By Gloria Furman
Editor’s Note: This is part 2 in a 3 part series on being a pastor’s wife. Stay tuned for part 3. And if you need to catch up, you can read part 1 here.
“I just want to take a minute to soak this in.” Our cheeky South African friend had a big grin on his face as he approached my husband and me after a church meeting.
“What do you mean?” my husband inquired.
“It’s just so strange to see you two standing next to each other at church of all places! Shouldn’t you both be working?” He chuckled. Our friend’s remark about us rarely being in one another’s presence during church gatherings is humorous.
But some remarks aren’t very funny.
Someone once told me, “Excuse me, you are the pastor’s wife? I expected you to be different.”
I’m slowly getting used to the forthrightness of some of the friends we’ve made here in Dubai. After living in this region for nearly four years, most of my culture shock has become quite mild.
But there are still moments when I’m shocked. Like the time a group of ladies offered to point out some places where I could stand to lose more of my baby weight. One woman stepped forward and gently patted a few body parts to emphasize her point. Another woman advised me, “Stop wearing loose pants or you will stay this way.”
At that moment I wasn’t trying to treasure the gospel; I just wanted to go to a “happy place.” Thankfully, I can laugh about this now. I’ve come to realize that the openness these women enjoy comes from security in their friendships sealed by loyalty. These women loved me so much to include me in their community where friends speak freely about all sorts of things from expanding waistlines to struggles with sin.
I am continually learning more about different cultures. I am also continually learning to treasure the gospel and its implications for me as the wife of a pastor.
Ministry can be overwhelming with its complex web of relationships and bouts of intense busyness. Factor in cultural complications and various seasons of life and you’ve got a recipe for potential anxiety, discouragement, and fatigue.
As pastors’ wives, our extreme circumstances make it easy for us to forget that our relationship with God is the predominant, defining relationship in our lives.
I forget the gospel because of my sin.
Certainly my own sin is the most persuasive factor in my forgetting the gospel. I know in my heart I feel I am the VIP. I assume this should be the case for the people in my life because in my own mind I am larger-than-life. A friend gently reminds me that people don’t think about me nearly as often as I like to think they do!
Because I’m self-centered, I tend to have an unhealthy fixation on things like church drama or our jam-packed pastoral schedule. I can stew over comments about my husband or the church and assume the worst motives in others. This is all the more reason I must continually remind myself of the all-encompassing, life-defining reality of the gospel.
I forget the gospel because of secondary things.
Many a pastor’s wife has struggled with expectations for them on the part of the congregation (and perhaps her husband). With input from dozens of fellow church members, “Our Old Pastor’s Wife” can become a idealized caricature who wears dozens of hats. Someone told me that one of the up-sides of being married to a church planter is that new believers don’t know “Our Old Pastor’s Wife.” So when these new believers move on from our church to another church then I turn into her.
We should affirm and celebrate how God designed us with a myriad of different gifts for building up the church and loving our neighbors. But the roles we play should be second fiddle to one great reality— God designed all of us to see and cherish him as our highest good.
Every pastor’s wife has this in common: we are all desperate to see God’s grace at work in our life, our husband’s life, and in the life of our church. Dependency on God’s grace is a defining reality for every pastor’s wife across the globe.
We are Jesus’ sheep, too.
When we get caught up in the work of the ministry and forget our dependence on God, we carry burdens we were never meant to bear. We need to remember that Jesus bears our burdens, just like he bears the burdens of every fellow saint in our church. The greatest burden he has carried for us is our sin.
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls (1 Peter 2:24-25).
Jesus absorbed God’s wrath against our sin so we don’t have to absorb church drama and let it define us and rule our marriage.
Jesus governs all things for our good and his glory so we don’t have to be control freaks in order to feel safe.
Jesus died to forgive our sins so we could live to righteousness and avoid a world of snares like pride, gossip, and selfishness.
Jesus is sovereignly building his church so we don’t have to burn out in frenetic ministry busyness.
Jesus is going to present the church to himself in splendor so we don’t have to despair over every negative comment we hear.
Jesus is our tender Shepherd who loves us with undying faithfulness so we don’t have to live for people pleasing.
Jesus is the Overseer of our souls; he cares for us! Through his work on the cross, our Good Shepherd gives us his own body as sustenance for us. We ought to take pains to feast on his word every day for the good of our own souls—not just to regurgitate for ministry output.
Timothy Lane and Paul Tripp said in How People Change, “If who I am in Christ does not shape the way I think about myself and the things I face, then I will live out some other identity.” The most defining relationship of the pastor’s wife is her relationship to the Chief Shepherd who guides, cherishes, and guards her soul.
By grace through faith the pastor’s wife is a partner in the glorious gospel. He who began the good work of conforming us to the image of his Son will complete it at the day of Jesus Christ.
And to the praise of his glorious grace we’ll become exactly whom he expected.
(A version of this article first appeared at The Gospel Coalition)
Gloria Furman (@gloriafurman) lives in Dubai with her husband Dave, a pastor at Redeemer Church of Dubai. They have three young kids. Gloria is the author of Glimpses of Grace: Treasuring the Gospel in Your Home (Crossway, 2013) and blogs regularly for Domestic Kingdom.