Today’s guest post is near and dear to my heart. I met Ashley Hales earlier this year through an online group of bloggers. Event though we’ve never met in person, I feel like Ashley is a kindred spirit- not just because we are both writers, but also because we both know what it’s like to live life behind the scenes of ministry (I grew up a pastor’s kid and Ashley is a pastor’s wife).
I know that for me, growing up in the ministry with a pastor for a dad, I always felt like people had a predisposed opinion of me- and more often than not they were off-base. I asked Ashley to share her story here and shed some light on life as a pastor’s wife, because I think it’s a unique story that a lot of people are curious about. I also think it’s a role that is misunderstood at times.
I love that she is real and open, and that her heart is full of “vulnerable hospitality” as she so eloquently puts it. Here is her story.
So here’s the deal: I’m a real, flesh-and-blood pastor’s wife. Being wife to a pastor means that people automatically assume a lot: I’m domestic, I keep a tidy house, I’ve always wanted to stay at home with my young children, I am musical, I’m the administrative yin to my husband’s Big Dreams yang. Maybe they even think I wear denim jumpers, or am stuck back in 1887, and that I’ve definitely got this Jesus thing figured out.
But, the truth is: I’ve never had a burning maternal desire (even though I have 4 kids who I’m crazy about), I certainly don’t wear denim jumpers and sometimes I have a drink too many. Being married to a pastor is hard, so hard in fact, that I wrote a little letter to other pastor’s wives whose marriages are no doubt falling apart.
Because you guys, as a pastor’s wife, there is so much pressure to look like it’s all perfect. Heck, there’s a ton of pressure for any of us to look like it’s perfect.
But it’s not. We’re all real, normal, struggling humans. So here are a few things to remember next time you look at someone in “full-time Christian ministry”:
I/my family/my husband are not better/more advanced/more holy than you.
Sure, we believe we’ve been called to something a little more out-of-the-box than your average 9-5 working North American, but that says zilch about worth or holiness. We are all children of God, all image bearers, no matter our vocation. We’re just a smidge more visible in this faith journey. And that means we need to be vulnerable, we need to lead and listen from a place of weakness, and we need to lean in to all the hard spots of faith (just like you).
My kids are just as crazy as yours, if not more so.
They are rowdy and loud and active and usually are sprawled under chairs or pews, not obediently taking notes on the sermon. I remember having to practically go hiking to tire my oldest two out as toddlers before church. Honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way. No kid needs the “you’re only acceptable if you’re quiet” line.
There is no mold or blueprint for what a ministry spouse looks like.
A pastor and his family are (in many ways) just like any other family. My husband is fabulous at big, systematic thinking and vision. Neither of us are detail people. I have a Ph.D.- I love all the big thoughts and dreams. Making crafty things for a moms group? Hey, I’ll gladly participate and sort of wish I could make cool stuff, but most days, it’s not my jam. And that’s okay. Let me speak and encourage women, let me write and I’ll light up with purpose. (We really need some detail-people though to help us out).
Being married to a pastor is different.
It means we don’t make as much money as a lot of people we live around, even though we do make enough (but don’t get me started on churches who think you need to suffer for Jesus by not making a living wage). It means we have to practice what we preach, and not only if it suits our lifestyle or is convenient. We can’t just jet off to Tahiti and miss church.
Being married to a pastor means we lead with vulnerable hospitality. We invite people in even when I don’t want to- not because that’s my duty as a pastor’s wife, but because we’ve intentionally committed to live in light of the gospel. Now, every Christian should live in light of the gospel, should think about how one consumes things, relates to people and empowers others. I guess I just have a little more vocational nudge in that direction. Because, even when I’d rather make a million dollars and buy a huge house and never invite anyone over, I remember again how there is life in the giving because I’m filled up by a story that’s bigger than me, or my husband, or church. It’s about the Kingdom of God.
And the Kingdom of God doesn’t disappoint and it blossoms in my own weakness. So when you see my kids freaking out and throwing tantrums, when you see me lose it in anger because I’ve got my eyes on myself and not on Jesus, when you see me worried, just come and give me a hug like you would any other person. Help me see jesus again. Help me see how he meets my needs with his glorious riches. Pastor’s wives are people too.
Ashley Hales holds a PhD in English from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. But she spends most of her time chasing around her four children and helping her husband plant a church. She writes at Circling The Story and loves to make friends on Twitter. Be sure and check her out.
* This is Day 29 of a 31 Day series on Keeping It Real. You can find all of the posts in this series here. I hope you follow along and join the conversation! *