Tuesday, January 21, 2014

What Kind of Minister's Wife Am I Going to be?... 1 Week in...

Kyle, my husband, has officially been a minister on staff at our church for one week.  I am now a minister's wife.  Nobody told me or warned me about this, but as soon as he was hired for this job over a month ago, I started feeling fearful of the eyes watching us now.  I know just from being close to so many of my pastors' wives in the past that Kyle and I have signed our family up to live in a glass house...

So why not blog about it, right?!  I mean, if people are going to be critiquing every decision our family makes anyway, I might as well be honest about who we are and why we make those decisions.  While I welcome accountability, I admit that the fear of that outside pressure can be overwhelming if I think about it too long.  The job of ministering is already a heavy responsibility without others pressuring us to be perfect.

I get it, though.  I understand why people judge their pastors/ministers with a higher standard than they judge their own lives... the Bible even says that we are to be above reproach.  Anyone who wants to teach scripture needs to be aware that the Bible says you are responsible not only for you, your family, but also those you lead.  We are to be sensitive to the needs around us and the things we are teaching, not only with our words but with our lives.

What I don't understand is how so many people have such strong opinions on the kinds of wives and mothers we are as pastors' wives... and yep, I'm going there!  Not because I am bitter, in fact I have yet to be at this end of judgment in my one week of wifing a paid minister (like my new verb, ha!).  I hate to say that on occasion, I have had thoughts of judgment of ministers' wives, children, etc. too.

There is a stereotypical framework that so many Christians want to squeeze every pastor's wife into - typically what I have heard is that these women should be stay-at-home moms who gave vaginal birth to all their children without drugs or screaming, except for the adopted children, of course.  She should homeschool them all, lead the Children's ministry at church, host people in their home often, cook from scratch, attend every church function with extremely well-behaved children, be dressed nice but not too nice, give to the poor, lead Bible studies, and disciple younger women while also visiting the elderly women.

I don't know if you have to be a pastor's wife for longer than a week to get your super powers... because mine haven't shown up yet.  I still have the same 24 hours a day that I had the week before my husband started this job.  Perhaps we are expecting too much of ministers' wives, because they aren't super Christians, super human, time travelers, or anything more than just humans saved by grace and called to a task - just like everyone else.  And don't we all have the same 24 hours in a day?  Perhaps after a long day, just like the rest of us do, these people want to have an evening of family time.  Without someone saying "I need", "please pray", and "what do I do?"  Although, I have been blown away at them dropping everything to come to my or someone else's need during dinner, in the middle of the night, or in the early hours of the morning.  The pastors and wives that I have had in every church I have been in served me, and shouldn't my response always be to serve them as well?

I grew up in church from middle-elementary school on... and I have had many different kinds of pastors' wives in my life.  Each of them was different, and it wasn't until I was older that I realized how scrutinized they were.  And it is a shame, for they are all extraordinary women.  Some have been nurses, teachers (even in public schools), stay-at-home moms, and part-time workers.  Some worked in the nursery, most didn't.  Some sang in the praise team, most didn't.  Some had many friends and taught Bible studies.  Some were more shy and took behind-the-scene roles.  But they were all honoring their husbands and the Lord.  They all taught their children and took care of their homes.  They were kind and loved the Lord!

Some people want these women to "stay home" but not pay their husbands enough to support the family alone - "Keep them humble", I've heard people say.  Really? Don't you think daily studying the Lord's Word, weeping with those who weep, trying to live out what they have been called to teach doesn't keep one humble?  Perhaps we should keep each other humble in the faith by loving and serving each other, instead of withholding or judging each other.  I am in no way asking for more money for us, because this ministry job is actually an answer to so many of our prayers (see previous posts).  Kyle has been preparing to be a minister since before he and I were dating.  My point is that I have seen so many pastors' wives judged for not staying home, but the same people judging them for that won't pay their husband more in order for her to do that... how does that make sense?  How is that encouraging?  It sends these women the message that somehow they are supposed to be SuperWoman.  And unfortunately, every one of them is merely human.  They don't come any other way.

