The Mannequin Pastor's Wife

Embrace your identity in Christ.

Faith Christianson has been a pastor's wife for the past twelve years. She's always smiling, always sympathetic, always willing to be a hostess or Sunday School teacher, and always busy. She has that too-good-to-be-true appear­ance. Always so sweet and so kind, she seems constantly to be talking to people, yet somehow seems lonely, People come to her—she reaches out to no one. She carts her kids everywhere, involved with them at school and all their various activities, because Dad's usually too busy to help.

Faith is flexible and accommodating, fitting in wherever there is a need. She smiles and accepts the stern advice or correction of the elder lady. She's loved by all but known by no one.

On cold, dark, quiet evenings, when all the kids are asleep, when her husband is still out at the elder's meeting and the clock has gone past the polite calling hours, she enters her room alone. There are no mirrors, no pictures, no windows reflecting back any images. It is then that she takes off her smile and lays it on the bed. Her face is sore and relieved to lose that weight. She sets aside her glasses that create the illusion of a lift and twinkle, revealing empty sad eyes. Next she takes off the makeup of perfection and lets it run down the drain. Finally, she throws down her clothes—the insignia of her role. There she stands—naked, vulner­able, frightened, unknown to herself and unknown to God. She is confused and she knows there is something wrong, so she starts to blame her husband. Then all the critical voices of past authorities start rushing into her head. She feels uncovered and ashamed.

Suddenly, she hears the garage door start to open. She hurries to put her mannequin persona back on, stuffing her smile in her pocket for tomorrow, lest he think she is interested in "anything" tonight.

You see, Faith Christianson has confused a role with an identity. She knows her Bible thoroughly; she was an ace at Bible quizzes as a teenager. Yet, she doesn't find time to gain nourish­ment from it anymore. It is only a textbook for completing teaching tasks. Talking to God personally doesn't come up anymore. He seems so impersonal and tied up in a committee meeting somewhere. She's lost touch with her gifts, talents and interests out of duty to perform the necessary.

She's trying to mold and perfect herself for the approval of the congregation, but Faith is tired due to the sometimes contradictory expecta­tions. Feeling like a failure, Faith tries to please the ladies who scrutinize her, leaving her with no idea anymore of what God wants her to be. She knows she is not supposed to be selfish, so she has no idea who her 'self" is.

She's become an automaton, with ugly inner reactions that she ignores and pushes down. She blames her husband for not being more interested in her emotionally and for not trying to connect. However, when he does try to connect, no one is home. Faith has no idea what her real feelings are, so she is unable to share them or work through them. Sometimes she's numb, at other times there is a hole filled with bitterness.

I've met too many Faith Christiansons. I recognize them by their honey-dripping smile and their far-away eyes. They need to be loved, accepted and introduced to a heavenly Father who is holy and righteous as well \as intimate, personal, and accept­ing. She needs to find Abba.

Women like this need to bask in His love so they can come out from hiding and discover the self He made them to be. He wants to be connected with that true self, allowing her to be a vessel filled with Himself and used for His glory, even if this does not fit the classic pastor's wife role or please the ladies. God wants her to face her inner feelings (Ps. 51:6) and work through them so she doesn't have to blame anyone for her unhappiness, but be responsible before God for the truth about her identity in Him. Then she can stand openly before Him—out of hiding, vulnerable, unashamed and no longer alone.