Pastors' wives are like any other group of church women. They do not fit into stereotypes. They are individuals not super-saints. They do not long to be on every committee or tackle every job in the church. They do not feel called by God to minister to every need. Their temperaments and talents vary widely. I have had the privilege of getting to know a number of them myself and learned a lot from them. Perhaps their experiences might help wives of new pastors in realizing they are not alone in encountering problems.
This woman seemed to epitomize Romans 12:13: "Given to hospitality." Bernice embodied the graciousness of being a perfect hostess. Despite rearing seven children, she always had time to talk with rne, a mother of small children myself at the time I knew her.
Picking up on the fact that I longed for her undivided attention, she would invite me, "Sit down and we will talk over hot chocolate." Then she would fold her hands as if she had all the time in the world and look at me while I shared my problems with her.
Bernice always comforted me with her understanding heart and gentle words. Never did she give the impression that I was disturbing her. Yet I know she obviously had a lot of chores waiting for her with her large family and church work.
All things to all people
A young woman with four small children, one of whom had a severe medical problem, Julie still tried to be all things to all people in her husband's congregation. She taught a Bible school class, played the piano for worship services, led the women's fellowship group, and a group for teenagers. She just couldn't say no, or at least she thought she ought not to.
After several months of non-stop activity, Julie began to lose weight and looked pale. When anyone inquired as to how she was feeling though, Julie would respond, 'Tine, just fine," with a wide smile. Then one day she collapsed and ended up in the hospital. A cry perceptive physician informed Julie's husband that she was worn out physically and on the verge of a breakdown.
Julie's husband announced a special congregational meeting and told everyone about the doctor's diagnosis. He went on to say, "When you called me to be your pastor, you hired me. I should have realized that my wife was not part of the package.
From now on, she will be a full-time wife and mother, and we will entertain visiting missionaries and speakers in the parsonages as before. However, Julie is relinquishing her many positions in the church indefinitely."
The congregation took the news with good nature, for they had realized that Julie had been over doing it. Julie herself felt she was letting down her husband and the congregation, but she soon found out otherwise. The church members began to rally around and offered to babysit, bring in meals, and generally be more supportive. They also took up the slack by taking over her church duties. Julie had learned that she could be a receiver, too, not always a giver.
This woman has had to cope with the criticism, complaints, and questions of the members of her husband's church. Lois is a sensitive person who soon learned to put on an invisible shield of armor to protect her feelings. One parishioner in particular was her constant critic. This woman would tell Lois that her clothing was too drab or too bright, her skirts too short or too long, etc., ad infinitum.
Then one day Mrs. Critical's husband died. Lois took care of the woman's children, cleaned her house, took her meals, and generally made herself very helpful at this time of tragedy. Mrs. Critical later turned into Mrs. Nice and they ended up having a marvelous rapport. So Lois' longsuffering won out in the end.
Gwen sought advice from an elderly minister's widow in her home congregation a few weeks before marrying her preacher-husband. The only bit of advice she was given, though, was "Love the people."
In an attempt to incorporate this prescription into her life, Gwen expressed it in some unusual ways. Instead of sitting in the same pew each Sunday, she would intentionally sit down in a pew with a different person each week and thus get to know them. She also introduced herself to visitors and made them feel welcome.
When her children's behavior was criticized, she would respond,
"Thank you for pointing this out to me," but she would not get angry at the person.
Gwen learned the names of all the little children in the church and talked to them often, especially those who came to church without their parents.
When Gwen was told personal family problems, she made it a point to file them in a far recess of her mind where they would not be repeated. All in all, Gwen epitomized the prescription of love in all her words and actions.
Being a pastor's wife is far from easy. I have had the privilege of knowing a number of them in my lifetime and loved and prayed for all of them.
The main thing that seemed to epitomize all of them is the same prescription Gwen was given—love. "Love suffereth long and is kind" (1 Cor. 13:4).