Pastor's wives have a unique llifestyle; one that only other pastoral wives can understand. During the seven years I have been in ministry with my husband, I have often wished for advice and counsel from more experienced pastoral wives. Perhaps the thoughts and experiences I can share will help those wives new to the work. It is my hope that you will be strengthened and renewed, encouraged and revitalised, so you do not lose the zeal for the Lord's work that I know you now have.
Maree and her husband, Michael, have two Brianna and Madison. They enjoy the challenge and blessings of ministry. Man is heavily involved in her local congregation in Australia as music director and personal ministries leader. Her interests are music, singing, teaching, reading, writing, public presenting and friendship.
Quite often I have been asked how I cope with being a pastoral wife. This question doesn't just come from peers; it often comes from the laity, those we mix with every day; those who look up to us every Sabbath.
I used the term "look up to us" hesitantly, because, as I'm sure is the case with many of you, I find that entire concept still doesn't fit me like a comfortable mantle. I like to think we are moving past the need for our church members to place their pastoral family on a pedestal. After all, we know better than them how human we actually are and how our human failings should prohibit us to be held up in this way.
I had myself somewhat fooled about this concept until a few weeks ago. My husband-and I were making a hospital visit and we met up with a couple I vaguely knew from a country parish we have never cared for. This lovely lady has a daughter who is married to a minister and, therefore, I was sure she would understand the pressures her daughter must f.Sce as a pastoral wife—the expectation that she is expected to be the model wife and mother. The mother agreed with me that her daughter found it hard to he a 'single mum' at church and she found it hard to cope with the children alone during those times when her husband's working commitments kept him away from home for more hours than they wanted to think about; and that sometimes she was lonely for the compariy of another adult.
We discussed the fact that pastors' wives, just like all wives, make mistakes. Sometimes they yell at their kids, argue with their husbands, struggle to balance the budget and have the same trials as many women have. The mother agreed until I said pastoral wives don't like being put on pedestals. Her response left me speechless. She said, "Oh, but we need that pedestal. We still need to revere the pastor and his family!" Wow, talk about an instant dose of reality. She knew the trials her daughter was going through, yet she still thought the pastoral family should be held to a different standard.
It reminded me once again of my responsibility to show my church family my humanity. How many of us feel that we can only show perfection when we are at church? Those of us with children feel an added pressure to have our children well-behaved, model children. Is the pressure we put on ourselves even realistic? From experience, T know how these often-unrealistic expectations make our Sabbath day stressful. I have often told my husband that mothers with young children are the most spiritually undernourished church members. We don't have the advantage of being able to listen to a sermon in the blissful state of cuninterruptedness.
How many of you have had the unnerving experience of turning your attention away from one of your children for just a few seconds to supervise another, only to turn back and realise that child number one has just casually wandered up to the pulpit to spend some time with daddy? There have been times during our ministry—as I'm sure many of you can appreciate—when daddy has left to begin his Sabbath duties before the children were even awake. The first time the children see their daddy, he is in the pulpit. It is only natural for children to want to speak to their father. It is hard for them to understand they can look but not touch!
There have been times in our ministry when I wondered why God let me meet my theology-student husband and fall in love with him. The reality of being a pastor's wife can be unsettling. Though we have always believed (and still do) that God has called us to the ministry and we can make a difference, there is a heartbreaking side of being a pastoral wife.
The first time I had an elder approach me and tell me that I was a terrible parent and an inadequate wife, I was devastated. It took me a long time to recover from that blow. But I eventually realised that most of the time I am a great parent and wonderful wife! Still, his words left a scar.
During our second year of ministry, we were assigned to a new church. Upon our arrival, I told the members I was happy to be with them and looked forward to meeting them all. I told them my name was Maree, not just "the pastor's wife." Well, that comment caused me much grief. Certainly 1 had no problem being referred to as the pastor's wife; after all that's what I am, but I wanted to get the point across that I was also a somewhat separate entity to my pastor
husband. My inexperience certainly was made clear with that remark!
But think about it. Have you ever introduced someone as "the plumber's wife" or "the accountant's wife"? I certainly questioned "the pastor's wife" label. Then a tragedy in our church family put everything in perspective. A member's daughter had been murdered and my husband and I were at their home offering our support when some police detectives arrived. The mother (who is not a member) duly introduced us to the detectives as follows, "I would like you to meet our pastor, Michael, and this is our pastor's wife, Maree." The inflection she gave my title made it just that, a tide...a title of respect. In calling me the pastor's wife, she was crediting me with the same rule as my husband. She wanted to honour and respect my role in her life. In that moment of grief and tragedy many things became clear for me, and since then I have been honoured whenever I am introduced as "the pastor's wife." People don't introduce me as the pastor's wife to place me in a box but to honour who I am in their lives, just as they would introduce my husband as their pastor, Michael.
The other biggest obstacle I have had to overcome in my role as a pastor's wife is the loneliness, the many hours of time when my husband is not with rne. Most husbands and wives have evening time together, but our husbands are out working at night. During the first few months of ministry I really struggled with this, to the point where I cried out to God time and time again about how unfair it was. We had spent our college years surrounded by friends; our first church was located in a small country town full of strangers. Oh, I knew my husband was working for the Lord; I knew what he was doing was not only important, but necessary. Unfortunately that knowledge didn't make it easier to cope with my loneliness. After a few months of self-pity, I gave myself a pretty stern lecture.
I realised that I had two basic options. I could leave my husband (of course, this was not really an option) or I could get over my angst and learn to accept and live with the reality of pastoral life. A change in my attitude did not happen overnight. There were (and still are) times when T resented the hours my husband had to work. I am still sometimes saddened by the lack of time we have together, but now, with small children to demand my time, my hours of solitude in the evenings are wonderful. Those nights alone are "me" time. Today I cherish my solitude. I enjoy my evenings alone; they allow me time to relax or work without interruption. No longer do I sit around thinking that I should be allowed to have my husband with i le; instead I spend that time looking after and nurturing myself, doing the things that I want to do.
There are other advantages of being a pastor's wife. How many wives do you know who can have their husbands available during the morning hours? How many dads can sometimes help with car pooling? What about keeping an eye on the children during the day while you run an errand or take a piano lesson? Pastors can sometimes arrange their schedules to accommodate their wives. That's certainly a perk!
After seven years of ministry, I would have to say that being a pastor's wife is more joyful than not. There are more rewards than losses; more happiness than pain. Being part of a pastoral family is a blessing. We have a purpose; we have a mission. And, if we have to be on a pedestal high above everyone else, we may as well use the advantage of height and strive to be a lighthouse for the Lord!