Twenty years ago, I was a college student at a Baptist University in the Midwest where girls often believed they were there to get their “MRS” degree. I had no intention of marrying before 33, and I judged hard those girls who swooned over the guys studying to be a pastor. I was going to get out of there with no ball and chain and no ministry aspirations of any kind. I swore I would never marry a pastor.
Well, my oath didn’t work out. I met Harvey my junior year of college when he visited a friend on campus. The next time I saw him was six months later; we talked for hours. The third time I saw him, four months later, he proposed. I finished school, we married, I moved to Reno. He was a janitor at a church and worked at UPS, but I was fully aware of his calling to ministry.
Harvey had a small Bible study on Friday nights. I had a hard time warming up to the idea of being a Bible study leader’s wife, so I struggled with a bad attitude. (Oh, the humor! I thought that was hard, and I would one day be a pastor’s wife!)
Eventually, my heart softened as the Lord dealt with me. The Bible study grew, and we built relationships. As I was listening to Harvey teach one night, I was mesmerized because I felt like the Lord was allowing me to perceive his anointing on Harvey. The presence of Jesus was profound in his eyes and his words. His passion for Christ and His church was fascinating. All of this drew me to him when we first met and were reasons that I fell in love with him. And in that moment, I knew it was a calling, not just for Harvey, but for me also.
You know how sin sometimes sticks to you in little remnants? You confess it, repent and turn, but then inevitably you find yourself sinning in the same way again later. I repented of a bad attitude towards pastor’s wives when I married Harvey and realized that my future was the very thing I had despised. However, the negativity towards the notion of being in that role remained. I wanted Jesus and to be obedient to my calling, but I didn’t want all the religious trappings that came along with being a pastor’s wife.
Specifically, I rejected the notion that someone would have expectations on me because of my husband being a pastor. As an act of self-preservation, I hid behind a bad attitude to keep others far from me, thereby keeping myself safe from any pain. I knew people would be watching me because I was his wife, and decided figuratively I’d flip them off with my attitude. If they were afraid of me, they’d stay away.
Well, the Lord dealt with me again. Through many “sessions” with Him, I came to realize that being watched doesn’t have to be negative. It can be used for good, even through things like failure, confession, and repentance. I began to embrace the calling I had to be Harvey’s wife — a pastor’s wife — and began to strive to love him well and support his ministry. I no longer wanted to feel like I had to perform for other people and their expectations of me — to fake it, smile, and pretend everything was perfect all the time. These sort of actions had repelled me from Christianity in years past, and yet I realized had become an easy trap for me.
I felt drawn to the freedom found in authenticity. I decided that it was a blessing and an honor to be a pastor’s wife, but I embraced the fact that I would fall, fail, and embarrass myself — many times. If people are watching and I could be an example of what not to do or of how to fall and get up, then so be it. Isn’t this the life of every follower of Christ? Why should that be any different for a pastor’s wife?
Over the last 17 years, the Lord has been gracious to show me that I can be myself and still be a pastor’s wife. In fact, I learn best how to be a pastor’s wife by discovering how to be my true self first. This looks different for every woman. We are each gifted by God in unique ways, and when we are living out our true self, we are “standing in the Truth that sets us free and living out of the reality that makes us whole” (Manning, 2002). I find it a great joy to seek out how I can live out my giftings in the church so as to bless the bride of Christ for I too, am a part of the body and have a purpose that God planned for me ahead of time (Ephesians 2:8-10).
People are watching me. They are reading my posts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. I have influence; the power to encourage, uplift, challenge and support others. I also have the opportunity to influence others by how I love and respect my husband, love my kids, and engage my neighbors and friends.
I didn’t choose to be a pastor’s wife, but I am, and I love it. Great awe and reverence and a healthy dose of fear accompany my joyful embrace of this role. I will be held accountable for what He has given me. God help me, that I may not squander it.