Disclaimer: Since my blog is about all things church, I feel justified in posting this. Naturally, none of the difficulties I reference occur at my present church, but are simply a collection of events from other times and other places and the experiences of other people. I use the pronoun “she” to describe the pastor’s spouse because it is convenient. I acknowledge and thank all those men who are married to women in the ministry.
Sometimes the tending of souls that a pastor does is so exhausting, often times there simply isn’t anything left to give to the tending of other, more material things that simply have to be done in this life. Like flowers, bushes, trees, leaky sinks and window sills. Too often, the tending of one’s own children, marriage and other significant relationships also get passed over because of psycho-spiritual exhaustion. Clergy have an incredibly high divorce rate and one of the highest rates of chemical dependancy in any career. The burn out rate among pastors is extraordinarily high. Frequently, pastors go on to become human resource specialists or insurance salesmen. Can you imagine what it must be like to be married to a pastor? Most mere mortals would never survive being married to a pastor so God, in his infinite wisdom and mercy, made a special class of humans, the pastor’s spouse.
The pastor’s spouse understands that ministry runs in seasons and like the seasons, it is impossible to ever be fully prepared for their length. So she has enormous patience with her husband who vanishes for days or sometimes weeks, and sometimes, months, showing up at odd and inconvenient times to eat or sleep.
The pastor’s spouse doesn’t file for divorce when, in his delirium, he looks at her during a conversation and says, “I’m very sorry, dearest, I simply have no ability to converse with you tonight.”
The pastor’s spouse isn’t phased by phone calls or text messages or e-mails at all hours because she understands that the moment of decision in a person’s life cannot be scheduled neatly into office hours.
The pastor’s spouse bears up under disappointment well, always expecting the best but understanding that when dealing with people and their spiritual lives nothing is ever convenient.
The pastor’s spouse realizes that her ambition must be laid aside for the sake of her family and her marriage because if she works during the week and her husband on the weekends and holidays, they will never see each other nor be able to spend meaningful time together. She understands that you can seldom or never go home for Christmas or Easter if your family home is more than a day’s drive away.
The pastor’s spouse knows that you must squeeze every drop of joy when joy is to be found because tomorrow may bring heartache and pain in the lives of others and therefore in the life of her husband and his ministry.
The pastor’s spouse understands when there simply isn’t money in the bank or a raise in salary every year because her family’s welfare is dependent upon the welfare and generosity of other families.
The pastor’s spouse is patient when her “honey-do” list is overlooked for months and sometimes years in order that others might be served first.
The pastor’s spouse has extraordinary self control in order to share the pew with many who are convinced they could preach a better sermon, lead more effectively and do a better job of running the church then her husband.
And when the pastor’s spouse is at the breaking point and needs somewhere to turn, she is content that only Jesus and a precious few friends can ever truly understand her life or be trusted to keep her secrets safe or truly share her burden without being scandalized and calling her “unspiritual.”
And when the pastor is finally put out to pasture, his health broken, his mind exhausted, the pastor’s spouse knows she must nurse him and be content with whatever they have managed to set aside for these years knowing that true retirement and true rewards are not found in this world but only in the kingdom yet to come.
And I have no doubt that when the pastor’s spouse awakens in the arms of Jesus, the Savior will say, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Though you sacrificed for every one, you did it really for me. Of all my servants, you are one who exhibits so faithfully my decree, ‘I have set for you an example that you should do as I have done.’ Come, enter the rest prepared for you since before the world was created.”
Martin Luther, the great reformer, was late to marry. But he found bliss in his married life to Katherine von Bora, a former nun. He praised her as the book of Proverbs praised the “good wife.”
From Proverbs 31:
A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not hard, all the days of her life...
She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness....
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.
Thank you, pastor’s spouses, everywhere. You are the person behind the preacher who keeps us accountable, honest, humble, and gives us joy when we come home. Thank you for your sacrifice to Christ and his kingdom. Yours is a unique and often misunderstand and overlooked ministry. Great will be your reward. God bless, thanks for reading. PJ