Several weeks ago, I had the distinct privilege of addressing the Shepherdesses during our annual Conference Workers' Meeting. I shared with them some of the challenges associated with being "pastors' wives" and some of the pitfalls we may encounter. Following are portions of that devotional.
It is my prayer that these thoughts will challenge us to renew our resolve to keep connected to the Source of our strength and to steer clear of anything that weighs us down as we prepare for our kingdom.
No matter where we come from or where we are headed in our lives, we fill multiple roles. We are wives, mothers, grandmothers, daughters, and sisters. For those who are married to pastors, our roles are expanded. Our work seems to double, even triple. We become chief planners, hostesses, pastor substitutes and chauffeurs. Of course, the list goes on!
Many of us scurry around each day trying to get all the activities squeezed into one day; we feel breathless at the day's end. Yes, we are exhausted. Some of us serve multiple churches and take on heavy responsibilities in our husbands' districts. We believe we have to make our husbands look good. We want everyone to know what effective leaders our husbands are. We do all this in addition to our other family-related responsibilities. Often, we have so much to do, we do nothing very well.
Consequently, feelings of inadequacy set in and we begin a downward spiral that does us little spiritual, physical or emotional good. This is especially the case when others seem not to appreciate our efforts, or worse still, cast negative remarks about our performance. Too often, we become overwhelmed, too distracted to be good play partners to our spouses or fun for our children and others to be around.
As pastors'wives, do we hold the belief that if our husbands are unable to carry out tasks we must automatically fill in and do equally well? Do we fall into the practice of feeling obligated to accept offices because we are "the pastor's wife?" And when we somehow give in to the expressed or unspoken expectation that we must host every church related event, visit or call every church member who is ill or in some crises, continue to do our regular jobs and raise perfect children, are we somehow assuming that we have some special arrangement with God which makes us immune to stress, burnout, mental and physical breakdowns and marital unhappiness? If so, I believe we are setting ourselves up for much unhappiness, and in the long run, ill health. This kind of life stance h.As the potential to leave us empty and disconnected.
There are some of those among us who have realized that congregations can have conflicting, and even unreasonable expectations. Such expectations sometimes reach into the sacred circle of the home, threatening to destabilize it. We get into major trouble when we try to please everyone. We are trying to do the impossible!
It is far better for all concerned to set clear boundaries with our parishioners about what we can and will do. Once that is established, we must strive to do the best we can do at whatever job we undertake.
More importantly, we need to be clear about what God Himself wants us to do in every given situation. God's voice and leadings are often crowded out of our lives by our constantly busy schedules. A quick prayer here and there, now and then, does not constitute a walk with God. Time alone can accomplish that so I ask, when do you take time to find strength for the journey? Taking time out with God is the only way we can truly grow as His children.
What about Sabbaths? Do our children get a glimpse of what true Sabbath-keeping is about? Do they see our personal relationship with God? Or, do they see the endless routine of one meeting after another? Is Sabbath seen as a delight, a family affair? Keep close to the hearth, the promise of Isaiah 58: 13, 14.
Many of us need to slow down our gallop to he useful. This may involve reassessing our priorities. What is more important, the church or our homes? Do we fit everything else (apart from our daily time with God) around our family Lives, or do we attend to our families only if church and other responsibilities allow us time? This reassessment may mean giving up one or more church responsibilities. it may mean letting go of the expectations that others have of us that make our lives distressed rather than joyful in ministry. It may mean we have to reevaluate the belief that we should always be available to those outside our families.
Setting our priorities straight is a must if God is to have our attention, if peace and not confusion, is to reign in our hearts. Messages to Young People, page 135 says "The Lord never compels hurried complicated movements. Many gather to themselves burdens that the merciful Heavenly Father did not put on them, Duties He never designed for them to perform chase one another widely. God desires us to realize that we do not glorify His name when we take so many burdens that we are overtaxed, and, becoming heart-weary and brain-weary, chafe, and fret and scold. We are to bear only the responsibilities the Lord gives us, trusting in Him, and thus keeping our hearts pure and sweet and sympathetic."
As a teenager, my most rewarding summer activity was our senior youth camp in the North Carribean Conference. The daily "marching order" came from Messages to Young People, page 441. It is a favorite of mine. "The path to eternal life is steep and rugged, take no additional weights to retard your progress".
My prayer is that each of us will consider the journey of our conversion, and truly allow God to be our Guide and not to judge our usefulness by the number and weight of burdens we carry as we share our lives with our pastor husbands and others.