When I married my husband, I knew I was also marrying my pastor for life. While others might get to go “church shopping,” I was already committed to the church that would one day hire him. We chose Ruth’s famous promise to her mother-in-law as our wedding verse: “Where you go, I will go. Where you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God, my God” (Ruth 1:16). As a future pastor’s wife, I might have added: “Your job will be my job.”
Over the past seven years, I’ve spent three years working and four staying home, but regardless we have always planned our family life around church events. My job each week is to flex our schedule to accommodate my husband’s meetings and discipleship opportunities. We genuinely enjoy the people we go to church with, so we make it a priority to have people over for casual dinners and game nights. I am reminded often of Paul’s words to the Thessalonians: “Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God, but our lives as well” (1 Thessalonians 2:8). We’ve agreed that this is our priority, but it can be challenging each week to share our lives. Some days it is hard to tell where our church ends and our family life begins.
While the expectations of a pastor’s wife may have been cookie-cutter clear a generation or two ago, the role of pastor’s wife has become almost as varied as the women who fill it. I still hear of pastor’s wives who accompany worship and host the after-church meal every week, but just as often I meet women who are pursuing their own careers.
While this lack of definitions can be freeing, it can also leave us second-guessing ourselves. Sometimes it seems it might be easier to be a pastor’s wife if the rules were clear and if everyone just had the same expectations. Instead, we can only thrive in this role, as in all other areas of our life, when we recognize that we live by grace alone. Instead of following rules, we follow an example. We need godly examples in order to fill our roles well.
There is no better way to live out our freedom in grace than to follow the example of others. We can learn from more experienced pastor’s wives, following those who are following Christ already (1 Cor. 11:1). Even though we all have access to the same words of Scripture, it can help us to see how others have put the wisdom of the word into practice. We can also stir one another up by way of reminder (2 Peter 1:13). None of us can keep every important lesson at the front of our minds at all times, so we must constantly remind one another (and have the humility to accept those reminders!) Pastor’s wives who have grown weary and cynical can benefit from the fresh enthusiasm of those just starting out. Those just starting out can be prevented from burnout or defeat by hearing from women with long records of faithful service.
This series is meant to offer pastor’s wives a chance to share wisdom from the lessons they’ve learned. Perhaps one of our sisters in Christ has already walked the road you’ve just discovered yourself walking. My prayer is that pastor’s wives will share the wisdom they’ve gained from experience and the comfort they’ve received from the Lord. My other hope is that we might enjoy the camaraderie that develops when we recognize we are not alone. By getting into the practicalities of what makes our family lives work, we can offer one another a vision for how to walk in grace.
What we’ve learned, we can offer as a gift. What we’ve discovered by trial and error, we can pass along so another woman will not have to make the same mistakes. What we’ve learned from examples in our lives, we can share with other women who may lack godly mentorship at this point in their lives. My prayer is that each woman who writes for and who reads this series will be filled up with encouragement that will help us continue to pour out “our lives as well.”