Having and making friends as a pastor’s wife has been a difficult journey for me, and part of that is because I was not always known as the “pastor’s wife” at our church. In the beginning, I was viewed as just another peer in the community. I had my group of friends within our pre-launch community and felt like I could be myself with most everyone who gathered with us. But as the church grew and changed, I discovered that so did my role, as I went from peer to pastor’s wife. Before I knew it, I was looking at a small congregation with more strangers than friends.
In this season, I learned two things. First, it was easy for me to befriend and connect with new faces, but the fact that I was the “pastor’s wife” prevented some from being fully comfortable with befriending me (perhaps without even being aware of it). Also, I started to notice constraints on my existing friendships in the church. As I reflected on these realities, I realized that though I still saw myself only as a peer, they all saw me as the pastor’s wife. People felt like they had to hold back, or were afraid to share silly things like the music and movies they liked, or even their interests, if it was anything secular, assuming the pastor’s wife would not like those things.
It wasn’t just them; I found myself holding back too. I felt I had to be mindful of what I shared, holding back thoughts of things happening in the church, or confessions of fights with my husband out of fear of having others think poorly of him. I missed and longed for someone to be real with, and someone who would return the favor. I desired a friend to share my fears and struggles with, not to bash the church or my husband, but from whom I could seek wisdom and gospel truth. I wanted to be known – the good, the bad, and the ugly. I wanted to be known but didn’t know what was appropriate to share and what wasn’t, or with who. I didn’t know how to build true friendships in the church as a pastor’s wife without divulging my whole self, and I wasn’t sure if I had permission to do that. These new waters were scary, and I was sinking into loneliness quickly.
Around this time my husband joined Acts 29 and was attending the Acts 29 US West Pastor’s School. On his last session, they invited the wives to join. I was excited to see what he had been a part of for the last several months. While on our trip, I met the other wives and it was so refreshing! I felt like I had a group of women to relate to and connect with who also carried the beautiful weight of “pastor’s wife.” I loved it, and I craved more. A few months later my husband and I attended the Acts 29 Lead Pastors Retreat in Long Beach, CA, and there I was able to reconnect with a few of the wives from the Pastor’s School. It was there that my husband also introduced me to a local pastor and his wife, who has since become my friend, Michelle Lewis. Michelle was so loving, kind, and wise, and she listened to me as I shared my struggles of understanding friendship as a pastor’s wife. After our conversation, she offered to meet me regularly to talk and listen, drink coffee, and pray with one another. In other words, she offered to be my friend. I was beyond thrilled to know that someone I hardly knew was willing to take that time and pour into me.
These experiences showed me what a treasure God had given me in the Acts 29 family. I was given immediate access to a network of kingdom friendships, a group of women who are helping me learn how to follow Jesus, and showing me what it looks like to create and sustain friendships in the local church as well.
As I have continued to build my friendship with Michelle, she has helped me understand that there are different types of friendships that exist, both inside and outside the church. Just because you don’t share everything with everyone doesn’t mean you are not being yourself or that you can’t still be friends. It just means you have a different kind of friendship, and that is good and healthy.
I have learned these four takeaways when it comes to friendship as a pastor’s wife:
- You don’t have to be everyone’s friend. Jesus calls us to love our neighbor, not to be their best friend. We all connect better with different personalities, so allow yourself the freedom and don’t feel guilty if you end up befriending one person and not the other.
- Build strong relationships with other pastor’s wives within your church, if you have them. This allows you to connect with someone sharing similar burdens, and proximity is a gift. I did not have this in the beginning of our church plant, and you might not either, which means you temporarily might need to look outside your church as well.
- You need other local pastor’s wives to share the burdens and joys of life with as well. It is refreshing to take a step away from your church and talk with someone with a different perspective and to give you a break from the sometimes chaos that is church planting.
- Jesus is your perfect Friend.
Understanding both my need for and the different types of friendships inside and outside the church allows me the freedom I need to be my full and sometimes ugly self as I connect with other women in my church. I can now do this without feeling like I am bursting at the seams with the need for perfect companionship.
Honestly, I am often still afraid of not being able to find true friendships. In those moments though, I realize that there is no such thing as a perfect friend inside or outside the church. I am also unable to be the perfect friend, which gives me great hope because it reminds me that I already have a perfect friend in Jesus. Jesus calls me his friend (John 15:5). Jesus is my friend by grace, which means it doesn’t depend on whether I am a good friend. Jesus alone can bear the burden of a perfect friend. Jesus is the only one who can fully take away my loneliness, bear my burdens, see all that I truly am, and still love me perfectly. It is that truth that has given me the peace I need as I stumble along the path of building friendships not only as a pastor’s wife but as a friend of my Savior, Jesus.