My very first introduction into life as a pastor’s wife felt like a colossal crash and burn.
I had married a businessman and was accustomed to waving a breezy goodbye each weekday morning, smiling with, Dinner at 6! I home-schooled our children, and our days were full of lessons and field trips and sports practices. Friday was pizza night and an invitation to the slower-paced weekend. Church was church. Work was work. And the two did not meet.
When Jon became a pastor, suddenly work and church became synonymous, and I had no idea how complex our simple, quiet life would become. Overnight.
We moved into the parsonage (situated directly behind the church) on a Saturday, with Sunday being Day One of Jon’s employment. Piles of boxes were stacked about our dining room, and I could not find my six-year-old’s shoes. With one eye on the clock, and the other on the moving-box chaos surrounding me, I realized that the shoes were likely buried. She would have to wear flip flops.
Is everyone almost ready? I trilled down the narrow hallway, as I brushed my little girl’s hair into pigtails. Jon was already at church. As the boys brushed their teeth and tied their shoes, there was a knock at our back door.
I could not imagine who was here at this early hour. I did not have to wonder for long, as a woman’s face appeared in the window, hand cupped to the glass in order to peer inside our dining room.
I was stunned.
She knocked again, and I opened the door.
Good morning! She introduced herself. I want to invite your kids to Sunday School and I brought a pumpkin to show you what Bible verse we are carving in them today. She held up a round pumpkin.
I think I smiled, pointed to our boxes, and told her that despite a crazy morning, we would be over to church soon.
She stood on tiptoes, attempting to look over my shoulder into our home. Where are your children?
They are getting ready for church. I waved and thanked her as I backed up. We’ll see you soon! I slowly closed the door and leaned against it. Would this be a common event? If so, I needed to buy curtains, and fast.
I cherish privacy. Deeply. To peer into anyone’s window is as unimaginable to me as stealing a car.
My life as I knew it was over. Gone. It had vanished into thin air. We were living in a fishbowl.
Hours later, after Jon preached his first service as pastor, our family lined up to greet the congregants. I can see our children now—the boys tanned with slicked down hair, our daughter so small, blond pigtails bobbing. They were proud of their father and it showed on their glowing, upturned faces as we shook hands with nearly everyone.
Afterward, as we returned to the pews to gather our Bibles, a tall, sour-looking woman approached me.
I need to speak with you, she said, coolly.
I turned and smiled, striving for friendliness, longing to make a good impression.
You need to speak to your sons. She pointed at my chest.
My heart fluttered.
Your boys shake hands too firmly. Too strong a grip. We have elderly people in our congregation and it is inconsiderate. They could break their bones.
I had no words.
Also, you need to do a better job critiquing your husband. Tell him that he needs to look over the entire congregation when preaching. He was favoring one side. She waved a finger in the general direction.
My eyes filled as she turned and strolled away.
Day One and I was crushed. Who did this woman she think she was, criticizing my precious family who had done nothing wrong?
Truthfully? I wanted to trip her as she walked out the door.
How’s that for Day One as a pastor’s wife?
Recently, many years following my initial days as a pastor’s wife, I was jolted; convicted. All because of one sentence from Elisabeth Elliot, a woman who had once been a missionary to an unreached people group.
The Aucas had murdered my husband, Jim. But I did not hate them. I loved them, she said.
I was cut to bits. This woman loved and served the very people that speared her Jim to death.
My own husband, Jon, is very much alive but stands in a frequent line of fire. He is my pastor, and I am favored to be married to this man of courage, who consistently preaches verse-by-verse, pleading with people to be reconciled to God.
How is this standing in the line of fire, Kristin? you might ask. A touch dramatic, don’t you think?
Not at all. God’s truth is deeply offensive to the human flesh. And let us not forget that there is a war raging in the heavens. (Ephesians 6:12) Many people tend to grow stiff-necked and grumpy when presented with truth from the pulpit. Rather than grappling with God’s Words on a soul level, embracing the truth of sin through surrender and repentance and obedience, many lash out, kicking the message-bearer in the proverbial shins, slicing with pointed words, angry silence, or crossed arms. The posture of their heart is on full display.
I have come to accept this as par for the course, but it has taken many years for me to embrace the will of God with a peaceful, submissive heart. Are these folks in the right? Of course not.
But neither am I if I choose to harbor resentment over forgiveness. I have been selected by God to be my pastor’s wife and have learned to calmly rely on him to enable me to do his will. He is fully aware of my weaknesses and sins. He designed me to be an introverted woman who thrives behind the scenes, in the quiet places. And in his wisdom, he has pulled me into something quite different. It is my job to trust and serve him.
An abundant life in Christ arises from the ashes. New life from this death-to-self. Always.
So I must forgive those that bruise my husband and choose to kindly serve them out of obedience to God. This is an audacious act of the will that tugs against my natural inclinations. Never mind those complicated, conflicted feelings. God is always working and expects me to obey, despite my feelings. I hold fast to his Word, such as Lamentations 3:24: “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”
I invite you now: Come and die to yourself. Live for Christ. Do these things for Christ and the Church.
Christo et Ecclesiae.
Church, it is time to wake up.
Arise from this stupor that has fallen heavy over us, the body of Christ.
The thief, Satan, has come to kill, steal, and destroy (John 10:10). He is wreaking havoc on the bride of Christ while we, as a body universal, have become weak-kneed and timid, fearing man rather than reverencing God and his Word.
I read a piece of writing this week that went something like this: I love the church, but I have been wounded by much division, so I am going to curl up at home for the foreseeable future, sip tea, and nurse grievances until I feel ready to return, if ever. I can be close to God without going to church. I invite you to do the same.
I tremble at these words, and at the influencer that invites other in with such lies.
