Not your Cookie Cutter's Pastor's Wife
(*written a year or two ago for a friend's blog, now posted here for you all to read. I hope it is an encouragement.)
In 1981, a beautiful, squalling, stubborn, tiny girl was born to first time parents. Headstrong, competitive, and sassy, she took the world on by storm! By God's grace, her parents were saved when she was 1, and her life was drastically changed. She was raised in church, and at the tender age of 5 accepted the Lord as her Saviour. If you think I am going to end this short story by saying, "She grew in grace and matured into the perfect Proverbs 31 lady, married a godly man, rode off into the sunset, and became the perfect example of a pastor's wife that everyone looked up to and admired," well, then, you would be....Wrong.
Have you ever seen Anne of Green Gables? You remember Anne- the spunky, outspoken, determined young heroine always getting into hilarious predicaments due to her personality and honesty. Take away the red hair, and you have me, Cassandra McMurtry, in a nutshell. Now, try to imagine Anne as a pastor's wife. Can you imagine all the scrapes she would have gotten herself into?
My husband was an assistant pastor when we married at 20. After serving under his dad for over 10 yrs, we were called into church planting. For almost 6 years now, I have been a pastor's wife. But, I will warn you, I am not your typical, "cookie cutter" pastor's wife. And it took quite a long time for me to be ok with that. I want to be an encouragement to you pastor's wives who don't feel like you are "making the grade", or measuring up, or feel like a failure.
Where did we get this flawed idea that Pastor's wives are perfect, sinless, and must always look a certain way, act a certain way, have a spotless house at all times, and be 125 pounds, with perfectly coiffed and styled hair? Not from the Bible. For about 10 yrs, I really struggled with fitting into a box. I just knew that if I read A, B, and C, I would act a certain way. I knew I could change my personality somehow. I could stuff all of my bluntness and honesty way down into myself, never to let it see the light of day, and become the meek and quiet woman that I knew was expected of me. I would smile at all the right times, I would laugh at all the right times, I would gaze adoringly at my husband at all the right times, I would have perfectly dressed and groomed children at all times, the house would be spotless at all times....I get exhausted thinking of my life back then. To be honest, (I mean, I can't help but be honest) I was miserable. When my husband planted our church, and I went from having the kids at the private school of our previous church to homeschooling them full time, I about lost my mind trying to keep up the facade. Then something clicked. What was I doing? Why was I reading all these books on being the perfect pastor's wife, and ignoring, "The Book"? Eagerly I dove into the Bible. I would see what the Bible had to say to pastor's wives!
First of all, you won't even find the term "pastor's wife" in the Bible. The Bible admonishes the aged women to teach the younger women, and sure, that could go for a pastor's wife, but I get the impression those verses are to all older Christian women. There are many verses aimed towards women, and growing in grace and being a woman of virtue, but those are addressed to all women- be it a plumber's wife, electrician's wife, principal's wife, well, you get the idea! There is one verse for deacon's wives, which is in 1 Tim. 3:11. It says, Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things. At different places in the Bible, all Christian women are instructed to be these things as well, so once again, this instruction could go for all Christian women. We also know the verses giving the requirements for a bishop, and how one is to rule over his own house well. I happened to marry a man who loves my spunkiness, who loves to 'debate' with me, and loves that I am honest and blunt. So for us, it works. (Yes, I found my Gilbert.) If you are that way, and your husband doesn't like it, well, that's for a different devotional.
I searched high and low in the Bible for "pastor's wife" advice. And..... I didn't find much. Remember how I said that that phrase isn't even in the Bible? I did find some gems that really spoke to me, though.
Psalms 139 :13-14a For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother's womb. I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made...
Jeremiah 1:5a Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee..
Job 31:15 Did not he that made me in the womb make him? and did not one fashion us in the womb?
Over and over I found verses about God forming us, God molding us, God knowing us before we were even born. And God started to speak to me. God doesn't make mistakes when he is forming us in our mother's womb! He doesn't say, "Hmmm, I know this one is going to be a pastor's wife, so let's make her naturally meek, very quiet, a perfect hostess, and elegant to top everything off!" Um, no. God equips us with exactly what we are going to need in our life. I've been through some rough patches in my life. So God granted me with a strong will. Having that strong will has enabled me to keep going when things have gotten tough. It's given me courage to say no to wrong decisions I wanted to make. It's helped me stay on the straight and narrow path. God has blessed me, (or cursed, I haven't made up my mind yet) with the gift of complete honesty. I am bold, and I usually say the things that other people are thinking. But this gift has enabled me to open up to other people about my faith, and witness boldly, where other women would have a hard time. I am competitive by nature. Instead of rejecting that, I use it to push me to be better, whether it's a better pianist, piano teacher, mom, wife, housekeeper, Christian lady, soul-winner, whatever!
After I concluded my study on "being the best pastor's wife ever", I came to the conclusion that my one and only job as a pastor's wife is the same as any other Christian lady's: to be the best helpmeet to my husband that I can be. He just happens to be the pastor. If he wants me to head up something in the church, then I will, to help him out. If he wants me to play piano, (which, of course, he does) I will gladly do it- to be the best helpmeet to him I can be. If he loves my spunkiness and boldness, why in the world would I try to stifle that?
I tell our church people all the time, "Please do not put me on a pedestal. I don't belong up there, and if you put me on it, I will fall off." Do not call me the "First Lady" of our church. It's not a Biblical term, (it is a manmade term that was coined up for the President's wife, and for some reason, Baptists have accepted it as their own) and I'm not. To be called "First", means that you have arrived, that you are ahead of everyone else in this race called life. I haven't arrived. I am a work in progress. I am just married to the pastor. I am a Christian, just like all the other godly ladies attending church, striving to become better Christians. My house isn't clean all the time. I live in a 1300 sq ft house and homeschool 6 kids. That is an impossible expectation. I love having people over, but if you come over, my house will not be perfect! I often appear stressed out. Life is stressful! Sometimes I am a little too blunt and honest. I have learned to bite my tongue and show tact when needed, but if you don't want an honest answer, please don't ask me for the truth! I am only 36 years old, but I have been in the ministry 16 years now. One of the things I want to see end in my lifetime is the exaltation, and unrealistic expectations, that are placed on the pastor's wife. It's nowhere in the Bible. Are we Bible believers, or aren't we?
The past 6 years have been the happiest of my life. I love learning under my husband, and I love growing with my church ladies. Once I learned to embrace the personality that God has given me, it brought such a liberty into my life, one that I had never experienced before. Don't get me wrong, I am always striving to be the Proverbs 31 woman. I always want to become more godly, more feminine, better at anything I put my hand to in life. But I am no longer trying to stuff myself into a box. God gave us all different gifts, abilities, and personalities for a reason. They all meld together perfectly in a church family! And if you feel like a failure, please don't. There is not a "cookie cutter" pastor's wife. There is just you, striving to become the Christian lady that God wants you to be. God knows our hearts, ladies. It's time to drop the facade and let the real you shine forth.