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Pastors' Wives--The First Lady

A few years ago this sweet, sweet girl came to our church to share how God had taken her from being homeless and living in a car during high school to earning a full-ride scholarship to Butler University. I had heard wonderful things about her and couldn’t wait to meet her. That morning as I tapped her on the shoulder and introduced myself, she grabbed both of my hands and exclaimed, “Oh, you’re the First Lady!!” Excuse me, but …WHAT..?

I think that’s actually how I responded. She then explained to me that at her church this is how they refer to the pastor’s wife. Now that may be normal for you at your church, but I was pretty freaked out about it. That felt like a lot of pressure to have to live up to.

That sweet girl has since gone on to graduate from Butler, get married, have a beautiful baby and is now working hard to make a difference in the world. In those same years, I have since learned that there is much more truth to her words than I think she ever intended.

If you really stop and think about it, there are not that many careers that a man can have in which his career itself creates expectations of his wife by outsiders.

For instance, we have several police officers and firemen within our church. Those are wonderful, serving careers. They are also very difficult and emotionally heavy careers, much like the ministry. But no one really gives a rip what their wives wear, who they speak to, or how involved in their husband's careers that they are. The officer or fireman himself is not judged in any way, shape or form, to my knowledge, on the appearance or behavior of his wife. He is judged solely on his own merit. (Okay, her behaving illegally or unethically would most likely cause judgment, but basic daily living would not.)

It's not that way in ministry though. In fact, Ryan was once told that he did not get hired as a Senior Minister because his wife was "not what we are looking for in a Senior Minister's wife." Oddly enough, when he became a Senior Minister, he was told that his wife "was a big part of what made him be the person chosen for the position." So which is it? Am I an asset or a liability? And who exactly thinks which way?

It's that feeling of being either too much or not enough and wondering which one could hurt my family that sometimes shackles me with fear. It's that feeling that who I am simply as a person is somehow always wrong. And you know what? I AM too much. And I AM not enough. I AM an asset. But I AM also a liability. And at all times I AM always wrong to someone.


…this also means that I am RIGHT to someone else. When some think I’m being too funny, I may be the laugh that someone else so desperately needed that day. When how I spend my time is not where some think I should be spending it, it is exactly where someone else needs to watch me spend it. When I’m not at the Women’s Ministry function that some think I should be at in order to go to my daughter’s athletic event, the broken woman sitting next to me on the bleachers sharing her heartache thinks that I am exactly where I need to be right then. Get the idea?

Do you know who else lives this type of life? THE FIRST LADY!! Isn’t that funny? Regardless of which presidents you like or don’t like throughout history, it is a fact that most of their wives have also experienced much throwing around of opinions about them as well. And yet, it was not HER who was elected.

Sometimes in ministry-life it just “is what it is” as I often say. Not to sound flippant or callous, but the reality is that there ARE going to be parts of life as a pastor’s wife that we don’t like, but they simply go with the territory. How we handle them however, is going to be up to us.

I think this is why I love the story of Joseph so much (Genesis 37-50), and you’ll hear me speak a lot about him in the future. At each new hardship we watch Joseph face, he doesn’t whine and strike out at God. Rather we always see him move forward with an “it is what it is” attitude.

Now I’ll be the first to admit that I am not nearly as good of a person as Joseph was, so my prayer is that “as iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17 NIV), and that we can encourage one another in ministry to gracefully handle the times when really all that we can say is…”it is what it is.”


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