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.  


What I know now…

It is good for a man, that he bear the yoke in his youth.

                                                                                           Lamentations 3:27

My husband just celebrated a monumental anniversary- 10 years in the parish. It may not seem that big to those outside the church work world, but for those of you in, you know – It’s exciting stuff! 

It got me thinking- what are things that would have been helpful to know on day one? It’s almost like being a new parent. Would I have even been able to listen if someone would have tried to enlighten me on the difficult stuff? For what it’s worth, though, here are some of the things I’ve discovered in this ministry life that I just wish I would have understood earlier. Things they either don’t say in Seminary or my ears just weren’t open enough to hear them.

#1 – Church hurts. 
It doesn’t always hurt, there are endless joys, but I just didn’t know that it would be so hard. There is the timeless joke that church is hard because it’s full of sinners. And this rings true! We are all sinners, so why am I surprised when someone says something hurtful, when someone criticizes my husband unnecessarily, or someone (myself included) fail to put the best perspective on it all? Ministry is a wonderful and beautiful gift from God. But let’s not fool ourselves- It’s difficult. Someone please tell us this. Shake us and tell us the reality of watching families fall apart and children become prodigals and friends walk away from church forever. It won’t scare us away from ministry, it’s part of strapping on the armor. Would I trade it in? No. Because God heals the hurting places, and unlike basic Neosporin, His healing creates something completely new and worthwhile, better than before, and this testimony in Christ will go out and reap a bounty.

#2 – Finances will always be difficult.
No one ever got into the ministry looking for the big bucks, it’s true. But when we pulled out of the seminary parking lot and into the parsonage garage, I thought that with a regular paycheck and some savings in the bank, it might at least get a little easier. Truth: money is a struggle for all people, all the time. Yes, there is contentment and I feel like we’ve gotten there (or at least closer to the “I know what it is to be in plenty and in want…”) but whether you have millions (ha!) or the small salary of covering a vacancy, stewardship always will require thought and sacrifice. Money is difficult because you care about what God thinks about it. You are constantly living in the realm of should we use a little to go out to eat or buy the little one a new pair of shoes, should we spend the fuel to visit a good friend…well, then we have less money if the youth group has that fundraiser next month. Ahhh! Constantly thinking and planning with money is exhausting and there will never be enough of it because our sinful flesh always craves just a little bit more. I am glad I finally understand that there isn’t a magic amount in a paycheck when it just all gets better and contentment comes. It’s time to lay it before God, ask Him to help our churches be faithful to their pastors and help us to be content in each circumstance and help us find answers to the difficult times. He is faithful when people are not. 

#3 – When people don’t choose church, their not choosing between something else and you…they’re choosing between something else and God.
Ok, hear me out- it’s not that when someone misses a Sunday they’ve gone heathen and we’re all judge-y about that. Nope! But it does hurt when a visitor comes and they pick the church down the street, or you invite someone to Bible study for the fourth time and they have too much going on to do it. This is a weird church worker family emotion, that I’m not sure others understand. It’s personal. We have to work to not take it personally, because even in this, it’s about God, it’s not about us. People have to make all kinds of decisions and it’s not the preaching or the programs or the anything that people come to church for, in the end. It’s about Jesus. It’s between them and God. Maybe God has a ministry plan for them in this other choice, maybe they’re ignoring His still, small voice to get involved in a Bible study…who knows, God knows. We invite and we love, He fills the gaps when people disappoint. Know that He thinks highly of you. You are complete enough for Him in Christ, it’s not personal.

#4 – You will need someone to spiritually care for you.
As much as we wish God gave us superhero powers when we entered this church work life as a family, He didn’t. (Well, He gave us the Spirit, so that’s arguable…but you get the point.) We need spiritual care, just like the next guy. And for us, it’s not as easy as showing up and sitting in a pew on Sunday. How many of you feel like a single parent on Sunday mornings? I get the sermon recap at lunch, so that helps. Our husbands are our rocks, but they can not be everything to us at all times. And there is a weird and wonderful and complicated dynamic involved with sleeping with the pastor. This is personal opinion here, not Biblical truth, but I believe we need to seek spiritual care in other places also. Who else do you have in your life that can fill you spiritually? Maybe for you it’s not a person, but your own quiet time with the Word in the evening, or you have a spiritual mentor from your home church, or someone you know that lifts you up in prayer regularly. I have a women’s Bible study that meets every Wednesday. I can share my real self there. I don’t have to hide. I am filled weekly. I have a tiny group of gals from college that I talk to every day in a little chat group. I get a text from my friend, Sarah, that says “What’s your day look like today? I’m praying for you.” almost every morning. These people fill the Spiritual places deep in my heart and my husband helps them to overflow. 

So- would I have listened had someone shared these jewels early on? I hope! But who knows. When we are young, whether in age or experience, we feel like we kind of know. We almost need to be in it to experience the yoke and lift it before the One who can make it something beautiful. 

I pray for ministry wives every day. What would you add to this list? What wisdom can we glean from you, sister? May those yokes of “youth” be a blessing to you eventually. May you always be filled with the Truth and Knowledge of the One who trades us His yoke, for His yoke is easy and His burden is light. 

This is us, feeling youth-filled 🙂