John Newtown's classic poem on pastoral ministry begins this way:
What contradictions meet
In ministers’ employ!
It is a bitter sweet,
A sorrow full of joy
It's true for the pastor's wife, as well.
I’ve been asked so many times what it’s like to be a pastor’s wife. My answers vary depending on who is asking and what I think their expectations might be. If it's someone I don’t really know who is just making small talk, I usually say something like, “It’s a gift and an honor.” If it’s a more familiar acquaintance, I might say something like, “It’s extremely challenging, but totally worth it.” Those are true statements and probably about as much of a response as those particular questioners want to hear.
But! If it’s a young lady first beginning her own ministry as a pastor’s wife who is truly seeking counsel for the road ahead, I’m much more inclined to be more thorough and try to share the full reality of what she might encounter, complete with exhausting difficulty as well as unwavering joy (usually at the very same time). In those cases, I would say something like this:
Being a pastor's wife is watching your husband pour out his entire heart and soul every Sunday morning and pray his guts out to the point of utter exhaustion that just one of the blank stares he encounters every week might finally come to life.
BUT it’s also seeing exhilarating joy on his face when someone experiences grace for the first time.
It’s teaching your children to graciously share their Dad and saying things like, “We need him, but sometimes other people need him even more.”
BUT it’s also embracing the hope that your children will grow up understanding the value of giving and serving because it was always just a normal part of their lives.
It’s aching when you see his brow furrow as he reads yet another angry email or sometimes even flat-out hate mail.
BUT it’s also admiring the confidence that builds in him every single day to know that obedience to a Holy God is so much more important than the opinions of man.
It’s knowing he’s right in the center of a conflict which involves people he cares about on either side and being helpless to ease that burden for him.
BUT it’s also the wonderful assurance that the people you care about have a Christ-centered liaison to help them through their difficult situations.
It’s hearing him get up in the middle of the night because he can’t sleep after the heart-breaking and/or joy-depleting counseling session(s) he worked through earlier in the day.
BUT it’s also seeing the fruit of that work in the glorious transformation of those whose lives have radically changed because of the Gospel that is never absent from his counseling sessions.
It’s learning to be ready to drop all of our plans for the day when the phone rings. And it’s finding ways to choose joy when that happens.
BUT it’s also being able to treasure time together as a truly special gift rather than a common occurrence that we take for granted.
It’s sometimes having zero benefits and almost zero insurance options that aren’t well beyond what we can afford.
BUT it’s also having an intimate relationship with Jehovah-Jireh because he has been so very present in our lives and has proven time and again that he deserves that name.
It's ugly but beautiful. It’s so very hard but so very worth it. It's the best of times but the worst of times. Somehow simultaneously. It’s an overwhelming job every single day.
BUT it’s also upheld and infused and overcome and surrounded by an overwhelmingly powerful and helpful God.
It’s a job we are both completely under-qualified for on our own merit.
BUT it’s also the job we are exactly right for because of Christ.
And then I would probably add: "Pray for your man every day! You will both need it."