“I want to be a Pastor’s Wife when I grow up!”
This is exactly NOT what I said as a little girl. Or as a teenager. Or as a college attendee. Or a full grown married adult. I didn’t even choose to be a Pastor’s Wife. Would you like to know why?
Because “Pastor’s Wife” is not a career.
Why it’s even a thing straight up baffles me. Yeah, so I married a guy who turned out to be a Pastor. Does this automatically assign me into this phantom career? Because if I’m expected to do things or be a certain way because of this involuntary title, I’d like to know who is paying my salary. And don’t be a smarty pants and say “God”!
I have been referred to as ‘The First Lady’.
I didn’t marry the President.
I’m okay if this is a title meant to honor the poor woman who found herself strapped in matrimony to the churches version of a spiritual Superman.
Because I cannot even BEGIN to tell you how hard it is to live in a glass house with inhuman expectations put on my entire family.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure the majority of the congregation are very gracious people. In fact, I’m counting on it. The Elders of our church made it very clear to my husband during the interview process that there would be no expectation placed on me. That’s how I knew we found the right home church. Because there shouldn’t be. At least no more than would be placed on any of my other brothers and sisters in Christ attending.
But the truth is- this IS a thing. So I suppose all that is left to do is embrace it, but clarify some things for you.
Things Your Pastor’s Wife is Not
1. Your Therapist
Would you call your hair stylist’s spouse (a lawyer) to cut your hair?
What’s that you say? It’s not appropriate? It doesn’t make any sense? The lawyer wasn’t trained to cut hair, nor does the lawyer work at the salon. And yet…
I get it.
Where a psychologist/therapist/counselor may or may not charge you half of your retirement for a year’s worth of therapy, I’m FREE and available every Sunday in passing.
So here we are, in the middle of a bustling church lobby. You introduce yourself,
“Hi, I’m You-Don’t-Know-Me-From-Adam. I’ve not gotten to meet you yet.”
We shake hands, I smile warmly and tell you my name, even though you already know it, but I don’t want to be presumptuous…
“It’s nice to meet you, YDKMFA.”
“Yeah…I wasn’t here last week because of my failing health. My husband left me for my sister and my kids won’t help me move out of my home into a cardboard box…”
“I…I’m…so sorry to hear that.” (What else do you say to that!?)
At this point, there’s no turning to greet the seven other church members now hovering outside of this social atrocity waiting their turn. Nope. Now I get to hear about what got her in this place until someone who loves me notices and comes to the rescue.
Situational content exaggeration aside, this approach happens more often than you would imagine. Approach. Introduce. Drop a personal bomb to bait further talk on the topic. (AKA- Impromptu therapy) I’m thinking I’ll start asking for insurance cards so I can bill them for my time. I kid, I kid.
Lady, I am a stranger. I stay at home with four kids fighting to maintain my own sanity. Ain’t nobody got time for that. Maybe if we became good friends, that would be perfectly normal to share…one on one…in a private place…but come on.
I care deeply for people and want to help. But please know, like most people, I am only capable of that with a few people at a time. I try to dedicate that energy to my close family and friends. Although I may be a gifted listener, I am not skilled. You should not rely on me to help you make life choices. Especially if I do not know you.
2. Material for the Gossip Column
It’s weird how ministers and their wives become almost famous in a church community.
I mean, I understand. My husband is, after all, charismatic, entertaining, educated, spiritually wise and face-fanningly handsome. (You can’t tell I admire him…)
God chose him for a reason to stand in front of us each week and guide us spiritually. He knew you would listen to this type of personality.
But we often become fixated on the person and not the material that holds value to our lives. This is how people end up on pedestals. Instead of assessing ourselves and how the information can be applied, we assess the giver of the information and criticize.
This can mean many different things. Perhaps you hold my husband to a high spiritual standard. That’s fine. The Bible states that teachers will be judged more strictly.
“Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.”-James 3:1
“Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach.”-1 Timothy 3:2
So, okay. Valid expectation.
However, is your standard for him (or me) significantly higher than your own?
Be careful how you differentiate a leaders sin vs. your own. Neither have a pretty outcome.
“The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy, drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.”-Galatians 5: 19-20
“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath if God is coming.”-Colossians 3: 5-6
Uh-oh. Losing a little ground on that high horse of yours?
How about looking to my husband and I as your siblings in Christ? We all have the same Father, the same rules, the same endgame. We are all safe in the same life boat. Try not to poke holes on his side. We’ll all end up sinking.
3. Your Trophy Friend
It’s tricky making friends when you are labeled the “Pastor’s Wife”. For many reasons. But let me talk about the most daunting one.
Can I trust you?
