Dear Young Pastor's Wife,

>> February 4, 2010

For my entire married adult life, I've had an... older pastor's wife.

Who doesn't speak English.

And comes to our church once a quarter.


I really had to dig down deep to remember some space of time in which there WAS a young PW in my life. I finally found her memory lodged way back in the 8-12 year old range.

She was lovely. Young, incredibly stylish, pretty as a picture. Their two young children were clean, always well dressed, and way too young to be my playmates.

The female population of the church was enthralled. They ooh'd and aah'd over her decorating skills, her impecable figure, her ability to be a complete fashion plate with her feathered 80's hair, decorative hats and dainty gloves, and her ability to sew dear little dresses for her daughter that exactly matched her own.

In fact, a bunch of the ladies took up sewing that year. Including my mom. Before I knew it, I had several dresses for church that made me look like my mother's mini-me. At 10 years old, I thought that was GREAT! Made me feel all grown up and like I just fit in perfectly with all those lovely ladies!

It was all so exciting!  Everyone was getting along well, the church seemed so very unified at that moment. I remember those days of happy social gatherings with a lot of fondness even now. It was almost like a honeymoon period for the congregation.

I think things began to go downhill about the time my mom decided to sew me some "Hammer" pants.

If you don't know what those are, or don't remember the particular decade that irrevocably ties me to, be thankful for your ignorance.

Very thankful.

And for those of you who might know what I'm talking about - yes, yes I did wear those pants out in public, much to my eternal embarrassment. Several times, in fact. I quickly began to lose my happy feelings about my mom's newfound interest in sewing.

I didn't really realize it much at the time, but the rest of the church was beginning to lose their sense of balance as well. The honeymoon was over. The social good times were slowly tapering off in frequency.

There was a growing conservative movement in our church at the time, and the pastor and his wife were considerably more liberal than the average member.

It started with the board meetings. The stress, the tears, the awkwardness in church a few days later. "Wow," I thought. "I'll never be a board member, it seems AWFUL!" (That mantra didn't really last, though. Here in our little church now - when you're needed, you're needed! I've served on the board most of my time here in many different capacities, and you learn to cope!)

But back to the story. It turns out that our lovely young PW was very sweet and fun-loving most of the time... er, that is, right up until someone spoke out in any way that could be construed as being "critical" of her PH. Then she sort of morphed into this mother bear with teeth bared and claws out.
It was usually contained within the walls of the fellowship hall during a board meeting, but she wasn't above giving a good tongue-lashing to a member in the foyer after services!

Once I was privileged to go to a baby shower for a church member that was held at the PW's house. I was so excited to be part of the "Ladies" for once. All the dainty little finger foods, the pretty dresses, the gossip!

Oh yes, the gossip. PW wasn't above joining in the talk of the know-it-alls that abound in every church.

"Did you hear So-and-so is also having a baby this fall?!"

"Really?! But I thought she wasn't getting married until June!"

At this my mother shot me a look that said, "You'd better not be listening to this!!"

"Oh yes, they've moved up the wedding date and are still planning to go to school in the fall just like they were before, and they will be rebaptized just before the wedding and plan to confess before the church..."

A few of the ladies grew quiet and drew away from the conversation while our PW leaned in farther and joined in with a few more details.

Then someone piped up with a gentle reprimand for the gossipers (which included the PW) and....

We nearly had WW III.

Our young pastor's wife didn't appreciate being reproved, apparently. She let loose with a sound defense and the whole room inhaled together and held their breath.  The party soon dwindled and it wasn't long before we were riding homeward, and I was asking questions that my poor mother had to figure out how to answer.

The end result? Growing rifts between those swinging the liberal way and those swinging the conservative way on the great pendulum of religious views. I guess in a lot of ways the church was heading for factions splitting down the middle anyway, and our young PW just helped push things along.

Worse than that was the slow, trickling loss of respect for her PH.

You know the kind of loss I'm talking about. It starts with feeling a little bit sorry for him because his wife has a temper and that he must have had a lot of criticism lately to warrant that sort of consistent violent reaction from his wife.

And then it became a little more like disillusionment as it continued, and soon feelings of contempt rose up as it became apparent he "allowed" it and that she most certainly "wore the pants". 

Ah well, after their four years were up they moved on, and I haven't any idea how their story continued from there. One can hope she learned eventually to bite her tongue now and then, or learned that her PH was a big boy who could take care of himself, even in the shark infested waters of the terrible board meetings!

I know for all PWs there is a delicate balance between being comfortable and open with members and being TOO comfortable. Between allowing them to see your imperfections and being seen as nothing more than a sinner still struggling with your sin. Between being friendly and making friends. 

All of these issues are fraught with a sense of a tricky balance between the two knife edges of a cliff. I know that the walk of a PW is an incredibly lonely one, but hopefully a little less so now that camaraderie can be found with other PW's online.

I also know that while our church never fully recovered that unity it felt early on in their ministry, it did recover, like all churches do. With time, tragedies remind us that we are, and always will be, family.  I was baptized by that pastor, and that year there were about 30 others who joined me. He was a kind, gentle person, and there were many besides me who were sorry to see him go.

But I can't say the same exact sentiment followed our young PW out the door.

So I write this letter to you, as a young pastor's wife. May you have a better time finding balance, finding peace with the trials your PH faces, and finding that place where your part of the pastoring ministry compliments your PH and only increases the respect people hold for him!
     ~ from a young woman at church ~ 

Guest blogger Lisa writes from northern Michigan. She has three beautiful kids, is active in her local church, and authors her own blog, Riverains at:

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Anonymous,  February 4, 2010 at 5:31 PM  

Thank you Lisa for writing this post. I know when I read it, I cringed. I personally have received a good tongue lashing or two from a PW...but I have also witnessed the look of hurt and dismay on the face of one receiving it from me. Not something I could ever be proud of. There are stresses and struggles as a PW, but you are right... we must strive to find the balance.

Pamee February 5, 2010 at 2:11 PM  

WOW!! I never grew up in the Church... and became a PW =) I didn't know what I was doing... but survived!!

Jenilee February 6, 2010 at 8:21 PM  

wow. what a post! I could relate to so much of that! being a young pastor's wife is not easy and finding balance takes time and strength from God. Thankfully, He supplies and I keep going, keep finding balance.

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