I’m not really a “pastor’s wife.” At least I’ve never felt like one. I’m just a girl who fell in love with a boy who happens to be a pastor.
I’m normal. I fight with my husband. I yell at my two-year-old. My housekeeping is abysmal. I make mistakes all the time.
My husband the pastor? Yep, also a normal guy. He loves the Cardinals and a good burger and doing Hulk Hogan wrestling moves with our son. The NFL draft day is a holiday at our house.
I haven’t read the entire Bible. I’d like to, and I think it’s important, but I haven’t managed it yet. I just can’t get excited about Leviticus.
I go through droughts in my faith. I get mad at God, pray angry prayers, pray no prayers. My husband’s occupation definitely doesn’t make me a “better” Christian. My veins run with blood. I need grace all the time and to the max.
In a bizarre sort of way, being a pastor’s wife is sort of like being the First Lady. People watch you. People know what causes you champion and what your children’s names are and how you look in blue. They notice when you speak and they catch it when you screw up. You are revered and also critiqued. Everyone know who you are but most people don’t truly know you.
When Simon and I were dating and engaged he tried to explain to me what it might be like for me to be a pastor’s wife. I thought I understood. I mean, I was dating a pastor after all, and that was going okay. And I thought I could just opt out of being a “pastor’s wifey” kind of of pastor’s wife. I planned to break all the rules and be as boldly authentic as I desired, and everyone was just going to roll with it. Having not grown up in church, and certainly not in ministry, I didn’t have a concept for the whole pastor’s wife “thing” anyway, and I honestly I thought Simon was overblowing it. Different expectations for pastor’s wives? Life in a goldfish bowl? No way! That’s ridiculous. Maybe that’s how it is for other pastor’s wives, but it won’t be that way for me.
I was naive. My husband’s profession definitely affects me despite my insistence it wouldn’t. I don’t have control over how congregants view me. I didn’t write their stories and I don’t know what the pastor’s wife was like in their childhood church or the one they walked out of last week. There’s the woman who bites her lip and shuffles nervously because she’s terrified that I’m judging her. There’s the teenagers who roll their eyes at me because surely I can’t be cool, I’m a pastor’s wife. There’s the fellow mom who assumes I have it all together because pastor’s wives are superwomen (oh, how wrong you are, friend!).
Here’s the thing, and it sounds so dumb: if you’re married to a pastor, you’re a pastor’s wife. The privileges and joys, heartaches and trials, are universal.
I remember attending a women’s retreat when Simon and I were engaged. Someone I didn’t know well came up to me and exclaimed, “Oh you’re Simon’s fiance!” She didn’t mean any harm by it whatsoever; she was simply being friendly and relating to me via our mutual fondness for Simon. But behind my outward smile, my heart whispered an addendum: Wait…no…I’m Halley.
I’m my own person. I’m loud and goofy and passionate. I am fiercely competitive about board games. Tea, not coffee; dogs, not cats; red wine, not white. I love extravagant displays of affection. I tend to spill things daily. I think Heaven will feel like Game 6 of the 2011 World Series (my apologies to any Rangers fans reading this).
Since my wedding day I have had several awakenings to the tune of “OH…so this is what it means to be a pastor’s wife.” And then I think I know what this journey is all about. And then some more time passes, and more experiences rise up to greet us, and then I say, “Oh, NOW I’ve got it! I thought I understood before, but now I’ve got this!”
The truth is I’m always going to be figuring this out. There is so much I don’t know. I hope that’s okay.
Here’s a bit of what I do know: being a pastor’s wife is not glamorous. It is easy to gain acquaintances and hard to make friends. Very few people can understand what it’s like; it really takes another pastor’s wife. Only she can feel the depth and the weight of the sentence, “Sometimes I just wish he worked for a bank or something!” Ministry is difficult. It’s hard when you have a “call” and it’s hard when you’re looking for one too. It’s walking with broken people while you yourself are broken. That’s the job description. It’s messy. Sometimes it hurts.
But then. But then it’s also glorious. It’s also beautiful. Because being a pastor’s wife also means that I get a front row seat to watch my husband use his gifts to love people and to see them and to value them. It means that I get to partner with him and be a huge part of this noble work. It means I can’t do this life on my own strength, which is a very good thing, because a life dependent on Jesus is life to the full. Being a pastor’s wife is a very practical opportunity to put others before myself. To crucify my own selfishness and bitterness. To witness God’s miracles, starting in my own heart.
I will say again what I said before: If you’re married to a pastor, you’re a pastor’s wife.
In spite of everything, my pushback on the stereotypes, my resistance to “be one of them,” my worry that I am woefully unequipped, my struggle to believe we’re on the right road when things don’t make sense — this is still what the Lord has called me to. It hasn’t been anything like what I anticipated, but thank goodness I’m not the one writing the script. I am a pastor’s wife. It doesn’t matter what church we’re serving in, or if we’re serving in a church at all. My objective is unchanging. It’s finally dawning on me that my task, more than anything, is to love my husband. Pray for him (instead of just telling him I will). Make it a habit to encourage him. Speak well of him always. Just be there to listen to him, walk with him, learn from him, laugh with him, believe in him. Just be his wife! That I can do. That’s where it has to start.