We are all familiar with the anecdote, which is more illustrative than real, of the blind men who, having touched different parts of an elephant, gave a completely different description of the animal's anatomy.
After touching a tusk, one of the men said that it was a sharp-pointed horn, a long exposed skinless bone. Touching the trunk, another one said it was fleshy tube similar to a fattened serpent, with the ability to vacuum and sprinkle at the same time. The third man, after touching one of the legs, even dared to describe it as a wide and solid column, which no one would like it, if it fell on top of him.
As we can observe, all of them are right; the only problem is that they are only partially right. None of them was fortunate enough to see the complete picture. The elephant was tusks and trunk, but it was also feet, legs and tail; it was also head and very large ears, but above all, a huge body. It was therefore a "complete elephant".
Sometimes our perception of what a pastor's wife is, or what her function is, depends upon the part of the elephant we want to emphasize, or of the part that a blind, a one-eyed, and sometimes a cross-eyed person wants to tell us. Perhaps the example of a virtuous pastor's wife, whose performance has been extolled due to the circumstances, is the origin of an over idealistic stereotype which some want to use as a measure for all others. Perhaps the need of a certain congregation has allowed a particular pastor's wife to grow in certain areas, thus turning her into a model from then onward, and throughout the ages. Or perhaps the perfectionist mind of an expert in descriptions conceived what, in his opinion, constitutes the "epitome" of the pastor's wife and, as in the case of the fashion from Paris, this soon becomes law. Whatever the case, the elephant continues to be comprised of many parts, and curiously enough, elephants differ from each other. To begin with, it would be necessary to differentiate between the Asian elephant and the African elephant. There are large and there are small elephants; there are tame and there are aggressive elephants. There are grey and there are brown elephants; and some even say that there are also white elephants.
The truth is that it is difficult to characterize the profile of a pastor's wife, and to do her justice it would be necessary to make an exhaustive and detailed description of the entire elephant. My question is, has anyone taken the time to describe in the same way, not only the companion elephant, but the elephant himself? In other words, there are those who are more concerned about defining the ideal qualities of the pastor's wife than the pastors themselves. And in part this is due to the fact that the pastor received instruction and training from the theological seminary and other instruments, and that takes care of that. But not so with his wife.
In any case, it would be helpful to clarify what is essential in the concept of what an elephant is, and what is accessory, what is vital and what is secondary.
It is said that Aristotle is less responsible for what is believed to be Aristotelic than what people think (particularly in matters of art and literature). It is well known, that, Aristotle took on the task of defining limits and structurally organizing many of the concepts relative to a wide scope of humanistic subjects. His description of this and the other branch later became "prescriptions" in the minds of many people. For example, if at one point he would describe the drama play as comprised of three units (because that was what he observed), throughout the centuries, his fervent admirers would say that Aristotle prescribed that the drama play should consist of three units, and woe be to the person who would dare to disobey that mandate.
This may seem childish, but very often this is the case. The beautiful descriptions of what a pastor's wife ought to be have sometimes become "prescription". And who can tolerate any prescription other than what God Himself has placed upon her?
I don't believe there is any better authority than the Bible to "prescribe" what is needed in every case. And what is needed is well summarized in the law and in the gospel. Curiously, in regard to the general expectations, the gospel is no "respecter of person". Yes, the Bible sometimes advises and exhorts in more specific terms, about specific circumstances, but in each case the exhortations are generally based upon principles.
The ideal pastor's wife should simply be a normal Christian wife, according to the circumstances of her case and under the direction of the Holy Spirit. Does the pastor's wife in many instances need the advice of others, especially of the experts in this area? Certainly she needs it. Can her work be made easier and become broader in scope if she gets the necessary instruction? Of course this is possible. Does she struggle with her own deficiencies and need encouragement and comfort and a guideline to motivate her to reach new heights? Certainly she does.
The pastor's wife needs all these and much more. The only thing that she probably does not need is the negative criticism of her church, or probably of her peers, and even less the criticism of her own spouse. She should welcome and take advantage of any instrument that is useful for her to expand her positive influence, to encourage her in her career, and to endow her with new abilities, but she should never think that there is only one model "elephant", or that the elephant is only this part or that part. Much less should others prescribe for her the list of specifications so that she can be an elephant in the full sense of the word, including those accessories that not even God has intended, such as perhaps beautiful harnesses, training which will permit her to perform beautiful ballet steps, and even a pair of wings to transform her into "Dumbo".
There are times when the Bible mentions ideal characteristics and it would be worthwhile to point out its description of the virtuous woman in Proverbs; an ideal that is not too far from that of so many dedicated pastors' wives. However, take note of the absence of an imperative, except as it exhorts others to praise her. It never says she must rise up early and that she has to acquire for her family double warm clothing for winter. The elaborate praise is more a description than a prescription.
I would be very pleased if at some time, perhaps after I win the Noble Prize for being a Pastor's Wife, if in the speech, when I am awarded the prize, they would say: "Gloria Castrejon is the most beautiful and elegant of all the pastors' wives: Gloria Castrejon is the perfect and most refined hostess, and she perfectly follows the rules of etiquette according to world-wide consensus. Gloria Castrejon is the most accomplished pianist and she has the hest-pitched soprano voice in the whole universe." Unfortunately, my ears will never hear such melodious notes. First of all, because there is no Noble Prize for the Pastor's Wife and secondly, because the descriptive speech about my qualifications would never include those dimensions. I am not sure what virtues or pseudo virtues would be included in that supposed description, but I am glad that in any case it would only be a description. Just imagine how tragic it would be if it were a prescription and I would have to comply with a list of those unattainable virtues. I would have to resign today from the intent of aspiring to be even a good candidate for a pastor's wife.
But I would hope that, the supposed descriptive list would include a sincere desire to serve God, my family and my husband in particular, my church and anyone who Providence allows me to serve; to have genuine faith both in the promises of God as well as in His designs; to have such a relationship with God that fills me with joy and assurance and leads me step by step on the way; an attentive ear to His suggestions and invitations of love, and any other talent which in His mercy, and in harmony with the task commended to both of us, as a ministerial couple, He wants to assign me. I would not like to carry and develop anything foreign to the image of an "elephant" and confuse some with more than one trunk or perhaps lacking one of its tusks, I want to be a "good elephant" in the full sense of the word. However, I want to be "an elephant" of the color, measurement and other characteristics that God gives me. In other words, an elephant that is very sui generis, so that my praise to God, through my performance as a pastor's wife, can "rise to heaven with the seal of its own individuality".