am taking from your experience is that God will make me what I need to be I just need to get out of they way. My husband has told me many times that my most important roll as pastors wife is to be just that-his wife. With 4 kids, a house, a husband and a position as VBS director I am busy enough without trying to live up to what I percieve as others’ expectations. I think I just needed to hear someone else say it too. Funny isn’t how we sometimes forget to really listen to those who love us. Thanks again!
    Jenny