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The Women Who Have Been Known As The Pastors Wife

14 Dec

I originally published this blog post on my old blog 20 months ago now. It’s been by far my most popular post and I’m still amazed that after all of this time I still receive comments on it, both on my blog and via email.  Most are encouraging, as there are many PW’s out there who feel like me, other comments have not been so positive. I’m thinking that I may update it in time, but for now, I just wanted to re-publish it again. Food for thought maybe?

I was hesitant about writing this post, as I know that a few have followed suit of Bill Kinnon. This post has really been on my mind though. I’m writing it in celebration of a group of posts which have come under The People Formerly Known As … banner. These are thoughts compiled by Bill Kinnon, Grace, Jamie Arpin-Ricci, John Frye, and a few others. I don’t know what anyone will make of this, or indeed if anyone will read it; but these thoughts I share from the heart, from my own experiences as the Pastors Wife, and of pastors wives I know. If anything, this post is for me, so I can get this off my chest. It’s also for those women out there who have been known as the pastors wife.

We are the women who have been known as the pastors wife. There are thousands of us all over the world. This was not a role we sought to have in life, we simply fell in love with a man who was called into ministry. Initially we were excited with our new “role”, and, along with our husband, we could see all of the potential there was in the Kingdom of God. We wanted to serve God well; we wanted to sow into the Kingdom; we wanted to live the adventure; we wanted to make God proud. Faithfully we went where God led us.

Silently, over the years, we were molded into our role through the expectations of the congregation. We were expected to serve willingly throughout the church, and be an added extra for free. What a bargain you got, in no other job can a man take his wife to work for free. We worked tiresomely teaching in sunday school classes, helping out in creche, serving tea and coffee, flower arranging, preparing bible studies, banner making, cake baking and helping out with countless other church programs, never to gain any thanks or recognition.

We were expected to look and act in a certain manner, and always had to put on a smile. None of you were really concerned if we were struggling, had questions about church or life in general. You told us countless times, through your actions and words, that we were not there to receive, but to serve. After all we were seen as a Godly lady, and you expected no less. We felt your rebuke.

We were expected to be a hostess, and have an immaculate home, just in case a parishoner should drop by. You didn’t care how late into the night or on what day of the week you telephoned or called by. It was almost as if we were not allowed to have any private time. We soon learnt, and got caller display, so that you could leave countless messages on the answer machine instead. Aren’t you lucky, that unlike most jobs, the pastor is not paid for unsocial hours.

We were expected to be the perfect mothers and never to raise our voice. We were not perceived to have any parenting struggles, and were expected to mentor parents around us. Really though, we were working it all out alone, and thinking that we were making a mess of it. We hoped the latest christian parenting handbook would give us some advice, which we could then pass on to you. Our children were expected to be seen and not heard, always following the ways of the Lord. When our children fell away, many of you just tut-tutted, and raised your eye brows.

We watched helplessly as our husbands confidence was destroyed, as you tore away at him week after week with your endless complaints about the sermon, the music and the length of the service. We watched you draw him further and further into the ground, until he reached depressive levels. What had started as a joy to be in ministry, was now turning into a misery. The demands on our husbands grew, which caused friction at home, as we wanted to try and have some quality family time together. For years we have supported and encouraged our husbands. We have cried so many tears – more tears than you will ever realize.

For years we’ve struggled on a pastors wage, trying to make ends meet. We watched as you all went on your luxury holidays, whilst you leant us your caravan by the sea for free. We know that your heart was in the right place, but it didn’t mean that we didn’t wish we were at some luxury resort instead.

We are humbled, and very grateful, to know that many of you have prayed for us over the years. Know too, that we have prayed for you. You shared your confidences in us, we were not able to share ours with you, having been burned by people too many times in the past.

Gradually we started to withdraw from church life. We realised that relationship wasn’t what you really wanted. We yearned for close Christian friends to share our hearts and dreams with. We wanted to be known for who we were, not as the pastors wife. We have a unique identity. Our conversations with you were impersonal, quite often just to ask us to give a quick message to our husbands.

Along with our husbands we saw so much potential in the church. Over the years we came to realize that we were being turned into people pleasers, not necessarily God pleasers. Church had become a corporate business, which was gradually becoming corrupted from within. The adventurers in us started to die. We realized over time that the potential in the Kingdom of God is outside of the four walls, in the community. We are still trying to work out exactly how that will look, but we are on a journey again, at the beginning of another adventure with God. Sadly, we have realized, that many of you will not be coming on this journey with us. But we have to shake the dust off our feet.

We are the women who have been known as the pastors wife. We are hurting, and bruised. We desperately need building up again. We don’t really know where we fit into all of this anymore. We really want to serve still, but don’t know what we have left within us. There are many of us around, when you meet one of us, get to know us, show an interest in us, after all, we are people too. We are the women who have been known as the pastors wife.

If you have any thoughts or comments to add feel free to, thanks for reading and sharing my thoughts.

Fickleness

21 Apr

I’ve been aware today of how very fickle my trust in God can be at times. Many of you know that we are in the process of emigrating to Canada. I regularly visit an immigration forum where fellow “hopefuls” share their journey so far. It seems that some who applied around the time we did are now being asked for medicals. This has really made me bouncy and positive for the past few days, as, usually within a month or so of medicals (providing you pass them) you get the lovely permanent residency visa stamp in your passport! After a long process now, it seems as if Canada is finally on our doorstep. I’ve been praising God and praying “bring on the medicals Lord!” I’m so excited about what God has in store for us in the future.