The Bible tells us not to forsake meeting together, as is the habit of some. (Hebrews 10:25)
Christ loved and gave himself for the church. (Ephesians 5:25)
We as Christians form one body and each member belongs to one another. (Romans 12:4-5)
Don’t buy the lie that you must always feel like going to church. Don’t buy the lie that grievances and hurts and offenses deserve to be fed, nurtured, and coddled.
Feed yourself the truth that we are called to meet together as a body of believers, not forsaking one another, but dying to our flesh, outdoing one another in showing honor to our brothers and sisters in Christ. (Romans 12:10)
By feasting upon Scripture every single day, learning who God is and hearing his voice speak through the Bible. Obey God, spear sin, and pray for wisdom. Come Sunday, your heart will be soft and tender to receive the Word with meekness.
So many have lost a fear and holy awe of God. Bibles sit dusty, neglected, disregarded, pages unmarked. But this is how we are to know God! How tragic to leave it unopened, bowing to the whims and preferences of men, rather than our Creator.
It is time to take a firm stand. Like Jesus, we must set our face like a flint, and do God’s will with joy in our hearts.
Congregants. If you are favored to be part of a church in which the pastor is boldly preaching the unadorned truth of the Gospel, give thanks to God and show up every single week, ready to worship, to chase holiness through unwavering obedience to Scripture. Scripture is God’s voice, the way in which we know how to please him. Showing up to church casually, only when you feel like it, when the mood strikes, when you have nothing better to do, is blatantly dishonoring to our Savior and to the church body as a whole. Adopting such a cavalier attitude is taking God’s holy name in vain. He died for his bride, the church, and there are to be no other gods before him. Pay attention to the state of your soul. We should be pricked and offended during the proclamation of the Word. Truth cuts against our sinful flesh, as the Holy Spirit stirs up our hearts in conviction. If you are never convicted, then something is terribly amiss. Do not ignore this, but throw yourself upon the mercy of God in repentance, pleading with him to rescue you.
If your pastor is teaching inspirational messages that eclipse this biblical truth called sin, find another church body that is committed to the totality of Scripture. We must be continually digesting the hard truths of sin, repentance, obedience, and suffering. We must also be gloriously reminded of the grace and mercy of Christ as we approach him with fear and trembling in humility, confessing sin and turning from it. Jesus came to rescue and save sinners, not to enable his people to remain comfortable in doing whatever pleases our flesh. We are also called to submit to and obey our leaders, who will give an account before God himself. (Hebrews 13:17) If you are a church member that leads in ministry within the church body, bear in mind that your service is not your own, but God’s ministry. You are a humble servant to the people of the church and ultimately to Christ.
Pray for, assist, and respect your pastor. He is working for God and ministering to you. Preaching is a hard and holy calling.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones said it well:
What is preaching? Logic on fire! Preaching is theology coming through man who is on fire. A true understanding and experience of the Truth must lead to this. I say again that a man who can speak these things dispassionately has no right whatsoever to be in a pulpit; and should never be allowed to enter one.
Pastors wives. Your main work is not within those church walls. You are not called to pastor—that is your husband’s job. There is no biblical office of pastor’s wife. Biblically, your chief work is to love and honor and serve your husband, a man who by the nature of his work is under a weighty, weighty burden. Bend your knees and pray for your husband. Love him. Keep your hearth and home a calm, ordered, and peaceful place, which is pleasing to God. All of this is done with a heart bent on love for Christ. You have a unique calling–no one else is married to your pastor, and may I suggest a word of caution? Do not become so overly involved in the church happenings that you no longer have time for your husband and family.
Few in your congregation will have a clue of the challenges that assail your family. How could they? Resist the urge to place an expectation upon others to understand your position, but soldier on in courage and faith. God has called you to this place and will give you his strength. He who promised is faithful. Tending to your husband-pastor and family will ultimately produce fruit within the body of Christ. Your job at home is a long, slow, tender work in one direction that often goes unseen. It is vital. Encourage your husband to steadfastly teach the truths of Scripture. There is nothing more important. Dig into Scripture daily. Sit under church teaching with joy, taking notes and thanking God for infusing your husband with the desire to proclaim the Word. Yield your will, walk in the Spirit, and bow to God.
And love the people. Give thanks for the many kindnesses they extend to your family. Forgive lavishly and speedily. Your congregation does not realize how many issues land upon your doorstep, by nature of your husband’s work. Learn to be unoffendable as you work unto God, and not man. Serve God, your family, and your church in humility.
Pastors. Keep at it. You are doing a good and holy work as you submit to his yoke. Pray, study God’s Word, and obey. Some of those faces in your congregation are dead bones walking. Plead with God to bring them to life, as only he can. And for those that have been made alive in Christ, pray for their hearts to remain soft as you deliver God’s Words, not your own. This whole shebang is God’s doing, and you are called to leave the results in his perfect hands.
There are certainly stiff consequences to preaching truth: people will hate you, people will leave the church, people will squirm in the pews, people will dismiss you. But remember, others will turn to Christ in joyful surrender. You are being held to a higher biblical standard and will be judged with greater strictness. Embracing this truth will strengthen your resolve to be loving in the pulpit. Love never fails, and always has the best interest of others in mind. Nothing is more loving than pleading with people to turn to Christ. Be direct in your preaching, relying on the Word.
Your work as a pastor is a bidding to come and die. Death to self, popularity, man-pleasing. Love your congregation enough to care for their souls. Don’t harden your heart toward these people whom God has graced to you for his good purposes. Shepherds feed, guide, and protect. Feed them God’s Word, guide them in truth, and protect them from false teachings and wolves. Follow God in obedience.
Time is fleeting.
Christ is coming back for his bride.
Are you prepared?