Yes, you read it right. In misery. Because of you.
“That’s horrible!” you say. “I’m not that kind of wife. Marriage is about making each other happy!” Which is true. But what about when you don’t like what your husband does for a living? And what about when that job is his call from God?
Some of you are reading this and starting to mumble to yourself already. You know you can’t stand the fact that you’ve been “forced” into the role of being a pastor’s wife. You despise the pressure. You’re terrified by the demands. You loathe the fact that your husband is always on call. You’d be thrilled if he came home one day and announced that he was changing careers to something—anything—else.
Some of you can’t relate to all that angst and frustration. You don’t mind your husband being a pastor. Sure, the hours can be frustrating when he gets phone calls or visitors early in the morning or late at night. And yes, it isn’t fun sitting alone in church (when you actually go). But mostly, his life of ministry doesn’t affect you much. You do your thing, and he does his. And ministry is definitely his thing, not yours.
Or maybe you’re reading this and sitting a tiny bit straighter in your seat with a little sanctified pride. You’re not like those other ministry wives! You just love being the pastor’s wife. You like the influence it gives you. You’re friendly to everyone at church, involved in several ministries, and lots of people come to you for advice. You’re so proud of your husband in the pulpit that you could just burst. And you have lots of ideas about how he should do his job, too. In fact, sometimes you think to yourself that you could do his job just as well—or maybe even better. And maybe you could. But (without launching into a discussion about whether you should be the pastor) the fact is that you’re not. He is. And he can sense when you think you’re better than he is.
I used to insist that I’d never marry a pastor. Most of the theology students I knew were lazy, egotistical, or fanatical, and some were a blend of all three. Then I met my husband, and God tweaked my perspective. But I’ll freely admit various moments when I’ve met all three of the above descriptions.
However, none of those attitudes leads to a happy home or a satisfied marriage. And they definitely don’t foster a successful ministry. Powerful pastors come from peaceful homes, where they know that they are loved and supported by the most valuable person in their lives—their spouse. When life at home is harmonious, your pastor-husband is free to focus his energy on his calling.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean that you should be a doormat. I definitely don’t mean that you should avoid communicating about problems just to keep the peace. And I absolutely don’t mean that you should pretend to be someone you’re not.
I am saying that if you’re not supportive of your husband’s calling, it’s going to have negative effects on your home life. Your children will pick up on the tension, and it can have a lifelong, damaging impact on their views of marriage and ministry. Your husband may work longer and longer hours because he’s not getting support and admiration and peace at home. And your feelings are likely to keep going in a desperate cycle of frustration because your heart just isn’t in it.
I am saying that if you see ministry as “his job” and not yours, the disconnect will eventually cause cracks in the foundation of your relationship. Your church members can sense when you aren’t interested in them. When your husband consistently shows up alone to church activities, they start to wonder if everything is okay in the pastor’s marriage. Besides, every member—even the pastor’s wife—is called to be a minister according to his or her gifts. You aren’t exempt from the basic expectations of service, participation, and ministry that God wants from everyone else in the church body. Yes, being the pastor is your husband’s job, but you’re a member of the body, too.
I am saying that if you think you could do a better job than your husband, be careful to avoid letting other people in on the secret. Listen to yourself and make sure that when you offer advice, it sounds supportive, not like second-guessing. Just because he handles situations differently than you think he should doesn’t mean he’s doing it wrong. People can tell when you don’t trust his judgment. And sadly, some will use that against him.
Any of these attitudes can wreak havoc with your husband’s confidence in his ability to fulfill his calling. His courage can be undermined by a spirit of competition just as much as by your irritated frustration at the demands of his job.
Life as a pastor’s wife is personally invasive. You already know that. You share your husband with dozens (or hundreds) of other people who often feel that their claim to him is just as valid as yours. You can choose either to embrace the reality of his calling or to make his existence a living hell. And no godly man wants to face the choice between making his wife happy and rejecting the call of God.
So, as the pastor’s wife, you’ve got a choice to make. You can indulge in resentment or do your part to make home a happy place. You’ve got the power to make the pastor eager to get home or to make him wish his visitation would last longer so he can delay his return.
He’s your warrior. You’re his cheerleader. And no, I’m not being sexist. It’s just the plain facts. Your attitude gives him the courage to live out his divine calling. Or not.
If you’re not on board with your husband’s calling, you need to be prepared for the inevitable results. And if you want home to be peaceful, if you want home to be a place your husband can’t wait to get back to so he can see you, you might want to pray about a change of heart.
Tips for Discovering—And Embracing—Your Calling As a Pastor's Wife:
- Prayer. Pray alone. Ask God to transform your heart. Ask Him to give you new eyes to see His purpose for you in this role. Pray together with your husband also. Ask God to bring you closer together so that you can serve Him better as a team than either of you could serve Him alone.
- Study. Ask God what He is asking you to do. Just for a moment, disregard the expectations of those around you and seek to discover God’s idea for your purpose. Spend time directly in God’s Word and ask for guidance while you study.
- Explore. Find an avenue of ministry that you love so that you have something to do for God that is your own. If you don’t love music, maybe you can work with kids. If that’s not your calling, maybe you can help with communication or event planning. Somewhere, there’s a ministry role that you’ll both enjoy and be good at—you just have to find it.