At the beginning of the month news reports starting rolling out about a pastor’s wife in Kansas that had gone missing. Her family and friends spent days and weeks desperately scrambling for any shred of information that could be discovered. Sadly, on August 19th, authorities found her in her car inside a shipping container in Arkansas. Her family sated she was on her way to a mental health treatment center and never made it.
This is a devastating story on so many levels but what I want to turn the attention to is the pressure placed on pastor’s wives.
I read in a Facebook post calling for prayer and support for the family this quote:
Pastors’ wives are quite often viewed as a one-sided commodity. We are expected to meet deep relational needs without those same people providing friendship back. Quite often, a pastor’s wife doesn’t have a single friend with whom she can be truly honest and transparent without fear of her words becoming a weapon to demonize her husbandClarissa Sidhom Facebook Page
I have never resonated with a comment more in my life. As Clarissa stated, I don’t say that to complain. This is a job that I have bought and paid cash for more than once but to say that this wasn’t the hardest thing I have ever done in my life would be the biggest lie I have ever told. And I have given birth three times.
Life in ministry is hard. They aren’t joking when the comment is made about living life in a fish bowl. Any number of people spend a lot of time watching what you and your family are doing. They are scruitinizing every decision you make and often times measuring them up against a standard that even the best of the Mother Thersea’s in the world can’t truly live up to. Some are expecting you to succeed because you must be closer to God and therefore have some secret direct line to all the blessings and successes. Others are waiting and watching for you to fail so they can be the first to say: “See I told you so.” before the dust even settles.
And then there are those who are just trying to make sense of the world around them and feel like perhaps the pastor and his family are the ones who are going to be the best place to see how to get it all figured out. I’ll be frank, it can be exhausting.
Expectations are everywhere. At any given time a pastor’s wife may be expected to lead a splendid, well prepared and theologically deep women’s Bible study at least weekly, teach or lead the children’s ministry department, manage the church kitchen, be involved in the music worship ministry, assist her husband with sermon preparation when needed, assist her husband with visits with congregation members, maintain a calm and peaceful household, raise wonderful constantly well behaved and well mannered children, and more than likely maintain a job outside of the home to bring in additional income to support the family because in general the work she is doing in the church is all on a voluntary basis while her husband is the one drawing the paycheck. All the while doing all of this with a smile on her face and love in her heart.
On top of all the physically taxing work that a pastor’s wife is expected to be doing there is also all the emotional work. She is expected to harbor close friendships with each member of the congregation. She bears their burdens, rejoices in their successes and anything else in between. All the while, she is longing to be able to deeply connect and share her hopes, fears, and insecurities with someone who will listen and love her for who she is rather than judge her or her husband for not being “Christian” enough.
Somewhere along the line this idea that a pastor and his wife live on some higher plane of existence where they are never allowed to have bad days, can’t get sad or depressed, and simply because they are called into the ministry, to lead others in their walks with Christ that they will no longer be the sinful individuals the once were. This could not be farther from the truth. In fact, it seems that their missteps and failures are magnified, the hurt and the pain is intensified, and the fear of judgement is real and raw and present like a weight being drug behind with ever step taken.
So today, my hope is that as you move into the weekend, if you are heading to church take some time to pray for your pastor’s wife. Take some time to see her, not for what she brings to the table, but for who she is as a person. Rejoice in the blessing that God has given by leading her to you church and your life. Be gentle and understanding that she, just like you, is only human trying to do the best she can with the life she has been given. And pray for her husband, not her pastor, but her husband that he would have the insight, strength, and tools he needs to lead and love her the way he is called to do in Ephesians 5.