Sometimes truth smells like coffee in a dark parking lot with your best friend and the very real possibility of carbon monoxide poisoning because it’s too cold to turn the engine off. Often these are the places where the most valuable fruit is harvested.
This week marks 18 years since I started dating the man that changed my name. He gave me a couple of new titles as well as turned my life completely upside down. Through him God destroyed my plans and gave me new ones. I have to say that to this day I’m 100% on board with the man but not always with the life plans! I became his wife and with that I also became the wife of a pastor. This means so many things that go untold and untended to inside this closed little world that we live in filled with all kinds of secrets.
I can count on one hand the number of people that I share my struggles with. I find that number to be an ever shrinking demographic. Late night parking lot conversations are the perfect environment for these sorts of talks.
I’ve been off kilter lately. Hurt by life, broken by circumstances, fragmented by people and I’ve become a full on curmudgeon. It’s a wonder my friend was there at all but because she loves me for me and not who or what I’m supposed to be, she was present and I knew with her presence there would also be some truth bombs that I desperately needed.
As I sipped my coffee she asked, “What are you going to do with the hurts that are left open, the ones you haven’t dealt with?” My head was on the steering wheel at this point and I rolled my face to the right only willing to give her half an eye to go along with my lame answer. “Nothing!” I’m a leaver! It’s what I’ve become with this life. If I can’t leave in proximity, I just turn off mentally. I don’t fight for myself. I stitch up my own wounds. I count my losses as some kind of a mental tax break and I go on with life…limping but moving forward.
My casual answer did not detour her from the mic drop moment that came next…” The way I see it, you only have a few options. It’s your choice how you handle your hurts but can you live with the outcome of just disconnecting? Why don’t you fight for yourself?”
Every day I fight hard for a lot of things! I will fight for people, causes, the gospel, justice, the church…but when it comes to me, the real and raw honesty of it is that I don’t feel like I have the right to fight for my own feelings. My personal feelings always fall on the list of things that aren’t valid. Over time I have lost my validity as a person and I have existed in title only.
As I clumsily muttered these things to my friend she looked at me with the intensity of someone who could either hug me or slug me and her words did both of those things in the most loving way. She said, “Whit, how can you spend all of your time fighting to humanize other pastor’s wives when you won’t even allow yourself to be human?”
So much truth and conviction came out of that one question. My confession to you and myself is that I’m a human being. I’m not above the feelings of pain, the struggle of bitterness, the thoughts of a backdoor escape from this life. I have been pummeled. I still have dirt in my mouth. I’m not always sure which way is up and people have hurt me so deeply that I’d like to find an island and just simply be. That’s the truth of where I am and how I feel and I know I am absolutely not alone in this!
For the sake of honesty, vulnerability, and change let me share a few things with you about your pastor’s wife that she isn’t going to tell you. This is not some 50 shades of what not to say to your pastor’s wife kind of article. The truth is, I hate those! They close off conversations and box us into exactly what we hate…being alone. That’s not my heart. I don’t want to give you a script to follow so that interactions can become even more fake. My point is to be human, vulnerable, and hopefully a voice for others who may not have their own words right now. I know what it’s like to be the mute pastor’s wife. Some of you find this shocking, I know!
I talk to other pastor’s wives daily who feel alone, trapped, beat up, misrepresented, lied about, and completely defenseless. And I totally understand. I have felt all of those things. I still feel all of those things.
Your pastor’s wife wants you to realize she’s not a complaint box and she’s also not a suggestion box. She’s not a scapegoat and she’s not the middle man between you and the pastor. She is not for sale by so called generous acts that leave the church believing they own her. She is a vital part of the body of Christ!
Being married to the man you call your “pastor” means that his wife is fighting battles all the time. Every. Single. Day. And she’s not always winning either. She’s fighting for you! She hears you and sees the battles you’re facing. They impact her deeply. You are no stranger in her conversations with God.
She’s fighting battles with and for her husband and she’s sharing a lot of his time and energy with you and others in your church. Learning not to ache for the expenditure of his energy on others is a tough lesson that she has to learn if she’s going to survive in ministry. More time with you means less time with her.
Your pastor’s wife is fighting battles for her children. We’ve talked about pastor’s kids and what they go through. They have every day struggles and extra ones that are brought on by what their dad does daily. Your pastor’s wife is fighting to keep her family from being destroyed by the one who wants nothing more than to see every pastor and his family devoured.
She’s fighting for her marriage. Every day the marriages of pastors are coming under attack. Like a virus spreading through our churches, infidelity is rampant to the point that we are beginning to see it accepted as “just another grace story.” This is a self-serving, soul-crushing, Satan-winning kind of failure on the part of church leadership and it does not protect the wives of these men, nor does it call these husbands to Biblical accountability. Pastors are turning, as their drug of choice, to pornography at a rate that is unprecedented. Your pastor’s wife is at war for her marriage every single hour.
She’s tired, she’s broken, and in so many ways it’s made evident to her that she does not meet the expectations of the people that surround her. Even still, she fights for them. Who’s fighting for her? In most cases, she’s not. She’s spending all of her energy elsewhere, and just like me, her struggles, hurts, and pains have fallen off the list as invalid because hardly anyone validates her.
I would encourage you to go to battle for a pastor’s wife around you. Not because she’s better than you. Not because she has struggles that are bigger than anyone else’s. It’s actually quite the opposite. Fight for her because she’s human just like you and she has struggles just like you do and she shouldn’t live a marginalized life because she’s married to the man that you call Pastor. I’m beyond thankful for a friend who is willing to fight long and hard for me even when it means telling me hard truths in dark parking lots.