I am a very private person living in a glass house. Whether I like it or not, there are going to be haters. As my friend you need to be aware and sensitive to this. I will never be able to make everyone happy, and believe me, that is not my goal. But I would like to avoid as much harmful unproductive criticism as possible. This means I need to be able to trust those I let close to me and especially my children. You will be our protectors. Our defenders.
Keep the details of my life safely to yourself. Particularly the vulnerable parts that throw the door wide open for a judgment attack.
If you are thrilled by the status of being my friend because of who I’m married to- I will sense it and resent it.
The term “Pastor’s Wife” in and of itself robs me of my identity as an individual set apart from my husband and HIS career.
You want to be my friend? Do it because of who I am. Because you like me and we have things in common.
Not as an in to get closer to the pastor.
Not so you can get the inside scoop on the inner workings of our life.
EXTRA EXTRA- hear all about it! (Can we say gossip?)
Not so you can make yourself feel better by observing my shortcomings. (Which there are oodles!)
Not as some power play to get your way in some churchy thing- whatever it may be.
The list goes on. But I’ll stop here.
The church is the church. My husband is my husband. I am just me.
What you need to know is; My name is Tiffany. I could be good to you if you will do the same for me.
4. A Comment Card
If for some reason you believe that I am a side avenue to have your voice heard to the Pastor, please reconsider.
I will not pass along your idea or complaint.
If you have something to share with my husband, please share it with him.
I understand I might be less intimidating, but I assure you, he is an open minded, kind hearted man.
On that same note- if you are being frivolously passive aggressive in a hurtful manner, I will ignore you. Put on your big kid pants and find a way to deal with the issue like a grown up.
5. Your Role Model
I am a strong proponent of individualism. In my time as a leader in our MOPS program (Mother’s of Preschoolers) we focused on and celebrated the differences in parenting. Instead of condemning or envying different methods, we lifted each other up.
I say this to illustrate a point.
I will not fit into your box of the “Should be’s”.
We all have individual standards for our lives down to the inconsequential details. When we place those standards on another person, it turns into expectation. When that expectation isn’t met (essentially when that person isn’t a cookie cutter of our preferences) there is disappointment and rejection.
I may not look like your idea of a “proper” Pastor’s Wife. (Whatever that is…)
That’s because I’m not a fictional character. I am human. I struggle just like everyone else. My hope is that the church will be a safe place to be transparent about it. Not just for me- but for everyone.
Your grace for me to be flawed will pave the way for authenticity. Allow me room for that please. I will do the same for you.
On the other hand, please don’t take anything I say or do as gospel. A role model is only one so long as the person looking to them places them in a place of importance in their heart and mind. I don’t belong there. Give that place to Jesus. I promise you two things. I will let you down. He won’t.
6. Your Bible Wikipedia
I cannot tell you how many times someone is trying to recall a scripture reference and when they can’t summon it, they stare in my direction expectantly.
They fully expect me to pull it out of my hat.
I’m not Siri, people!
Neither am I a Bible scholar. I didn’t magically absorb my husband’s Bible college knowledge through mental osmosis, as much as I wish it were so.
I am a Stay-at-Home Mom who aspires to write fiction.
Keep this in mind. When I attend a Bible study with you, I’m just there to learn. I have no interest in testing your Bible knowledge. I am not secretly judging you for not saying Mahershalalhashbaz’s (Isaiah 8:1) name correctly. I’m there to fellowship and learn. Feel free to relax around me.
7. Your Moral Referee
It is so refreshing to meet a new person outside of the church. Someone who doesn’t know I’m a “Pastor’s Wife”, or even religious. That’s when I get to see the “real” personality of a person.
They’ll drop a few f-bombs (curse words), talk about their favorite R rated movie, maybe even offer me a beer or glass of wine. I’m loving it! Because they aren’t hiding behind a facade.
But the second they find out my “label”, they usually stumble over their words. I can see them mentally rewinding the past twenty minutes tripping over all of their perceived affronts to my sensitive spiritual nature.
That moment is always so disappointing.
The mask flies into place as they frantically apologize for all of their moral transgressions. Even with my assurances that they have not offended me in the slightest, the interaction is never the same.
In fact, it often transitions into another impromptu therapy session. Aaaand we’re back to point one.
It is my hope that these seven things have provided some helpful insights into the mind of a woman who married a pastor. We may not have been hired on, or called by the Big Guy in the sky to minister in the same manner as our spouses. But this does not mean we love our congregation any less.
Sometimes people just need a reminder that we are not the Co-Pastor. (Unless of course they were hired on as such.)
We sit in the same pews, use the same daycare, and drive home afterward to recuperate from all of the people-ing.
If there is one thing I could hope sticks with you in regard to who I am, it is this;
I am not here to judge you, I am here to love you.