Is he my pastor or my husband? Spiritual Care in the Clergy Marriage

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.                                                               Ephesians 5:25

 
Spiritual care in the clergy marriage. It’s something I’ve been contemplating for a long time. God invented the idea of husbands and He invented the idea of pastors. Surely He knew that these two things would reside together, under the same roof. Of course He did. I just wish He would have given us a little bit more instruction on how to do this particular thing well. 
 
Can my husband also be my spiritual care giver? Perhaps it’s something you’ve never contemplated, but you’ve probably felt the difficult dynamic. It’s a difficult time in your life, a difficult season, maybe it’s a marriage struggle, or trying to be a new mom, moving someplace new, a hospital visit, or a difficult situation with one of your adult children. Fill in the blank for some kind of challenge. Many people take these struggles to their pastor. They lean on their spouses and family for support, but they also dial the church’s number or check the communion card box and ask for a visit from the pastor. 
 
What if your pastor is your husband? What if you wake up every morning next to that person and wonder “How did he miss that I’m hurting?” or “How can I burden him with my junk? He’s got so many people to care for.” or “He’s stressed out enough as it is, but Lord, I need someone to care for me.”
 
Can our husbands also be our spiritual care providers? 
 
After a lot of contemplation, lots of stories from other beautiful pastor’s wives, and some time in prayer and the Word… Here is what I will present on the subject so far.
 
Can our husbands also be our spiritual care providers? Yes. And no.
 
Husbands are certainly always the spiritual heads of the household. We as wives lift them up and honor them in this position. Husbands pray with us and for us naturally in this position. They lead our families and guide the family ship through the turbulent sea of life. Pastors should, in theory, be exceptional at this role. They know the Biblical picture and seek to fulfill it in their homes. Obviously sin comes in, people fail, life overwhelms. Even in the pastor’s family. 
 
However, one problem, I think is that somewhere in trying to love us as wives and minister to us as pastors, care gets lost. Your husband is always your husband, loving you deeply, even when sin creeps in. But how can you know when he is your pastor? 
 
Even when a pastor’s wife sits in the pew listening to the Word delivered to her heart on Sunday, does she receive it from her pastor or her husband? I for one receive the Word gladly most Sundays with a side of “I really hope other people are listening and this one goes well for him.” Or have you ever walked into your husband’s office and said, “Wow. I’m struggling. You know when our child was disrespectful. I lost it and I have no idea what to do.” Your husband can offer you grace and forgiveness, but do you hear it the same?
 
So there is this tiny piece missing when you become a pastor’s wife. And maybe it all works out in the wash, but I think we need to put into words this struggle. I kind of gave up having a pastor like other people experience it. 
 
So let’s put a layer of protection around this strange relationship conundrum. What if we actively received pastoral care from other pastors or deaconesses, as church work couples? Maybe this looks like checking in with another circuit couple once a month, or utilizing the circuit visitor, dropping a bit of anxiety and being more transparent. Maybe it’s offering to be a another church work family’s source of encouragement on a regular basis. This does not replace our husband as pastor in our lives, but I think it frees them up to love us and be to us who Christ intended them to be in their primary role- husband, lover, best friend. 
 
Honestly, I don’t know what it should look like yet, but I know it’s worth a discussion. Tell me your thoughts. Share your story. 
 
I wouldn’t trade my pastor/husband for the world. I love him, I love his role, I love seeing God’s big amazing plan in our strange and wonderful lives. I also love him and our marriage enough to ask difficult questions and open a conversation that doesn’t have easy answers.  


On being a PK…

Fathers do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.                     

                                              Colossians 3:21

This August we were driving “down south” to visit my husband’s sister and her family for a much needed family vacation. The drive was lengthy and we had already gone through all our books on CD so we cranked up the volume on some local Christian radio. Between every song advertisements for a special conference came up over and over again. We heard them for the whole week we were there, and I tell you, I could recite them by heart. This conference was important for someone. Near the end of the week it struck me that the conference wasn’t for adults, but was for pastor’s kids still in the home. I turned to my daughter (age 12) and said, “Wow, a whole conference just for pastor’s kids! Is that really necessary?” (Forgive my ridiculousness for 3 minutes and hear me out…)
 
My sweet daughter was oddly quiet. I looked back at her from my seat next to my husband. “Do you think of yourself as a pastor’s kid?” 
 
In my mind, Macee was just like any other kid. Bright, fun, beginning to get past the grouchy stage of early adolescence…beautiful. Child of God. Redeemed, transformed, made new. The only thing different between her and another child of God, in my thoughts, was that she was tall for her age and had a special gift for loving on any person, of any age, at any time. 
 
But that doesn’t answer the question does it, for Macee. “Do you think of yourself as a pastor’s kid?” From the backseat came the small answer,
           “Everyday, Mom. Everyday.”
 
As I sat back and contemplated her response and my apparent lack of understanding of the life of a PK (never being one myself), I recalled a different conversation in our house three years prior. My daughter, broken hearted, needing a friend, feeling unloved and unworthy came to me in tears, “People just think we’re weird, Mom. Everyone thinks we’re different.”
 
