“There you are,” a woman whispered in my ear as she grabbed my elbow during a church gathering. “I've been looking everywhere for you!”
I braced myself. You never know what a statement like that could mean—especially at a church gathering.
Did I leave my car running in the parking lot? Did one of my kids have an accident involving bodily fluids? Or horror of all horrors—is my husband's zipper down while he's preaching?
The woman led me from the back of the meeting room where I was standing into the lobby area.
Was there someone critically in need of prayer? Is there a baby being born in the lobby? Did someone leave a pumpkin latte out here with my name on it?
The woman urgently pointed to the ceiling. “Look! The air conditioning isn't cold enough. You have to fix it.”
I breathed a sigh of relief and gave her a quick hug. “The air conditioner? I don't know how to fix the air conditioner. I barely know how to read a Celsius thermostat.”
She thought about this for a second and chuckled. “But you are the pastor's wife.”
My Biggest Fear as a Pastor's Wife
Both my husband and I had wanted to minister overseas before we were married. My husband spent a summer in the Middle East and fell in love with the people, their culture, their language, and their food. Dave is constantly trying to come up with more ways to incorporate shish tawook into his diet.
For my part, a few months after I began walking with God in college I read Let the Nations Be Glad with some friends. If you've ever read this book by John Piper then you know why I applied for a passport after reading the first chapter.
I was excited to serve the Lord overseas. After we got married I was excited for my husband to be a church planter.
But there was one thing about being a pastor's wife that terrified me . . . I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I would never be able to measure up to everyone's expectations.
I had heard all the rumors about pastor's wives. They're supposed to play the piano, lead prayer meetings, organize the Christmas play, supply a baby to be Baby Jesus for the Christmas play, and perhaps have several more kids to be shepherds and wisemen for the play, too.
They're supposed to be up on the latest fashions and epitomize modesty at the same time. They need to know how to cook enough food to feed every church member and know all the words to all the hymns in the hymnal.
Someone even told me that pastor's wives who live overseas have to grow their hair really long so they could tie it into a bun. I can't tie a bun to save my life. Just by coincidence (or perhaps not), I cut my long hair into a short bob a few weeks before we moved overseas. Oops.
I might have been too paralyzed to even pack my suitcase if I had taken all of these rumors seriously. Just thinking about that could make a wife want to throw in the dishtowel at the first potluck and hide under the stairs with the leftover grape juice from communion.
Of course, I would have cheered for my husband as he boarded the plane. “Have fun, Honey! Skype me! I'll be praying for you!”
I felt that my husband was very well suited to be a pastor for a congregation of people from more than 50 different nationalities. But me, be an international church pastor's wife? I wasn't so sure I fit the fabled job description.
So What Is a Pastor's Wife?
I can imagine that you might be thinking a variety of things as you read this, depending on your perspective of what a pastor's wife should be.
Perhaps something about the idea of having this role shaped by others' expectations unsettles you. But maybe you can't think of any realistic alternatives. After all, everyone has expectations placed upon them—everyone.
A good question we ought to ask is this: Where are these expectations coming from?
It is so helpful for me to continually process the implications of this question. My husband is very well aware that I am not a wonderwoman. A few weeks after the church launched, the saints at Redeemer Church of Dubai caught on to this fact as well!
So what is a pastor's wife? One answer is very simply stated:
The pastor's wife should be a pastor's wife.
That sounds obvious, right? But this idea is not always easy to unpack and apply.
I'm looking forward to working through this idea in future articles. And we're going to hear more about the topic of pastor's wives at the 9Marks panel at noon on June 23 during The Gospel Coalition women's conference in Orlando.
Kristie Anyabwile, Keri Folmar, and Adrienne Lawrence will be discussing the responsibilities and privileges of the pastor's wife. I love the title of the panel—The Pastor's Wife: First Lady, Piano Player, Hostess, Mother Extraordinaire, and All-Around Wonderwoman?
Doesn't this sound like fun? I think this will be a great opportunity to laugh a little bit and talk about how to have biblically informed, healthy expectations of pastor's wives.
Even if you aren't a pastor's wife there are still lots of reasons to register for the conference, grab lunch, and sit in on the break-time panel. The piano playing is guaranteed to be top notch. There will also be dozens of wonderwomen there who will know how to fix the air conditioning if it isn't working properly!