“Your husband is in seminary. What would he think about what you’ve done?”
I was 21, and these words shattered my heart. They have become a haunting soundtrack to some of my darkest days, and their rhythm has sometimes been hard to escape. It was the first time my husband’s position had been used as a weapon against me. It would not be the last.
I’ve written before about my fear of pedestals, about how sometimes people want to build them for my husband, how I know that the building of them is often followed by the smashing of them. Pastors are often seen and analyzed but not known, are often viewed as a smidge more God-like than human-like. I’ve learned that pastors and the members of their families are supposed to say they’re sinners, but any actual proof of this is unwelcome.
Overall, I enjoy being a pastor’s wife. There’s something special about being fully immersed with a specific group of people together, of knowing them well and leaning on the Holy Spirit together to discern how they can best be served. But there are some unique challenges that ministry families face, and I have learned that when people know about these challenges, they are grateful for the inside scoop and eager to show kindness in whatever way they can. And I think we all have permission to gently express the things that are hard for us, in our unique jobs, in our unique families, with our unique giftings. How will I know if you don’t tell me? How will you know if I don’t tell you?
So this is me, telling: Pastors’ wives have a unique set of challenges, and I think the primary challenge is one of community.
Sometimes people do not want to be my friend because my husband is a pastor. Sometimes people want to be my friend because my husband is a pastor. Both make me feel funny.
On many occasions, people have come to our house, and they feel weird to sit at our table, like it is somehow different than other tables and wasn’t smeared with yogurt just ten minutes prior. I’m sad because I’m just Caroline and he’s just Luke, and we just want them to feel comfortable here. But they aren’t. At least, not yet.
Because our relationships are often strained, distorted, or awkward at the onset, many will caution younger pastors’ wives that they must be careful whom they trust, that they must be sure not to share family or church struggles with anyone.
I am sure this advice comes from a kind, protective place, but in my ears, it sounds like that hammering—like I’m building a pedestal, or reinforcing it. It sounds like it’s part of my job description to keep my pastor husband up there, to make sure people are forever able to idolize him, to think he’s not perfect, but pretty darn close.