At the time I thought that conversation was just about us. Just about our family’s zest for individuality and zeal for uniqueness. At that moment I realized, it’s not about me, it’s not about our family, it’s about the church and that weird place we put church work families. “What?!” you say, “What place? I don’t put anyone in a place?” But you see, we do. 
 
Just as the verse above says, Fathers, don’t provoke your children. Don’t raise the bar for them. Don’t expect more of them. Don’t assume you know them, because they are your child. So, this verse is fitting for the church, because really, that is where my child, under no choice of her own, is growing up. Church, don’t provoke your children. Just as you love your pastor, love his children. Don’t raise the bar for them. Don’t expect more of them. Don’t assume you know them, until you spend time getting to know them individually. They are each beautiful and precious, and unique. Their love for Jesus comes not just from the home they’re raised in, but the church that raises them. Don’t love them for who you think they should be, love them for who they are. The verse promises what will come when we set the bar too high for our pastor’s children (whether in our own home as pastor’s families, or in the context of the church)…discouragement. Almost every single translation uses this same word- discouragement. 
 
What does the discouragement of a PK look like? It’s different for every child, obviously, but I think that it’s the cracks, the fissures of faith that begin innocently that are most concerning. The PK who simply can not sit in a pew contentedly for the ants in their pants, and is scolded by more than their mother. The PK who is frustrated with being the acolyte for the 84th Sunday in a row because they are the only ones who show up. The PK who is afraid to tell someone they struggle with their body image, because it’s just more stress for mom or dad, who is helping everyone else. The PK who hears the words people say about their Dad and has no where to go with them. 
 
How do we create churches who love and uplift their PKs? Love and uplift them…as individuals! Celebrate their unique gifts and do not give them more than there fair share, simply because they show up. Notice who they are, not in relation to who is their parent, but in relation to who God made them to be. This is how our children learn that the church is a place to grow and be loved and desire to stay there and flourish. 
 
May we take a step back and be an encouragement rather than a discouragement. I take numerous steps and build all kinds of boundaries to protect my children from the life of growing up PK; to help them love Jesus and love the church, not because I do, but because they have the Spirit of the Living God inside them. Foolishly I thought I could do this alone. My daughter reminded me I could not. I need the church to do this with me, to see with me how precious she is as herself, and herself alone. 
 

*No Macees were harmed in the writing of this blog post. All Macees were asked permission to share their stories with the world at large. 🙂

The sacrifice of family

While he was still speaking to the people, behold his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother and who are my brothers?”And stretching out his hand toward his disciples he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers!”

                                                                              Matthew 12:46-49
My sisters visited this weekend. They left, and I think they took a little bit of my heart with them. We laughed and played cards, we ate, and played tag with the kids. We recapped struggles and joys of childhood, we plotted our sisters cruise plans, and lamented living 8 hours apart for 10 solid years now. (And it wasn’t even all my sisters!)
 
This is perhaps one of the most difficult passages for people to “take.” What in the world could Jesus be talking about? His mom just wanted to talk to him. How rude! What is all the talk about ministering to your own family in the New Testament? Here’s Jesus blatantly disregarding the people in His own household. (Of course this isn’t true, but isn’t it a frustrating passage at times?)
 
Here, sisters, is the reality of life in ministry. One of the most difficult things about life in ministry is right here in these passages. We are called to give up our family. Yep, give them up. Many of you have been there. You packed up everything you owned in a small u-haul, you had a garage sale or gave things away so it would fit in the cheaper one; you waved goodbye as you watched little pieces of your heart fly out the window and watched the people you love get smaller and smaller in the rearview mirror. 
 
This is the little-talked about sacrifice of ministry- people. God asks us to once again give up the comfortable and the familiar, and turn it in for the new, the unknown, the stranger. 
We walk away from our niece’s birthday parties.
We miss out on cooking dinner twice a week with our sisters.
We give up being there when Dad gets the diagnosis.
We aren’t the person our nephew turns to when he gets a blue ribbon.
 
But if we believe God is who he says he is. He has a plan, a purpose, and a hope. When God asks us to give something up, he promises to fill us with so much more.
 
In my experience, by giving up our family in ministry, intentionally- acknowledging this sacrifice, bringing it before the Lord in prayer, and being honest that it’s a painful part of the process…we get our family and so much more. 
 
Yes, we still miss the birthday parties. 🙁 But we don’t lose our family. It looks a lot different than we expected, but God teaches us just how much He wants to be the one to fill us. He teaches us what family is in the body of Christ, in a way very few people come to understand without this kind of sacrifice. He primes our hearts for joy and struggle with people we never would have met had we stayed home. He gives us family with different last names, but the same Jesus-shaped heart and he gives us sweet, sweet reunions with loved ones far away. 
 
It doesn’t necessarily make it easier, it doesn’t diminish the tears, but it does make it better. Knowing it’s His.
 
I’m curious about your story. What is it like for you? Who did you “give up” to follow your husband in ministry? What is the thing you miss the most? Feel free to share it with me. We can support each other in the sacrifice, sister.
 
Here’s a picture of my family…in all their crazy wonderfulness. 
 
 
And my sisters and I…until next time 🙂