My kids were sick a few weeks ago and had to miss church. I lay quietly on the couch stroking my daughter’s hair as fever felt like a sunburn, hot and sensitive across her skin. There was an inner exhale. It was Sunday. Today, I didn’t have to overthink my outfit. I didn’t have to hustle or prep my kids alone. Today, I didn’t have to worry about remembering names or managing expectations. Today, I could just curl up on the couch and be me. I love Jesus. I love my husband. I love our church. But I don’t always love being a pastor’s wife.
There are several things I wish a congregation could understand about the life of a pastor’s wife. Pastor’s wives aren’t all the same. They don’t all struggle with the same things, but there is an unspoken head nod and eye contact that happens when pastor’s wives meet each other. There is an underlying understanding they all have. I clump all the wives together because no matter what church, denomination, or culture they belong to, there is something similar they all carry — secrets. Here are five insights into the secret life of a pastor’s wife:
1. She is human. She stumbles and struggles. Her home isn’t always put together, and her children have the same issues as yours do. She fights with her husband. She knows they are on a spiritual pedestal, but it does not mean they are perfect. It means they are learning to lead the way in honesty, humility, and hope. A pastor’s wife isn’t the sidekick of a superhero, but a woman who longs to shine the light on our one true Savior, Jesus Christ. She is human, a sinner saved by grace — just like you.
2. She really cares. Your pastor’s wife may not sign up for all the leadership roles, be a Sunday school teacher, or be on the women’s ministry team, but she cares. She may not meet and greet every new person or host Bible studies, but it doesn’t mean she doesn’t care. She cares deeply about what happens in the life of the church, the congregation, staff, and elders. If she says no, it isn’t because she doesn’t care. It’s probably because she does.
3. She is not an expert. She doesn’t have the same gifts as her husband. She isn’t a therapist, speaker, or have special knowledge when it comes to raising teenagers. She may not even be good with people or like social events. Just because she is married to the pastor doesn’t instantly make her an expert. The pastor and his wife aren’t meant to be a powerhouse couple. They are simply sojourners on the way to Jesus right beside you.
4. She knows she is being watched. She feels the eyes and hears the whispers. She can almost feel the judgment, like the cool kids in middle school picking apart the new girl. The watchful eyes are subtle but felt. She hears the tone of voice when being asked, “Why weren’t you there?” The glass surrounding a pastor’s family is squeaky clean. As wives and mothers, they walk the fine balance of protecting their lives and proclaiming them.
5. She is hurting. The church is a holy place with living, breathing, sinners. Inside the church offices, a lot of pain happens. Hurtful words can be spoken and relationships broken. This happens. In every church. Even the best of them. Pastors have the hard job of speaking the truth in love. People leave. Churches go through changes, and this, no doubt, affects everyone. When their husbands hurt, they hurt. There is a good chance a pastor’s wife is angry, and she can’t talk about it. She carries the wounds of the church and rarely has space to process it.
Take a moment to think about your pastor’s wife. What expectations have you placed on her? What is she doing that you love? What does she do that is confusing? Has she hurt you? So often we look at the actions of the pastor’s wife — how involved is she? What is she wearing? Where is she serving? Why does she sit during worship? Why doesn’t she reach out to me? What school do her kids attend?
What if you considered who she is instead of what she does or doesn’t do?
Chances are your pastor’s wife carries guilt for not doing enough and sometimes experiences loneliness even in the crowded sanctuary. Before you jump to judgment, refrain and offer grace. She needs grace when she can’t remember names and forgiveness when she make mistakes. Your pastor’s wife needs older women to speak hope into her heart. She needs friends who will let her just be herself: introvert, quiet, involved, or sitting on the sidelines. I share this because I believe that pastor’s wives have a quiet ache to be known. I think the biggest secret a pastor’s wife carries is that she simply longs to be loved as a sister in Christ and not loved because of whom she is married to.
The biggest secret a pastor’s wife carries is that she simply longs to be loved as a sister in Christ. - Anjuli Paschall: Click To Tweet