True Confessions of a Pastor's Wife
I carry their stories with me like heavy suitcases.
One girl stood in front us at the True Woman Teen Track and wept over the loneliness she felt as a pastor’s daughter. Like many pastors’ kids, “PK” had become a label that simultaneously defined her and created confusion in her heart about her true identity.
Another woman emailed me about the extreme isolation she feels as a pastor’s wife. No one knows the real her. She resents her husband’s ministry and God for calling him to it. Who can she tell that to? Certainly not her pastor husband.
Another woman confessed through tears that she feels like a circus exhibit in her own church. No one takes the time to know the real her. They’re too busy criticizing her hair, her clothes, and her parenting style.
I’ve cried those same tears.
My husband has been in full-time ministry our entire marriage, first as a youth pastor and now in parachurch ministry. I know all about unrealistic expectations, excess criticism, and the identity crisis that being a family in ministry can cause.
Today, I want to write specifically to those of you with husbands or fathers in the ministry. I know that many of you who are reading this blog today aren’t pastors’ wives or pastors’ children, but would you mind sticking with us? The pastors’ families in your church need encouragement. Trust me. Perhaps the Lord can use this post to better equip you to love them well.
Ministry Is Messy
Right after college, I married my high school sweetheart. We were immediately thrown into full-time student ministry together in the church where my husband served as youth pastor. Church became a huge part of our lives. In fact, church became the biggest part of our lives. Sounds great, right? It wasn't.
In fact, it was very, very painful.
Ministry is messy. Relationships are even messier. Conflicts with fellow church members left me feeling deeply wounded and disillusioned. My husband was at the church working—a lot. It seemed that he was always gone in the name of ministry. I missed him. I was a new wife who wanted more time with her husband. And I blamed the church for the fact that we couldn't spend every night and weekend together in our new nest.
It wasn't long before a bitter root started to burrow in my heart. I started to resent the church. I resented our pastor. I resented the ministry I knew we were called to do. That bitterness and resentment soon turned into a critical spirit. Before long, I disliked everything about our church. The worship started to get on my nerves. The sermons all sounded the same. My fellow church members felt more like enemies than my brothers and sisters in Christ.
But our church wasn't the problem. I was the problem. I needed God to do a new thing in my heart. I needed Him to give me His vision for the Church. I needed to love her like He loves her. I needed God to help me see the people in my pews as brothers and sisters and co-laborers for God’s glory instead of my enemies.
That's exactly what He did.
A Change of Heart
Today, my husband is still in ministry. He's still gone a lot. Those circumstances haven’t changed. In a surprising turn of events (surprising to me, anyway!), I am now on staff at our church. We still have occasional conflicts with church members that can be disappointing and painful. But they no longer catapult me toward a spiral of bitterness, doubt, and resentment. Ministry is still messy, but by God’s grace, my feelings about the Church have totally changed.
I don't hate the Church. I don't even dislike the Church. I love the Church. Church didn't change, but my heart certainly has.
Why am I telling you this?
Because some of you are where I once was. The expectations that others have placed on you have become a burden that feels too heavy to bear. This isn’t what you signed up for.
I know you’ve faced unrealistic expectations, unfair standards, and harsh criticism. Why? Because you are worshiping alongside imperfect people. This is why we need Jesus so much! It is why the work your family is doing within the Church is so critical!
For the longest time, I just wanted the members of my church to see me as a human being, not a super-spiritual, superhuman woman capable of living the Christian life without mistakes. My heart started to change when I realized that the people in my church who were causing me grief deserved the same measure of grace. They’re human, too. God is still working in their hearts. They need His redemptive work in their words and relationships just as much as I do.
And you know what else? They are not my responsibility. God has called me to submit my own tongue, my own actions, and my own heart to His Lordship. For me, that included letting Him show me how to fall in love with His Bride (even when she doesn’t behave perfectly).
Will you let God do a work in you? Will you let Him present the Church—His Bride—to you as He sees her, pure and blameless? Will you exchange your resentment for Jesus’ love for the Church?
By Erin Davis