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The Plastic Pastor’s Wife

By Annie Garman

I had only been married and in ministry for a total of four weeks when our senior pastor told us we were going to our first ministry conference. I remember feeling like I was faking it or something. I had barely started at this new role. Was I really in need of a conference to “revive my weary spirit”?

The conference ended up being a great way for us to get to know the senior pastor and his wife and (preemptively) fill up on encouragement.  Most of the conference teemed with timeless wisdom we desperately needed.  One particular session, though, I will never forget. 

It was a “women’s only” breakout session, and the speaker had silver hair that spoke of her seasoned perspective and experience.  This particular pastor’s wife warned us to be careful not to get too close to other women in their congregation.  Such behavior could be detrimental.  After all, we were the pastor’s wives. We needed to protect our husband’s reputation.  

I felt stunned. 

If keeping a safe, healthy distance from people was what was expected from me in my new job, I didn’t know if I could do it.  I had always been very open and transparent about my struggles.

Luckily there were other women in the room who challenged this woman’s advice at the end.  I listened to their critiques, the back and forth dialogue, and stored it all away in my heart, wondering if the issue would come up in the future. 

It didn’t take long. 

At almost every turn on this journey, I have had to make a choice.  Will I find some trusted people to confide in when I’m struggling, or will I care more about keeping up appearances and struggle alone? 

The times I’ve believed that I can’t show weakness have been the loneliest and darkest times.  The times I’ve shared with select people how I’m really doing have resulted in life-giving conversations that have ministered deeply to both parties.

Of course, there have been times I felt nobody on earth could understand.  In a sense, that might have been true. But I’ve also come to realize the truth that “No temptation has come upon you except what is common to humanity” (1 Cor. 10:13).   

The Message translation sums it up well: “No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face.”

Just because we’re pastor’s wives doesn’t mean we’re super human.  We experience many of the same emotions, dips, and challenges that the women in our church face.  Pretending that we’re above those things puts us on an unnecessary pedestal, too far from the hearts of those we seek to reach.  And it sure can get lonely up there. 

Here a few questions and the answers I’ve learned.

Q:  Should we share everything with everyone?

A: Not necessarily. I think we can be honest to an extent with everyone about our weaknesses, paving the way for honest dialogue about sin and Jesus.  You don’t have to open up your darkest secrets to everyone, but it’s important to have a few friends you can confide in without fear (either inside or outside the church).   

Q:  Won’t sharing about my struggles hurt the ministry?

A:  If it does, then your ministry is superficial.  People need to see that the pastor and his wife are real people, not plastic.  They need to see that everyone struggles with sin, that occasionally we all fall, and–for that very reason—Jesus is to be treasured more and more. 

Q:  What if your struggle involves your husband?

A:  This is legitimate. I do think it’s helpful to find trusted friends outside of your church family. Work to develop these relationships. It is vital as a pastor’s wife to find friends or mentors who will help you work through issues, even if they involve your husband. Just make sure to find someone bold enough to confront you of your sin, if necessary, and point you back to Jesus.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Annie Garman

Annie B. Garman is a pastor’s wife and mother to four excitable girls, and author of Unexpected Grace: When Your Child is Born With Half a Heart. She and her family serve at Pillar Church in Northern Virginia where the traffic is thick, but the church planting opportunities abound. Their network of churches is attempting to plant a reproducible gospel-centered church at every Marine Corps base around the world (praetorianproject.org). Her biggest passion is to know Christ and make Him known in whatever situation she finds herself in. Annie shares her thoughts on motherhood, mayhem, and the meaning of life at anniebgarman.com.

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