Zoom on in my day to a few hours ago, and my mood suddenly changes. We’ve learned, from said forum, that the Canadian government are proposing a change to their immigration system. It seems they are wanting to focus on particular skills they require, thus bumping the people who hold these skills up in the queue, and basically forgetting about the rest. Now, before anyone jumps down my throat, I must point out here that I think this is great, if a country is short of a particular skill then they should seek people out skilled in that area. However, I’m not so sure if it’s good for us, when this proposed motion will come into effect etc etc. My bouncy mood has deteriorated and I feel a little anxious. If we get a big no from the Canadian High Commission, then that will leave me questioning everything I have ever heard from God, even if I actually hear from Him in the way I think I do. There have been so many things that have happened over the past few years that indicate that Canada is where God wants us, that it would be very hard if it all fell apart.

I’m definitely like one of the Israelites. God sent the plagues, released them from slavery in Egypt, made way for them to cross the Red Sea (incidentally it’s passover week!) and they were only so far into the journey, found themselves in a desert, and suddenly the miracles that God had done for them are forgotten about, and they’re moaning because they are h0t and hungry, and asking why has God done this to them, they were better off as slaves etc (shheesh, it’s hard to please some people!). That is it really though, isn’t it, the simple fact is, as soon as it gets a little tough and isn’t running as smooth as we like, we simply forget about what God has recently said to us, done for us etc and start to doubt, whine or moan.

I guess faith is the main part of our journey with God, and I have to hang on to those promises I believe God has given us, and claim them. My mood is now getting bouncier again, yet I feel discouraged with how hot and cold I can blow with God.

Forgiveness

8 Sep

forgiveness
noun
1. compassionate feelings that support a willingness to forgive
2. the act of excusing a mistake or offense

Jonathan and I were talking about forgiveness today as he is at a healing conference this weekend. He asked me if there were any things that I needed to forgive him for. I didn’t think there were, but as I’ve thought about it I realized that underneath there are a few things which I do need to forgive him for. The more I thought about these things the more I realized that these things were out of his control. I shouldn’t “blame” him for them. In the whole sphere of live these things are small, and I didn’t even realize until I thought about it that there was even a resentment there. Now they’ve come to the surface I will forgive.

On the larger scale of things I have read through a lot of blog posts recently where people are displaying pain and hurts. I think writing about these hurts is part of the healing process, as well as bringing the various pains and hurts to God. The healing process isn’t something which happens overnight, it takes time, for some people a few years.

A lot of the time the root of healing is forgiveness. When we don’t forgive then we can’t let go and move on. When we don’t forgive we become bitter, angered and resentful. It’s important that those who have been hurt through church forgive, heal and move on. The worst thing that can happen is for the emerging-missional-whatever you call it movement to be seen as a bitter and angry people. We have to move on. We have to celebrate the good things about church and encompass them in our journey and expression of faith.

I, like most of us, have my forgiving and healing to do – it’s a process, sometimes I think I’m getting there and, well, other times …….. The prayer synchroblog has actually got me thinking more about the foundation of Christianity, the roots of our faith, and how that can echo through my life today.

Now I’ve never studied Greek before, but from my research on the internet I have found a few words which feature in the New Testament when talking about forgiveness. Apoluein means “to release.” Charizomai means “to grace you.” (It hails from the Greek word Charis which means Grace). Aphiemi means “to send away.” Paresis means “to disregard” my understanding is that paresis is used when referring to God not seeing our sins, he will disregard them.

Therefore in a round about way we can say that in forgiving God wants us to send away the offense (pain, hurt etc), to release the people/thing we are hurting over and to extend to them grace. When I talk with Jonathan about church he often says to me “people within the church system really believe that they are doing what is right, their heart is to do what is right, and we have to extend grace to them because of that, not judge them and become bitter towards them. A lot of them don’t think like us, but they’re good people. We have to embrace the good things about church.” He is a very wise man.

I don’t know where you are at today, whether you are hurting or not, if you are then I pray that you will soon find peace. I think we should all try and extend a little Charizomai to others today.

Let the little children come to me

30 Aug

Grace has written a really great post today.  In it she talks about whether her and her husband have done enough to help the kids have a passion for God.  She wonders if they are OK or are they slipping?  In her words:

“We have done a good job of raising kids that are not religious. Their BS detectors are keen to legalism and hype. But have we done enough to ignite their passion for the things of God? or have we leaked too much cynicism, drowning out that spark? These are the things that keep this mother up at night.”

It is a great post and there are some thoughtful and helpful comments.  I really resonate with what Grace wrote.  My children are not teenagers, they are eight and six, but I already find myself asking these questions.  Are we going to miss the boat with them?  Is our journey going to harm them, or will it end up enhancing their own faith?  They don’t like children’s church, we have the grumbles and moans each week.  Alan Knox pointed out to Grace that maybe she should live what God is showing her.  Maybe that is some of our problem as well.  We talk all of the time about what we believe in, how we would like to see the Christian community move, what we would like to do for God.  Yet here we are in a pastoral role which is only touching the edges of all of that.

I’m not sure what Jonathan is thinks about it, but I feel very drawn to YWAM at the moment.  Our permanent residency for Canada is taking much longer to come through than we expected, and we are really in limbo.  I think this is affecting the kids as well.

If there is one thing that I want to be able to say in ten years, then it is that my children have their own faith, they are walking with God in a strong way.  I am their mother, and I believe it is the most important thing I can teach them and guide them into.  It’s not the church’s responsibility to teach my children, it is mine and my husbands.  the church is a supporting role.  The question is, how do I get from here to there?

Any thoughts?

Muslim-Episcopal priest

24 Jun

Whilst reading Scot McKnight’s blog yesterday, I came across a link to an article about a Episcopal priest who has said she is a muslim as well.  You can read the article, from the Seattle Times, here.  I’m not really sure what I make of this at all to be honest.  In fact, I don’t really get it.

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