First of all, I am speaking today from the position of a woman whose husband was formerly a pastor...we are not currently pastoring a church...but my years of experience in this position uniquely qualify me to write this particular blog. However, the thoughts shared here could also apply to any couple, whether in the ministry or not.
Throughout the years I'm certain we've all seen examples of pastors who had to leave the ministry because of their own mistakes or personal issues. However, perhaps less often, pastors have had to leave the ministry due to the indiscretions or behavior of their wives. Maybe it's not even a great big immoral sin...but just a case of a wife who couldn't make it in the "fishbowl" kind of world where ministers and their families have to live. Perhaps her attitude changed over the years...maybe she became unreasonably selfish with her husband's time and placed impossible demands on him. She may have refused to participate in the activities of the church because she didn't like the people or the community, or some other facet of the ministry. Possibly she just plain rebelled against the restrictions placed on her "freedom to be me" philosophy of life. It might be that she could no longer submit herself to the authority of her husband, and ultimately, to God.
Please don't misunderstand me. I am not standing in judgment of any pastor's wife who couldn't take the stress of the ministry. I know what that's like. I've been there too. Let's face it, next to being the "First Lady" of the United States or other public figure, I know of no more difficult position for a woman than to be a minister's wife! But that's not to say it is an IMPOSSIBLE position! For we know that "with God all things are possible." (Matthew 19:26b.)
What I'm talking about is guarding our hearts against developing attitudes of rebellion and unwillingness to serve. It's so easy to fall into that trap. We are only human, after all. And our feelings get hurt, we get tired of all the meetings and "command performances", we get physically ill and have a difficult time recovering because we've just had enough. There were many times when I found that happening inside of me, and I knew it was time to withdraw awhile from the "maddening crowd" and get alone with God. Even Jesus had to withdraw from the multitudes and pull away to pray and talk to His Father and find some time to rest. If we are to guard ourselves (and our husbands) from getting "burned out", we must take the time to get away periodically and just do nothing but whatever we find restful and relaxing. We need to have peace and serenity...away from the cell phone, computer, television, and hectic pace.
Maybe that can be accomplished by just taking a nice long country ride...we always try to do that at least once a week. We find that it is easier to communicate while driving along a country road away from everything as opposed to sitting across the table from each other in a noisy restaurant. (But we do enjoy going out to eat also...wifey's night out away from the kitchen). We also try to have quiet times alone as well. My husband seems to sense when I really need to curl up in a chair by the fire (when we had a fireplace) and read a good book...or take a nap. He may even bring me a cup of hot tea to make the setting complete. The whole idea here is this: take time out to rest, recuperate, and "recreate" whenever possible...and make a point to make it possible. If more pastors and their wives would schedule in some quiet time into their busy schedules, there would be less opportunity or reason for any wife to become a shame to her husband (and vice versa). She would stand a better chance of being that "crown" of her husband instead.
So: Maybe you aren't a "Preacher's Wife", but I'll bet you know one or two. Perhaps you could also help "lighten" her load by offering to do something special for her...babysit so she can get away for a day with her husband, or invite her out to lunch with the girls...or a fun shopping day. Surprise her with a gift card to her favorite tea room or bookstore. Take her a pot of mums to plant for fall...or a basket of fresh apples from the orchard if you happen to live near one. Be creative...think about the fact that oftentimes your pastor's wife may be lonely...even though she is always surrounded by people. Be a true friend to her...don't assume she "has it all together" just because she's a pastor's wife. But whatever you do, allow her to be herself...and hold her confidence no matter what. From one who knows...becoming a true friend is one of the most rare and treasured gifts you could ever give her. Think about that...and hug your Pastor's Wife the next time you see her. You'll be blessed for blessing her...I guarantee it! Oh, and one more thing: Pray for your pastor's wife daily! You do not know what burdens she may be carrying on her heart that she cannot share with you or others. If you don't do anything else, please pray for her!
(I wrote this prayer a long time ago, while still serving in the ministry, but it still fits today:) Thank you, Lord, for these thoughts today. I've just come through another very hectic week of work and extra stress from outside pressures. Help me, Lord, to have the strength to keep going, and the time to stop and rest before I get too far-gone. I am reminded of your words in Matthew 11:28-30:
"Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For, My yoke is easy and My burden is light."
Therefore, I come to you now, Lord. Thank you for bearing my burdens, and helping me to rest in You. Forgive me when my attitude shows the signs of strain...help me to keep my heart tuned into You. Amen.