We sat in the car together, my mom and I, with the ignition turned off, and I cried. Kyle and I were less than two years into marriage and less than a year into ministry life, and I wasn't handling it very well. It's really hard. That's all I knew to say to help her understand, and I meant ministry more than I meant marriage. I felt as if I should know more of what to do and how to do it, and I was afraid to admit the extent of it, and I was mostly afraid to ask for help.
There is no training ground for ministry life for the pastor's wife, there is just the doing it. No one prepares you for the first time someone asks you a question you don't have a clue how to answer, the first time someone shares a deeply shocking experience they've had and you must respond, the first time someone criticizes your husband, or the first time you are treated differently because you're the pastor's wife. You step in blindly and find your way. You figure it out.
I'm 15 years in and, in many ways, I'm still finding my way. On the other hand, I look back to the girl in that car with her mom, and I see all the things I didn't yet know, lessons that I would eventually learn through just doing it. If I could go back and talk to her, these are the things I would say, these are the things I'd want her to know about being a pastor's wife:
1. You have an opportunity to influence others. Accept it as a gift from God, and then use it wisely, boldly, humbly, and for the glory of God.
2. Insecurity is a loud and destructive force. This is true for anyone, but in a person who holds influence, it is especially true. If you give in to insecurity, it will create competitiveness, an inability to appreciate and celebrate others, a paralyzation of the gifts God intends you to use, an unteachable and prideful heart, and a concern with image more than a concern for the gospel and for people. Because insecurity is so destructive, fight it everyday with the truth and conviction of the Word.
3. Don't let your role become your identity. The temptation will come instantly and swiftly, as soon as someone introduces you as The Pastor's Wife, as soon as you receive honor because of your role, and as soon as you start believing that you are what you do. Create a life outside of your role as The Pastor's Wife. Create a marriage outside of ministry. Nurture interests that speak to your whole person. Think of yourself as a church member, not as a Pastor's Wife deserving special honor.
4. Be vulnerable. Your insecurities will keep you from asking for help, and they'll keep you isolated from the community that you need (and everyone needs) to be healthy and grow. Fight through the discomfort of revealing your needs, thoughts, and struggles (to safe people, of course). Pursue heart-level friendships.
5. Learn to love and desire the Word more than the words of others. You will desire companionship. You will be called upon to counsel others with wisdom and clarity. You will crave affirmation and validation. You will feel discouraged. You will need a reminder of why you're doing what you're doing. In all these things, it is sometimes easier to go to others, but this isn't always healthy or good. Learn to go to God in His Word first. Learn to value what He says above what others say. His Word will sustain you when no one else can.
6. Give grace. People will hurt you, and you will hurt people. Learn to give grace and accept it. Forgive and ask for forgiveness. Speak grace loud and often to yourself and others. Don't let wounds, received or given, keep you from fulfilling what God has called you to do.
7. Pace yourself. This isn't a sprint, it's a marathon. Run hard but also rest. And remember to keep your eyes on the Finish Line, knowing that faith is your victory.