April 22, 2013

Dear Pastor's Wife, You Are Not Disadvantaged

I’m having second thoughts about those “serving your pastor’s wife” articles.

In 2011, Mark Driscoll wrote “Loving the Pastor’s Wife”; then, just a few weeks ago, a pastor named Ryan Huguley wrote a popular, and related, post called “6 Ways to Serve Your Pastor’s Wife on Sunday.” His list is very practical, especially tailored to the needs of women (like me!) who are married to the pastor of a small church and have small children. His six suggestions are: remember that Sundays are different for her, pray for her, have realistic expectations of her, encourage her, go talk to her, and don’t forget she has kids.

These articles are valuable. Thinking about how to serve one another, even thinking about how to serve certain groups of people with specific needs, is the way of Christ. I appreciate the compassion being advocated by these posts, and, when Huguley tells church members to bring their pastor’s wife a cup of coffee on Sunday morning, well, I certainly wouldn’t turn a dark roast down.

But, as a pastor’s wife, I’m not sure these kinds of posts establish a helpful way to think about myself.

First, they can aid my temptation to feel entitled. (Hey! Why don’t people in my church give me a hospitality allowance, save me a pew, designate my parking spot?)

But I think they can also create a false impression: pastors’ wives are disadvantaged.

Driscoll and Huguley both rightly say, “The pastor’s wife is simply to be a Christian church member like everyone else.” Agreed. But, coupled with the lists of needs and challenges, this statement seems contradictory. The pastor’s wife in their articles appears both deserving of special treatment and, at the same time, crippled in her efforts to be a Christian. True; you are not “more” because you are a pastor’s wife.

But you are not “less,” either.

I’d like to supplement Dricoll and Huguley’s well-intentioned posts with Five Precious Truths for a Pastor’s Wife on Sunday (or Any Day):

(1) You are not alone.

Do you dread worshipping without a husband beside you? Yes, says the elderly widow, three rows back, and the single woman who always slips in late. Do you struggle to be generous on a small budget? Yes, says the wife whose husband was laid off in October. Do you feel like people have unrealistic expectations of you?

Yes, says every woman everywhere.

Instead of allowing your struggles to isolate you from the body of Christ, feeling yourself to be in a unique category, you can use them to find connection with dozens of others who seek grace in the same situations.

(2) Your children are not a liability.

They squirm and squeal. They run up and down the aisles because, truly, they feel at home at church. And they have souls that will never die. Bringing them to church, paying attention to them, and helping them to become worshippers is not an inconvenience. It’s ministry.

(3) Your husband is helping you.

Yes, he is up front and you are in the fourth row. But he is preaching the words of life to your soul. How many women would love to have a husband who would even read his own Bible, let alone labor in the word for the good of his wife? On Sunday morning, standing in the pulpit, your husband is teaching you to become more like Christ. He is helping.

(4) Your worship is pleasing to God.

You may have been stopped by chatty church members on your way to worship. You may have kids and responsibilities and expectations and weariness and secret burdens. But none of that makes you unable to offer acceptable worship.

When you sing, you add your voice to the never-ending heavenly anthem. When you pray, your prayers fill the bowls in front of the very throne of God. When you listen to the Word, the Spirit goes to work in your heart, cultivating holiness.

When you worship God in the assembly of the saints, you please the Lord—which is your highest aim.

(5) You are being served.

Christ came “not to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45) Whether or not the members of your congregation bring you a gift card or a cup of dark roast, you have been served. Christ, the suffering servant, comes to you bearing eternal fellowship with Him.

It is more than enough.

9 comments:

  1. Your article today has great insight. I often refer to myself as a second row "church widow" since sitting & talking with my husband in church is a rare treat. In doing this, I can identify with the elderly widows, or the single women, or the ones whose husbands just don't attend. And, as you correctly point out in so many ways, we are not disadvantaged.

    The one thing that I'd want to think on a bit more is the comment by both Driscoll and Huguley that state that we should be regular Christian members like everyone else. I will be considering this as I go through my day.

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    1. I think your last paragraph is worthy of a blog posting in the future.

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    2. I would love to hear what you have to say. :)

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  2. Re: "Many women would love to have a husband who would even read his own Bible" Another pastor's wife once said she was thankful to God that her husband had to read the Bible for a living. I agree. We are blessed and not disadvantaged.

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  3. This past weekend, at our women's retreat, we had a pastors' wives panel discussion. One of the questions was, "What makes being a pastor's wife difficult?" The only answer I could come up with was that I would like to sit with my husband on Sunday mornings but, in the end, that is a small sacrifice compared to encouraging my husband's passion and work for the Lord. All things considered, it's not really something over which I'll get my panties in a bunch. Yeah, it *can* be hard but, overall, it's a blessing.

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  4. it's true! we are very advantaged as pastor's wives. one of my daughters mentioned recently that she was used to having everyone know who she was even if she didn't know them. she said there was something nice about that...most of the time!

    in the churches we have served, GOD has often put me in places where i was forced to notice that i wasn't the only one having to deal with certain disadvantages (some of which you have mentioned). it has been good for me to have to notice single women, wives of non-christian husbands who don't attend church, etc. as well as the many others who who have difficult struggles that i get a taste of but often don't experience to the full extent they do.

    nothing is worse for church members than to have a pastor's wife who is walking around feeling sorry for herself b/c her husband is a pastor. thanks for your reminders of the blessings she has...and helping open her eyes to what those blessings are!

    my comments don't come from someone who has never struggled with self-pity, but rather from someone who has, often...but by GOD's grace has come to see the many blessings that come from being a pastor's wife and being a part of the lives of the people He brings to our churches. There is nothing I'd rather do...if i were doing it over, I'd do it again:)

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  5. Amen! I have often felt this needed to be said. Military wives get the same thing. We are always told, "you are the backbone of the Army and have the hardest job in the military,". Well, I certainly appreciate the concern but I'd much rather see you support that soldier on the front line than those of us waiting back home in our cozy home. As a pastors wife and military wife of 30 years, I am simply a servant if our Almighty God and what a privilege it is to be a part of His church! ❤

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  6. I must simply say thank you for this simple truth! I relate and appreciate your thoughtfulness, particularly that we, as pastors' wives don't need to be encouraged to feel entitled. God knew before the foundations of the world what He would do and require with and for each of us. I am privileged to be a part of His family. Every believing woman, wife, mother, sister, and daughter is (men, too, of course).

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    1. I'm glad it resonated with you, and I appreciate your emphasis on God's sovereign, providential care over our lives and the things to which He calls us.

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