“What is your job at church?”
I remember the first person who asked me that. She was a stranger, someone I never saw before or again. She rushed up to me in the fellowship hall after some church event to say hello because she knew who I was. I was the pastor’s wife. I was important and interesting because of who my husband was, so I must do important and interesting things in the church.
She asked me what I did for the church and watched me expectantly while I fumbled for an answer. I didn’t have one. Not one that would satisfy this woman. I was the pastor’s wife, the mother of two small children, but this woman wanted more. She wanted to hear that I was the church secretary or the organist, a Sunday School teacher, a member of the altar guild or the choir and on a board or two. I was none of those things.
I searched my brain for an answer, tried to find a way to take every moment of my family’s complicated life and boil it down to a single sentence that would make sense to someone who has no way of understanding what life in church work is. As the seconds ticked by, I changed tactics. I tried to find something, anything, that would make me look like I was a good pastor’s wife and not a slacker.
Am I some sort of slacker?
Am I neglecting my spiritual gifts?
Am I doing my best every day to support my husband in a complicated, constantly changing life that brings us 2 a.m. crisis phone calls and death-bed visits on Christmas morning?
Yes. Yes, I am.
For me, supporting my husband and his ministry is less about me being busy around the church and on every committee, and more about what happens at home. I support him by doing laundry and grocery shopping. I support him by being home with the kids while he is at that board meeting which ran unexpectedly long. I support him by listening to him talk about the hard parts of his day and being a sounding board for new ideas and sermon illustrations. I support him by grammar checking devotional booklets and letters to the congregation. I support him by praying for him and for the church. I support him by praying for the people who frustrate him. I support him by knowing that some days his job is hard and involves things that I don’t and can’t understand and trusting him to do what he needs to do.
There are a million other little ways that I support my husband and his ministry. Many times, there aren’t even words to describe the ways I support him. I support him as he needs it. In ways that are unique to our family and our situation and they are enough for us.
I do not mean to suggest that pastor’s wives can’t or shouldn’t actively serve the church. I know many pastors’ wives who are DCEs or Lutheran School teachers or church musicians. I know many who love teaching Sunday School or adult Bible class, who love to plan church suppers and help with weddings and funerals. These women do amazing, important visible acts for the church, but they do much more than that. Behind the scenes, they support their husbands in ways that other people never see and might not understand. These unseen acts of support help keep a pastor strong and help him do his ministry.
I don’t remember what my answer to that woman was, but I do remember that the expression on her face told me that it wasn’t enough. It did not meet her expectations. I did not meet her expectation. Since then, I have been asked that same question dozens of times. Every time, I feel the same panic and desperation to come up with a good answer, the right answer. I want to give an answer that shows, not that I am the perfect pastor’s wife, but that I am a good one. But every time, the questioner walks away with that slightly disappointed look. And every time, I remind myself that they will never really know what I do to support my husband every day. They will think what they think about me, but my husband knows the truth and he says I am enough.