Ministry requires ultra-marathon endurance, pacing, and energy exertion. As a pastor’s wife, I watch people pull on my husband on Sundays and listen as he recounts his days, and I marvel at what his calling means for him and how he handles it all. However, there are days when he’s pulled over to the side of the race because he’s exhausted or discouraged, and I am reminded of just how influential I am in this race we’re running together. I help him pace himself, I cheer him on when he’s low on the fuel of faith, and I clear the path for him through my emotional and physical support.
Although he says over and over that I’m his most valuable running partner, he is equally valuable to me. His leadership in our home and marriage and the way he champions me and my own ministry helps me run beside him well.
We’re learning. There have been times when he’s run ahead of me; there have been times when I’ve not responded well to that. At times he’s been distracted and burdened and unaware that the pace has been too fast, just as there have been times when I’ve struggled to push myself in joyful sacrifice. Church planting in particular has thrown obstacles in our path that we weren’t prepared for, and our response to those obstacles has caused us to lose step with one another sometimes.
But we’re learning. My husband especially has learned the art of running full-out in ministry while also running full-out in marriage and family. Because of this--because he has been as committed to me as he has to ministry--he hasn’t lost my heart. In fact, he has it more than ever. This is why:
He fuels himself.
My husband fuels himself with the Word every day. He doesn’t look to secondary sources for his sustenance, sources that won’t enable him to endure with faith and joy. As his running partner, I not only feel secure in that because I know He is following God, but also because he is ingesting heart sustenance that enables him to both pour out into others and into me and our children. By making himself available to the Holy Spirit, he keeps a soft and sensitive spirit toward me.
He sets a pace that we can both run.
My husband has studied me. He knows my personality, my spiritual gifts, my passions, and what I can and can’t handle. He knows that I’m different than him, that he has a greater capacity for leadership, criticism, people, and activity than I do. And so he’s set our running pace where I can run with him. He doesn’t push me to do more than I can handle. He doesn’t tell me things that happen at church that aren’t healthy for me to know. He makes ministry a safe place for me to grow and serve according to my gifts, but he also encourages me to slow down and rest when I need it.
He draws my eyes to the finish line.
I run hard alongside my husband, because I’ve embraced the race set before us and I want to do it well. But sometimes I get discouraged. Sometimes I need his ministry, not as a pastor but as my husband. When he sees that I need care from him and listens to those needs with a heart to help, he keeps my heart. He does this by reminding me of God’s faithfulness, by celebrating even the littlest of victories, by giving me specific feedback about how God is using me, and by bringing me back to the truth of God’s grace and love toward me.
He knows the race is emotional and spiritual more than it’s physical.
An ultramarathon is a mental exercise of mind over matter. Ministry is an exercise of faith over sight. In order for us to endure, we must take care of our emotional, spiritual, and physical health. My husband leads us well in this by communicating clearly regarding our schedule, planning ahead for emotional connection through date nights, and setting an example in physical health. But the most important thing he does is to remind me over and over, whether through word or deed, that his vow is to me. He knows I need to hear this.
Pastor, your wife needs to hear this too. Are you running so hard that you’ve forgotten your running partner? If you are outpacing your wife, if you’re expecting her to endure the burdens of ministry without your attentive care, you are in danger of losing her heart and being disqualified from the race altogether. But if you care for her well? You will never lose her heart, and she’ll be your most valuable running partner in life, love, and ministry.