Countless times it’s been whispered to me, as if it is a sacred secret, “In order to survive as a pastor’s wife, you must not make any friends.” Suddenly I had thoughts about “surviving through ministry,” rather than thriving. And before I had any time to grow anything, I was being asked to keep my hands from the soil – a branch with no vine.
This didn’t seem like a way to flourish.
I did try to adhere to the advice for quite some time. I kept my hands from planting seeds of friendship for as long as I could. I would have people over, but I always kept my heart from entering the conversation. I would long for friendships, but opted for trips to the grocery store alone. I read the scriptures and I wondered why it looked different for the new church than it looks for the 21st century church. Because in the pages of the Book we hold as all truth, we see windows into people gathering and discussing; we blink and see the life being lived in homes --- together.
And the leaders never seemed to be excluded.
Things started to change as I caved and couldn’t handle the loneliness. I decided that if my husband and I were to fail in the ministry, we would fail with others beside us. After pursuing relationships, presenting my brokenness to other women, and grabbing hands and praying for our church, our ministries, our homes and our families, I have come alive a bit more.
And can I tell you something about an “alive” pastor’s wife? For sake of time, let me simply share this, she is far better off than a caged-in, fearful one.
So why should the church as a whole care about allowing the pastor’s wife to have friends? And better yet, why should a pastor’s wife cultivate friendships with leaders in your church? I have three simple reasons:
1. We are all One Body
John 15 has always been one of my favorite passages. I have often seen myself waving as the lone branch with the vine sustaining me. However beautiful that image sounds, it is nothing like what Jesus meant. A vine sustains many branches. That makes for a healthy plant.
In whatever church we are planted, those people are our branches. We are gaining nutrients from the same vine. We are next to each other, brushing each other’s limbs in storms, and peacefully remaining side by side on calmer days with blue skies.
But the truth remains: We are together. All of us – leaders included. And the better that we understand our local church on this level, the healthier we grow.
2. Friendship Keeps Idolatry at Bay
We have seen too many leaders fall. I wouldn’t go as far as saying it is systemic by the church’s doing, but it is surely systemic by sin’s doing. For so long, the pastor has been unreachable, an untouchable, his brokenness never revealed. And yet he is a real man with real issues in a sin-ravaged world.
We ache for him to be like Jesus and never sin … but he will.
By having a meal with a pastor and his wife, you might begin to realize that they are real humans. Not flawless robots. And when church members see them eat, when they touch their hands to pray, even when they witness a piece of their human nature, they keep idolatry at bay.
And it should be noted that these relationships could keep also keep pride, pretension and a myriad of other issues on the pastor side at bay as well.
3. Togetherness Allows for Real Prayer
The new church was seen handing things over to one another, selling items to any as they had need, breaking bread over the same tables (Acts 2). Members of this new body of believers knew other’s needs. It should be no different for today and no different for the leader.
Some of my most treasured moments have been praying with nearby “branches” in the body. Some of my most invaluable relationships have begun on our knees. We can only pray for one another if we know the needs of one another --- pastor’s wife included.
The soil has been prepared for us. Let’s not let allow our pastor’s wives to live without friendships. Pastor’s wives, let’s not believe the lies. Loneliness is quicksand for enemy work; the rich soil of Jesus is foundation for blooms and blossoms of beautiful flowers. And if we mess up, let it point us back to Jesus – our vine – and let Him sustain us all over again.