It’s impossible to scroll through my newsfeed without seeing something about Disney’s new movie, Encanto. The film centers on the Madrigal family with characters and music as colorful as the rural Columbian setting. But one song managed to stick with me more than the others.
Luisa Madrigal, the eldest sister, sings Surface Pressure, a song that many are calling “family therapy.” It’s about the anxiety experienced by older siblings, the responsibility of holding the family together, and the pressure of juggling every detail. I think many older siblings can relate:
Give it to your sister, it doesn’t hurt and
See if she can handle every family burden
Watch as she buckles and bends but never breaks
It made me think, do pastors’ wives feel like Luisa? Do they feel like they bear every church burden? I know many pastors’ wives who feel overwhelmed by the expectations of church families. Despite being a community of churches with a high view of God and his sovereignty, they often feel a heavy burden. The heaviness might include the success of their church, the well-being of women in the congregation, or the ability to raise support. In light of these concerns, here are three things to remember about your pastor’s wife.
1. Her gifts are as unique as she is.
I was once helping my son’s class rehearse a skit they were performing at their chapel. The substitute teacher needed someone to help lead the music. She looked at me saying, “Julie is a pastor’s wife. She can sing!” I laughed, not only because I can’t sing, but also because it was so absurd! However, this type of thinking is common. As church members, we put expectations on others based on past experiences. Pastors’ wives are often attributed with all the gifts, especially leading worship, teaching children, and welcoming newcomers. Here Luisa’s words ring true:
If I could shake the crushing weight
Of expectations, would that free some room up for joy?
Or relaxation? Or simple pleasure?
Instead, we measure this growing pressure
Keeps growing, keep going
Let’s be careful not to place expectations on pastors’ wives or other members. Each person’s role is unique. Romans 12:4-6a says, “For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them.” It’s God’s grace that allows our differing gifts to bless one another. Removing expectations frees us up for joy! What a joy it is to know the load of ministry isn’t ours to carry alone but is a work of the body of Christ! Click To Tweet
2. She’s carrying more than you know.
We can all agree that pastors have a unique calling. Their role as a shepherd of God’s people brings with it many joys as well as struggles. Their wives often share in shouldering these burdens. I would invite you to see this work she is doing as her ministry. If she has a family at home, that ministry is to them as well. Here again, are words from Surface Pressure:
Give it to your sister, your sister’s older
Give her all the heavy things we can’t shoulder
Who am I if I can’t run with the ball?
Give it to your sister, your sister’s stronger
See if she can hang on a little longer
If you wish your pastor’s wife were more involved, remember she’s carrying the load that the Lord has given her. Galatians 6:2 says we should “bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.” What a joy it is to know the load of ministry isn’t ours to carry alone but is a work of the body of Christ!
3. She needs a safe place to practice vulnerability.
I remember hearing the lament of one pastor’s wife as she spoke about the consequences of sharing her marital struggles with a church member. She thought she was confiding in a friend, but that friend didn’t have the maturity to bear that burden. The friend and her husband chose to leave the church because of what they saw as their pastor’s failure. (She was not confessing adultery or any other moral failure.)Your pastor and his family are still being sanctified. They desperately need the gospel preached to their hearts as we do. Create a safe place for your pastor’s wife to share her need for Jesus and remind her of the gospel. Click To Tweet
Your pastor and his family are still being sanctified. They desperately need the gospel preached to their hearts as we do. Create a safe place for your pastor’s wife to share her need for Jesus and remind her of the gospel. Let’s look at Luisa’s song again:
Give it to your sister and never wonder
If the same pressure would’ve pulled you under
Who am I if I don’t have what it takes?
No cracks, no breaks
Christ’s atoning work heals our cracks and breaks. Let those in your church body, including your pastor’s wife, breathe a sigh of relief as you minister the joy of Christ to their hearts.
Although I’ve felt this burden frequently, there’s a group of safe women who allow me to be my authentic self. My heart breathes in the goodness of God’s grace through their means. Let’s stop putting “surface pressure” on pastors’ wives and instead shake the crushing weight of expectations with the truth of the gospel.
*Surface Pressure is written by Lin-Manuel Miranda and performed by Jessica Darrow.