My biggest fear about being a pastor's wife was that I would have to bake cookies for every church function. When my husband Brad and I candidated for our first ministry position, we met one night with the search committee. I wanted to weep when we were presented with a plate of fresh-baked cookies—straight from the oven of the pastor's wife. So it was true! I was relegated to the life of boring Betty Crocker.
My reaction wasn't about the cookies; I actually love to bake. It was about the assumptions regarding what my role would be. Leaving seminary, the expectations of being a pastor's wife loomed large and intimidating as storm clouds.
"Betty" fit the image I had conjured up in my head—a woman in a beige dress, ever-smiling, with a lackluster personality as she scurried to and fro to meet the insatiable demands of a congregation. I feared being pressed into a mold that didn't fit. I wanted life and liveliness in the Lord. How could I have that if these rigid requirements were forced upon me?
My self-protection turned into rebellion. In fact, at each interview for pastoral positions, I asked, "What is expected of me as Brad's wife?" A legitimate question, but I meant it as a trap. If the answer was anything other than "nothing" or, "same as any other church member," I was incensed. After all, it was Brad who was employed by the church, not me, right?
I don't know where my husband's patience came from. He was young and fresh out of seminary, but my prickly resistance didn't seem to intimidate him. He didn't insist on talking me out of my fears or forcing me to conform. I think he knew that I had to become reconciled to where the Lord had placed me, to find my own way. And I have.
Incredibly, I now enjoy my role. I can't believe I am thankful to be a pastor's wife, but I am. The softening of my heart was enabled, in large part, by the way my husband loved me. As I think back on our first few years of ministry, Brad did several things that helped me.
Not staking his image on me
As a married couple, the actions of a husband and wife do reflect upon each other. I guess that's why I have to sit on my hands sometimes to refrain from picking lint off Brad's shirt. The way he looks reflects upon me, and I don't want to look bad.
I'm sure Brad doesn't want me to make him look bad either, but I've often done just that. Soon after he accepted his first call (not at the cookie-baking church), I also accepted a full-time job. We didn't have children yet and weren't sure we were ready for them. I wanted to try the professional world for a while.
My position required me to represent the organization at health fairs, sometimes on weekends. One of the first was scheduled for the same Sunday as Pastor Appreciation Day. I felt torn, knowing that my first priority was to be at church with my husband, but I was stuck in a commitment I had made to my new job.
It wasn't until Pastor Appreciation the following year that I realized what a big deal it had been.
This loving church sets apart the day to honor their pastors. A long table is spread with a potluck dinner. Enormous baskets are marked for each pastor's family and filled with gifts. I cringed when they pinned a corsage on my shoulder, honoring me, too. The previous year, the corsage had gone unworn.
As Brad and I stood up front with the other pastors' families, looking out at the proud and smiling faces of our congregation, I was so ashamed. Brad had done this by himself the year before.
What went through his mind, standing up there alone? I would have felt unloved and abandoned. I would've been mortified to have my spouse's lack of support so publicly displayed.