Not long ago, I told a sweet friend that her husband needed to be a preacher. We’ve known them for several years, watching them grow from early marriage to a family of five, and seeing them both mature leaps and bounds in their biblical knowledge. But she laughed a little bit (and cried a little bit) and said, “I could never be a preacher’s wife!” This made me start thinking, as I often have before: what does that really mean?
There are some people who think preachers’ wives belong in some high place on a pedestal. That we always carry a Bible tucked into our pockets (and can quote on demand) and never have an ugly, vengeful, prideful thought in our heads. Our marriages must be a haven of bliss – we’re married to a preacher, after all! We act demurely, always with dignity, and we speak just the right words at just the right moment. (These people obviously haven’t met me!) Oh, and we never forget to clean the light switch covers and the floor behind the toilet. Twice a week! And then there are those who believe quite the opposite: preachers’ wives are hypocritical gossips who don’t control their children and spend too much money on clothes. And, they whisper, just where did that money come from, hmmm?
I’m sad that there are preachers’ wives who perpetuate both of those stereotypes. There are some who seem to enjoy being on that high pedestal, being set apart and admired. Let me tell you, I’ve seen some of the “high places” that the Bible talks about – and as they are usually cultic worship sites, I’m quite sure we shouldn’t want to be put there. Then others absolutely rebel against the idea of having any responsibility as the wife of a preacher. “I can’t help it,” they say, “I am who I am…take me or leave me!”
I can’t speak for other wives in ministry, but I don’t fit in either of those categories. But because I believe in keeping it real, I can tell you the honest truth about who I am, after 34 years of experience as a preacher’s wife. I’ve made a lot of mistakes – a LOT. Some of them carried hard consequences. More than once I’ve pretended to know more Bible than I actually did, because I wasn’t in the Word like I should have been. There have been times I’ve been full of resentment about expectations I thought were unfair, leading me to be hard-hearted and unforgiving toward fellow Christians. I’m crazy about my husband, but there has been conflict, and we’ve hurt each other. I forget to be thoughtful. Sometimes I just don’t want to assemble with the church, and I don’t exactly know what is wrong with me. I’ve been harsh and critical in my judgment of others, impatient when they didn’t think just like I did or make the same choices that I made. There are times I struggle with doubts and questions. I know this is hard to believe (…sarcasm, another of my flaws) but sometimes I give my opinion when no one has asked for it! And that’s a non-exhaustive list of my imperfections!
In short, I am an ordinary woman. It comes as no surprise to anyone who knows me that I am far from that perfect pedestal wife. And I think there are far more of us “ordinary woman” preachers’ wives than there are the pedestal kind. I know that God doesn’t expect my light to shine brighter than any other Christian’s light simply because I am a preacher’s wife (although I may be presented with more opportunities to shine His light.) What I have to say carries no weight of importance – only what God says. Every day I am thankful that He has forgiven me and does not remember my past. Every day now, I open His word because I love Him more than I ever have, and I want to know more about who He is. Despite my mistakes, my resentments, unforgiving attitudes, and doubts, I know His mercies are new every morning and if I lean on Him, He will help me through the day. He promised to draw near to me as I fight against the one who wants me to continue struggling, and I trust Him to keep all of His promises. I’ve seen His faithfulness over and over to me, even when I was not full of faith toward Him. I am not who I once was – or pretended to be.
I wanted to tell my friend that day – you already are a “preacher’s wife”. And friend, you know who you are and if you happen to read this – your humility and tender heart are beautiful to me, and I know to God also. You are just the kind of “preacher’s wife” that the world needs. Preachers’ wives are just women who question and struggle and stumble. Anyone who tries to make you think differently is not doing you any favors (and isn’t being very honest.) Don’t be afraid of who you think you aren’t – be confident in who the Lord knows you are. He builds us up, He heals our wounds, He lifts the humble. “…The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love,” (Psalm 147).