I’ve been in ministry now for 18 years. Looking back I have realized the most difficult times were navigating through the early years. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had way more serious things to walk through but it seems like the young child rearing seasons were the loneliest.
I have the pleasure of talking with many moms/Pastor’s wives every week. Some have husbands in full time ministry and others serve in the local church. I wanted to put down some thoughts that may help you. I had to learn many lessons the hard way but am thankful I can pass it along to you.
Sometimes there is not a cut and dry answer because all situations are different. Maybe you were married, God transformed you and your spouses life and He later felt called to ministry. This is not the life you thought you would have. Or maybe, you felt God calling you to serve in ministry and married someone with the same desires, which was my case. Either way you are in ministry now. The two became one flesh and here you are.
I remember my first disappointment in ministry. I sat in my little apartment after slaving over a homemade dinner. The table was set, the food was ready but my husband didn’t come home when the office closed. I waited and waited. It was before I could ring his cell until he answered. The longer I waited the angrier I became. I was devastated. I pictured him coming home, smiling from ear to ear because his wonderful, new bride had been so thoughtful to cook his favorite meal. Instead, he came home to a furious woman and cold food. He explained to me that some of the youth wanted to play basketball and it was up to him, the youth pastor, to invest in relationships. And so it began…
The torture of finding the balance between family and ministry. We were young and inexperienced with life in general. I really wanted the husband that swooned over me in college and he wanted to succeed and do a job well. His motives were pure. We see-sawed on success and failure. In the end I found that I didn’t need to try to change him but I needed to get a new perspective. He would have his own journey with balance.
Here are some things that help me love the ministry and love being married to a minister.
- Get involved- I found that too much time at home isn’t good. I was just as much called to ministry as my husband. Accomplish something outside the home. You can’t live in the shadows of your husband. God has big plans for you too. Disciple someone, find an area of service. Be around and available. Just stopping by the office to see what was going on helped my day. Connecting with other moms was so rewarding. Starring at the clock all day is the worst thing you can do. Any mom who sits in her PJs all day waiting for daddy to get home will probably end up being a nut case and angry wife. This will not enhance your marriage:)
- Realize your marital issues are yours- Don’t blame the church and the ministry on your problems. Everyone has issues in marriage that must be worked out. It’s personal. You personally have to find balance and have to learn how to treat one another. The Bible says the church is the Bride of Christ. It is His jewel. Learn to work with it, not against it. Know the priority of your marriage but also the priority of the great calling on your life. It’s a big deal and a heavy weight to carry. I see too many wives bitter and angry at the church as if it has stolen her marriage. It is the responsibility of the husband and wife to work it out. Whether you need to go to the employer and say “too much”, I’m neglecting my family or you work out a great system of nonnegotiable days. An example: Mondays are our off day. We do our best to make it about each other and have fun. That doesn’t always work out but we do not work on ministry. We focus on our life outside the church. Even if it is working on home projects. Realize your husband may feel he’s never enough. He probably feels like he is always neglecting something (you, the kids, the church, the finances). Pray for him, ask God to show him balance. He has a lot of pressure.
- Stinking Thinking- The enemy wants nothing more than to get in your head and feed you negative thoughts about the ministry. He wants to keep you from the purpose God has called you to. You must tell yourself, “I am called and chosen by God to minister to people. I am highly favored and honored to have such a high calling.” You can’t ignore that it is sacrificial at times. You have to lay your agenda down ALOT. BUT…… the reward is so much more than any sacrifice. You will be able to look back at your life and say, “I lived with a purpose. I didn’t spend my life focused on me but on a bigger picture.” Don’t get me wrong. You have to take some time for yourself. I’m just saying, Know the honor in the calling. He chose YOU!
- Celebrate what you DO have- This was a biggie for me. I spent many, many date nights fighting about the nights I didn’t have with my husband. Instead of taking advantage of the fun date we were on I could only think about not seeing him for the next 2 nights. It was a vicious cycle. Enjoy the moments you have and work the others out later. Make the most of every opportunity.
- Negotiate Holidays and Celebrations- As you know, every Mother’s Day is on a Sunday, Easter is Resurrection Sunday, Christmas is the birth of our Savior! Skipping church would be silly. This means lots of family arranging. When my kids were small I would video them getting their Easter Baskets. Daddy had to be at church very early and I didn’t want to wake the kids up at 5:30am. That bothered me at times but I knew there was no solution either way. Some years dad got to see and some he didn’t. The point is, Easter is not about the Easter Bunny but is about Jesus being raised from the dead. People come to church on Easter when they won’t come any other day of the year. It’s probably the most opportune time to see someone give their life to Christ. With that perspective the Easter Baskets are cute but not the focus. This year, we will celebrate Christmas after Christmas with extended family. We are making the most of it. I usually celebrate Mother’s Day before or after. You can make it work or you can sit and cry on the special day. I’ve done both. The first option brings way more peace than the second. Sometimes we put focus on the wrong thing. We should teach our children what holidays are really about. It’s great to have fun traditions but don’t spend more time freaking out over the perfect Easter outfit when you don’t talk about the true purpose of the holiday.
- Acknowledge Flexibility- I hear some wives talk about a break, more time off, dads not home enough. Sometimes this is very true and he needs to adjust. Other times I think we forget that our husbands have lots of flexibility. My husband has always worked hard and worked a lot but he does not miss games, practices, taking kids to school, picking them up sometimes. My husband doesn’t have to drive downtown at 7am and get home at 6pm. He does have daily office hours and many nights of ministry but he also has flexibility. It’s a give and take. What are you going to focus on? Yes, Saturday and Sunday is taken but Friday night and Monday is free! As pastor’s wives we must celebrate what we have and not think on what we give up. Comparison is never good but comparing this job to others, I’ll take this one.
I write all this to say moms, it gets better. It gets easier. I know where you are. I sympathize with that feeling of loneliness. These are a few things I’ve learned over the year to combat the feelings. Don’t waste these years saying “if only”. See the beauty of it. Make it work. See your family as honored to have the beautiful life they have been called to. Being positive spills over into your kids. They end up feeling honored too!