(Originally posted on Sister, Daughter, Mother, Wife on June 2, 2017)
I know, I know. You’ve read it all before. You get it. Pastors’ wives are sick of living in a fishbowl. They don’t want to be compared to the former pastor’s wife. They’re tired of the expectation that they’ll do everything from leading VBS to starting a women’s Bible study to doing secretarial work for free. They hate the stereotype that their children must be perfectly behaved or know all the answers in Sunday school. You know all these things. You’ve seen other blog posts to that effect. And it’s a good and helpful thing when congregations realize this. But honestly, too many articles of that nature makes us PWs seem sort of…well, resentful. So please allow me to share a few other things I’d like parishioners to know that may help you understand your pastor’s wife (and your pastor) better.
1. My hubby doesn’t share your information with me
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a parishioner approach me and launch into an update or a continuation of a conversation to which I’m not privy. If my husband visits you or meets with you privately, he doesn’t come home and tell me all the juicy details. This is a good thing. The pastor-parishioner relationship is supposed to be confidential, and my husband honors that. So do I. Even if something is common knowledge–like a hospital stay, for example–that doesn’t mean my husband automatically fills me in on your status, unless you specifically ask him to. So please take a moment to bring me up to date if you’d like to talk to me about something. But rest assured, anything you confide in your pastor stays with him.
2. I need your patience
I’m not a lifelong member of this church, and it takes me awhile to learn everyone’s name. I don’t mean to offend you if I can’t remember your name right away. I really am trying. And there’s no way I can remember who’s related to whom and how everyone is related. The best way for me to learn these things is family events such as weddings and confirmation dinners, but even so, it takes me some time to get it all straight in my head. The same holds true for the history of the church and your own past. Even if something tragic happened before we came, like a car accident that claimed the life of your spouse, I have no way of knowing that unless someone tells me. So if I accidentally step on your toes by asking a calloused question, forgive me. I don’t intend to. I really am doing my best to learn.
3. I don’t have a pastor
This gets sticky. Technically, yes, my husband is my pastor, but first and foremost he is my husband. I don’t have the same type of relationship with my pastor that you have with yours. He treats my theological questions differently than he treats questions from other parishioners. I can’t confide in him as you confide in him. I can’t go to him for marital advice, for example. And trust me, there are times when we could use some help with our marriage. He and I are both sinners and our marriage is far from perfect. There may be Sundays where I’m mad at him and not particularly happy to be listening to him preach. There are even times when I begrudge his calling as pastor. People joke that a pastor’s mistress is the church, but sometimes that hits too close to home. So this may sound like a strange request, but please pray for our family. Pray for your pastor, yes. Pray that he is bold in preaching God’s Word in its truth and purity. But pray also for his family–his marriage and his relationship with his children.
4. I’m no holier than any of you–and neither is my husband
Both my husband and I struggle with the same sins you do. We struggle with selfishness. We argue at home. We bear grudges. If you complain to me about my husband, I’m not likely to forget your comment. Same with my husband. Just because we’re a pastor’s family doesn’t mean we know how to “turn the other cheek” or that we always put the best construction on things. We need God’s mercy and forgiveness just as much as everyone else. Please don’t put us on a pedestal or hold us up as a model in the church or community. We don’t deserve that honor. Instead, let’s all keep our eyes focused upon Jesus.
5. I’m honored that you consider me a part of your family
From the very beginning in most congregations, a pastor and his family are automatically accepted not only as part of your church family, but as part of your family family. We have been invited to family reunions, weddings, confirmation and graduation parties, Christmas and Easter dinners, and much more. In every instance, we aren’t related by blood to anyone else, yet no one ever questions why we’re there. “This is our pastor’s family,” someone says, and that’s enough to explain our presence. I cannot even tell you what an honor this is. We’re far away from our own families, so being included in yours is humbling and touching. I understand that we are transitory. In the history of your parish, there have been pastors before us and there will be pastors after us. But for this moment in history, you welcome us with open arms, no matter how brief or long our stay among you may be. Thank you for this honor and privilege.
Being a pastor’s wife is a unique vocation, and each pastor’s wife is unique as well. But all of us–pastor’s wife and parishioner alike–are sinners saved by God’s abundant grace. Let us rejoice in that grace together.