Morgan Idleman on the Joys and Pains of Being a Pastor’s Wife

“The Pastor’s Wife” It’s how most people introduce me.  Some have asked if that bothers me? I lean toward taking it as a compliment.  Yes, I am my own person, and have my own identity. However, I learned long ago that my true identity is found in Christ… and Christ has called me to be a helpmate to this husband of mine, who just so happens to be a pastor. It is an honor to serve alongside him, and my privilege to be associated with him.

Over the years, I’ve received questions and comments like these: “What’s it like to be a pastor’s wife? How do you do it all… kids, a husband, the pastor’s wife? I could never do that!”

How do I do it? By God’s sheer grace.

I’ve only been doing this for (almost) 9 years. While I certainly haven’t mastered it, the Lord has definitely taught me a lot along the way.

It is such a blessing that it’s almost embarrassing to share the more difficult parts with you, because in no way do I want anyone to walk away with the impression that it’s more a burden than a blessing. That said, there are indeed difficulties that come with the territory, so I’ll give you the whole picture you’re asking for.

I didn’t marry a pastor, I married a construction worker. It was about 8 years later that we entered into full-time ministry.  I’ll pick it up at the point where my husband finally submitted to the Lord and told me, “I feel like we are supposed to plant a church.”

This is how my thoughts played out.

1.  Ok, great! I’m in.

2.  Oooh, that means I’ll be the pastor’s wife.

3.  Oooooh, that means our kids will be pastor’s kids.

So naturally, I contacted a few pastor’s wives I knew, and googled “pastors’ wives’ articles.” You’d want to scream at the redundancy of it because they ALL. SAY. THE. SAME. THING! I found it interesting, though. I also found it scary. If they were all saying the same thing, I’d better sit up and pay attention. And what I was hearing was enough to make the hair on my arms stand up.

The expectations. The loneliness. The pastor’s kids. The struggle to guard family time. The pay cut. The insecurities. The criticism (of husband and yourself). The fish bowl. Etc. While most trials are common to all pastors’ wives, there are some variations depending on a few factors… do you have a small congregation or a mega church? Are you a church planter or did you step in to an established church? Do you primarily serve your local congregation, or does your husband also write and speak, being known nationally? I would soon find out what all of that meant and what came along with it.

Seemed the Lord had the wrong girl if you asked me! Then it hit me, like someone aimed a bow and arrow right at my heart and hit it dead on: “Oh dear! The very person in the church I’d been guilty of judging from time to time, are the very shoes I’ll be walking in now.” Well if that wasn’t sobering. Had to repent, actually. Then hide under the covers and plead with the Lord to protect me from the exact judgment I’d dished out at times. Oh the irony.

I didn’t feel like your ‘typical’ pastor’s wife, by the way. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought, “These poor people, they’re stuck with me.” I’ve got a past that would make anyone wonder why He chose me for this role. I can’t cook. I can’t sing. I don’t play the piano, I don’t have the gift of teaching, and I’m not a great hostess- thinking number 1 has something to do with that. Don’t you need all (or at least one, for heaven sakes!) of those elements to take on this position? In a nutshell, I was terrified. But at the same time, I’d seen the beauty in ministry. I’d seen the amazing ways God moved. I had stood in awe of how Jesus showed up time after time in ways only He could. So, while terrified, I was also hopeful, and excited for the new season.

It’s been such a journey! There has been heartache deeper than I could have ever imagined. And joy more abundant than I ever knew was possible. We have gone on adventures I’d previously only dreamed of and have had some of the most mundane of days in between. We have seen things I could have gone a lifetime without seeing and we have seen things that we are forever grateful the Lord allowed us to have a front row seat to.

We serve one of the most amazing group of people you’ll ever meet. It is truly an honor. And we have certainly made plenty of mistakes. Anything good that has come from this ministry is by the pure grace of God. We owe all to Him.

To be honest, I wasn’t sure how to approach this post. It’s been saved it my drafts for months. There are so many directions one could take this topic. I could write a whole book. (Hmmm, maybe one day.) I figure if I’m ever going to post it, I’d better just get ‘er done. I decided to touch on a few of the main points I get asked about and send it off to you.

THE EXPECTATIONS:

I can honestly say I’ve put more expectations on myself than I have ever felt from our congregation. It’s been rare that I’ve heard hurtful words or seen hurtful looks aimed at me. Sure, I’ve turned a corner or two and knew why ‘they’ stopped talking. And from time to time I’ve gotten the sense that someone was disappointed with me, that I let down their idea of what I ‘should be’ or ‘should be doing,’ but overall, either people are really good at hiding their disappointment, or they truly accept me for who I am and what I am able to offer at this season in our ministry. 😉

It’s tough, I’d love to be all things to all people, but we know that’s not practical for any of us. In the beginning, I so wanted to be at every function, able to meet with everyone who needed it, attend everything I was invited to, etc. Took some time to learn not only is that impossible, it would also be unhealthy. The ministry the Lord has called me to first is to my husband and my children. If I get that out of order, I won’t be any good to anyone and will end up with a family who resents the church.

THE LONELINESS:

This can be two-fold. Some struggle with loneliness because maybe their husband has incorrectly prioritized his time. It can easily happen when you have so many demands on you. In 9 years, I can count on both hands the instances where I felt my husband put the church first. In other words, it really hasn’t been that often.

The other aspect of loneliness in ministry, and what I struggle with more so, is in the area of close friendships. It’s a lonely calling, it just is. You want to have close friends within your congregation, but it’s a weird dynamic. You can’t open up with most because your husband is their pastor. It just gets interesting, that’s all. It can also feel lonely because others can’t relate to the struggles you face as a pastor’s wife unless they’ve been there.

You learn very early on you dare not get too close to too many people. I know, just saying it makes me cringe. It sounds awful. But believe it or not, there are those who do not have good intentions, who aim to get close for their own personal gain, not to truly gain a friend. And the by-product is hurt. It can also be back-biting, gossip, and the like.

Because of that, over the years the temptation has been to not let anyone in. Honestly, I’ve given in to that temptation on a few occasions, but the Lord did not allow me to stay there for long. We aren’t meant to build walls. Boundaries? Yes. A little guard rail for protection? Yes. But not full on cinder block walls. You know as well as I do- the walls we build to protect ourselves end up imprisoning us.

It can also get tricky when you’ve made friends with a staff member. Lines get blurred. It’s a rock and a hard spot when you must take off the friend hat and address them from an employer stance. I’m tellin ya, there are parts of ministry I wish I could full on run from- this is one of them.

Lastly, the church has a revolving door. People come and people go. Sometimes you watch them leave as your heart breaks and you so wish you could plead with them to stay. Sometimes you see that it’s the Lord moving them into a new season, and you support them 100%. You learn to love them fiercely while they are in your flock, but to hold them loosely, never knowing when you have to say goodbye, or if you’ll even get the chance. (Note to anyone leaving their church, PLEASE let your pastor know. Don’t just disappear. It can be uncomfortable, I get it, but give them the chance to apologize if they’ve unknowingly offended you, or at the very least to say goodbye and pray for you.)

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Source: Christian Headlines