By Leslie Colaw
I don’t know if you’ve ever read any of those articles about how it’s hard to be a pastor’s wife. Usually the list of difficulties are things like the unrealistic expectations of others, not getting enough time with her husband, loneliness due to lack of real friendship, and not feeling appreciated for all the work she does, especially since a lot of it is behind the scenes. Go ahead and Google “what it’s like to be a pastor’s wife” and you’ll see what I mean.
Okay, so here’s the confession…I actually really love being a pastor’s wife. There, I said it. I don’t really relate to those articles. Like, at all really. Often when I read them my reaction borders on annoyance. I kind of wish people would stop writing those because they don’t reflect my feelings or experience. I feel like they kind of make me look whiney. Surely I’m not the only one who feels this way. (Anyone….?) However, I do recognize there must be PW’s (not to be confused with POW’s – hopefully you don’t feel your plight is similar) out there who do identify with these articles and I certainly don’t mean to minimize their experiences or feelings (solidarity sisters!), and I know each of us has a different experience depending on our context, but I thought I would write an article sharing my perspective because goodness, we are not all secretly miserable!
First, I’m not perfect, and I’m okay with that. I don’t pretend to be perfect. I don’t need to think I’m perfect. I don’t need you to think I’m perfect. If you need me to be perfect, sorry to disappoint. However, just like everyone else, I do sometimes worry too much about what people think. Not because I’m a pastor’s wife, but because I’m human. Some days I skip my devotions. Sometimes I yell at my kids. Sometimes I say things like, “Move, you moron!” when driving (don’t worry, the windows are closed so no one can hear me – well, except God and whatever children are in the car. I didn’t say I was proud of this). Sometimes (very, VERY rarely) I’m cranky with my husband. I care too much about how I look and don’t like that I’m getting close to 40 (or as I like to call it, thirty-ten). I have wrestled with temptation, I have needed counseling, I know what it’s like to deal with messy, painful extended family issues. Yep, I’m a regular person, and it doesn’t bother me at all for you to know that. This is me. More important to me is to point you to the God who loves me in my messiness. Who took an insecure young girl that struggled with depression and invited her into his great and worthy mission. If my mess isn’t too messy for him, neither is yours. That’s one reason I love being a pastor’s wife, so I can share that with people.
Second, I’m not lonely! I have had many wonderful and dear friends in each of the four churches we have ministered in. Specifically in our current church, I am blessed with several soul sisters, a few who know almost everything about me, including my hardest struggles. We laugh at each other and bear each others’ burdens. I’m not exactly sure why I have that and other PW’s don’t. I recognize it as God’s blessing and provision, but I also think it’s because I’m willing to be vulnerable. I can’t hold onto a false notion of perfection, a need to cast a model image. Like everyone else I need people around me who love me in my mess, but that requires me being willing to expose my mess, to allow myself to be seen.
That does come with a caution, however. I don’t live at the same level of transparency with everyone. There are certain things I only share with a select few who I know I can trust. But that’s good advice for all of us, I think.
My husband is amazing. Perhaps other PW’s aren’t married to a man as amazing as the one I’m married to. Never have I felt like second priority or like I have to perform a certain way in order to make him look good. He loves his wife and his kids so much, and we’re never in doubt of it. He tells me I’m beautiful almost every day. He values my input and can handle it if my opinion is different than his. He loves to involve me, but doesn’t pressure me or put expectations on me. We reserve Friday afternoon every week to have a lunch and coffee date together, and it is the rarest occasion that he has to cancel because of work. He makes it priority. He has always made me feel like we’re a team. When it comes to life and ministry, we’re in it together. Life with him has been an adventure. He’s a go-getter and a visionary that never stops dreaming and I love that I get to come along for the ride. (Oh, and he’s not bad-looking either.) So a huge shout out to my husband for probably being the main reason I love being a pastor’s wife. Or maybe it’s just that I love being YOUR wife.
I don’t feel unappreciated. Honestly, this isn’t even something I ever really think about. The truth is I really don’t need to be thanked. I truly love serving my church so much and find it rewarding and life-giving. There’s nothing else I’d rather be doing with my life. But you know, I don’t think I say that as a pastor’s wife, but rather as a Christ follower who loves the mission of the church. I am surrounded by staff and volunteers who give their all for the church. We seriously have an incredible team. There are volunteers who might even out-serve me at times! I am just another of God’s servants doing what he’s called me to do. Jesus laid down his life for the church, gave all of himself, and we as Christians are called to do the same. Yes, there are those of us who do this vocationally, but the call is the same for all of us.
Yes, I get weary. Yes, I get discouraged. Yes, sometimes I feel like I’m in a battle and definitely appreciate all the prayers I can get! And while I need and value the support and encouragement of my church family, ultimately I look to God to provide what I need, as we all should. He empowers us by his grace to fulfill our calling, to live out his purposes, to love his people. Yes, it can be really hard, but in my experience he always provides – every time.
That being said, I also recognize how fortunate I am!! I am so incredibly thankful for such a wonderful church family. Very few times has anyone said anything to me that made me feel I wasn’t measuring up (even if they did, again, I don’t need you to think I’m perfect!! See above). Perhaps I don’t have the “typical” pastor’s wife struggles because I serve in such an amazing church! I feel the love and support of my church family, and love them right back, with all my heart.
To my PW sisters out there who might be struggling…I pray that you will be encouraged, that your marriages will be strengthened. I pray for the courage to allow yourselves to be seen and life-giving friendships that give you the space to do so. (Side note: I’m always willing to lend a listening ear! Feel free to message me.) I pray for the freedom to live without the weight of the expectations of others so you can be yourself and serve in your own unique gifting. Because after all, we are much more than pastor’s wives. We are participants in God’s eternal mission, ambassadors of His great kingdom, endowed with the privilege of leadership in His most beloved possession – the Church.