Someone has once said that being a pastor is the hardest job in the world. I would respectfully disagree. I think that being a pastor’s wife is much more difficult. A pastor’s wife has to smile sweetly to people who have unjustly criticized her husband, hold her head up high when deacons have lied about financial compensation, and adjust to new ministries and people when her husband decides that it is time to move on. It’s not easy being a pastor’s wife, but Karen has excelled at her number one job – being a wife to this pastor.
Many years ago, when we were just getting started, I travelled to the outer banks of Maryland to candidate at a church that was looking for a pastor. During the interview process, something happened that I had never seen before or since. The pulpit committee interviewed Karen. Upon our return home, I was informed that Karen passed the screening committee but I did not! That was a very discerning pulpit committee.
For the past twenty-seven years, Karen has been everything that this preacher has needed. She has given hugs when sermons failed. She has fortified me when dreams were unrealized. She has encouraged me to write when timidity argued against vulnerability. She has had courage to tell me when she thought I was wrong. She has maximized by strengths and minimized my weaknesses. She has made my joys more intense because we shared them and made burdens more light because we carried them together.
So on this her birthday, I would like in her honor to suggest several things that must be true of the minister’s wife. I think I am qualified to speak because I live with the best.
1. God made you to be a help suitable for your husband (Genesis 2:18), not the congregation. Everyone in the pew has an expectation of what a pastor’s wife should be. You are not there to please the congregation; you are there to please your husband. Life always goes easier when you submit to your own husband, not everybody else’s (1 Peter 3:1).
2. You are a homemaker before you are a church-maker. If a wife is to be a keeper at home (Titus 2:5), it stands to reason she is going to have to spend time at home. It is impossible to manage a place that you are never at. The development of your children is more important that the development of the Ladies’ Missionary Society. If you are tempted to think that if you don’t do it, it won’t get done, then maybe it shouldn’t get done.
3. Don’t try to vicariously pastor the church through your husband. Since the time of Adam, men have been taking the advice of their wives over the commands of God (Genesis 3:6). Trust that God will be able to lead your husband rightly. You are always right to state your opinion, but you are never justified in nagging or putting undue pressure on your husband to do it your way.
4. Don’t pry for information that your husband is not volunteering concerning board meetings, counseling sessions, and scuttlebutt. Your husband is right in keeping some things from you, especially if those things are hurtful and may give opportunity for you to be resentful. Some things are better left unknown (1 Timothy 5:13).
5. You set the tone for respect that the congregation will have for your husband. It is hard for a congregation to respect the man of God when that man cannot even command the respect of his own wife and children (1 Timothy 3:4-5). In one sense, every husband is a reverend (Ephesians 5:33). How much more should this be true of the man people sometimes call “reverend.”
6. Because the pastor is often the face of Christianity in the community, we believe he will be under significant satanic assault. Therefore, encourage him. Encourage him with your speech (Colossians 4:6), your spirit (1 Peter 3:4), and your sexuality (Genesis 24:67). Satan always has some silly woman waiting when your speech is harsh, your spirit is bitter, and your body is frigid. Make sure that no one is closer to the pastor than you!
In all these ways, and more Karen has been caring for me these past few decades. They say that behind every successful man is a successful woman and a surprised mother-in-law. How true it has been in this man’s case! Every achievement that has come my way has been because of a woman who believes in me. So as I celebrate her day of birth, and the influence for good that she has had in my life, I raise her as an example for pastor wives everywhere. She truly has been Karen for me!