I have been guilty of the money thing too... if we were all honest, we probably all have thought or said something about seeing a missionary or minister spending money - unless you were in the pastor's or missionary's family.  For some reason people that think that if they live on money given to them by a congregation, that somehow those people should never go out to dinner, see a movie, or buy new clothes.  Almost as if they do anything with time or money but pray, serve, and help others, then they are sinners...

But do we judge ourselves by the same standards?  How much money or time do we spend doing things that do not help build God's kingdom?!  Are we not given the Great Commission as well?  Of course we are!

All I'm saying is that I have been guilty of judging leadership in churches, requiring things of them that I do not require of myself.  We are all called to love and serve and preach the Gospel.  Sure, they are paid to do these things full-time, and it is good to be concerned if your pastor and his wife are not fulfilling their roles in the church.  But on matters of preference only, really if it isn't in the Bible or modeled in the early church, then it really is just yours or my opinion on these matters.  Now that I realize I may someday be the focal point of these kinds of criticisms (as far as I know I haven't been already), I realize how hypocritical it all is.

Ya know that lady in the checkout line that tells you how to parent your child?  We all hate that!!! I don't want to be that kind of person for someone else, and I especially wouldn't want someone to be that for me.

My point:  As a minister's wife, I am going to be just that - the minister's wife.  My prayer is that my husband and my children will be my priority.  I love to and will continue to serve in our church, because that is what the Lord has called me to do.  I may stay home, work part-time, or keep teaching in the public school I am currently in - either way, I am helping my family and others.  I am trying to be "Jesus with skin on" no matter where I am.  I may homeschool, send our children to private school, or send them to public school... I may do something different for every child depending upon our circumstances and the child's needs.  Isn't that what a wife and mother does?  How respected should I be as a wife and mother if I made all my decisions based on pleasing people outside of what I am responsible for?  I definitely wouldn't be worthy of being called "blessed" by the children I am raising if I did.  I should never care what others think more than I do what God or my husband think.  Basically, I am going to try to honor the Lord by honoring and helping my husband, family, and church.  It might not look like every other minister's wife, and I shouldn't have to.  I know that now.  The only pressure I need to cave into are the everyday convictions I see in scripture from my loving, merciful Savior and Lord.

The Lord gives each of us certain commands that we are to all follow, and He also gives each of us gifts, passions for certain areas of service in His Kingdom.  Some of mine are:  teaching, discipling, throwing parties, and cooking for others.  I hope to use these gifts and passions whether my husband is on a church staff or not.  But I can't teach every study, disciple each young lady, throw every party, and cook for every person in need while still being responsible for my first priority - my family.  But I also want to be willing to pitch in on projects or service areas that may not be my talent or passion.  No one should have to sacrifice obedience to be approved of in the eyes of those around them, though.

I believe everyone should live in a glass house, willingly, but not by force and pressure from anyone else.  We are called to be transparent, to live life with each other, building each other up, and carrying each other's burdens.  We should pray for our leadership.  We should serve them as well.  That is something I want to get better at - serving others, especially those who take such great care of me spiritually.

We should all be willing to open the blinds of our glass houses, help each other through the difficult things with grace and mercy.  We should only look into others' glass houses with a heart to give, encourage, and support.  And may we all never be guilty of judging someone else's dirty glass house without first taking inventory of our own.  And I say "all" because I have been, but hope to not continue to be, guilty of these same sinful patterns of judging and criticizing others.  May we love and forgive as often as the Lord has loved and forgiven us!

So, that is me in my glass house.  We are sinners too.  We argue too.  We have to weigh pros and cons, add and subtract, and pray through all our decisions too.  We have to say we are sorry.  We have to forgive others.  We get hurt.  We make mistakes and learn from them.  We have dirty laundry and dishes to wash and put away too.  But we love the Lord, and He has called us to serve.  We are very excited, and my prayer is that we stay excited about doing the Lord's work in college students' and others' lives.

Welcome to our glass house!

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