Not Just One of the Girls
by Stacey Weeks
Life as a ministry wife is a whirlwind trip best taken strapped in tight. A stormy tour through my husband’s first church solidified the need for me to remain seated until the ride came to a full and complete stop. I tried to follow the rules on these waves of ministry. I quickly learned what I was made of.
Once upon a time I sported a charming pair of rose-colored glasses. They were enchanting, magically turning all ministry prospects into a wonderful opportunity. Cautionary warnings from veteran pastors didn’t curb my enthusiasm. Ministry life would be rosy and good.
I soon found a tender heart surrounded by thin skin offered little protection on the battlefield called ministry. In all fairness, I had been warned. My glasses must have affected my hearing because the warning fell on deaf ears. My rosy specks transformed those words into a promise that life would be different for me. Before long I found myself riding the roller coaster called ministry.
Only Strive to Meet God’s Expectations
Upon entering our first church I anticipated certain expectations for my husband, but was blindsided by the ones placed on me. This flock had definite ideas on who I should be. I discovered this group expected me to fit their “perfect wife” mold. This was the cookie cutter they measured each of their ministry wives against. I didn’t fit. I didn’t even come close.
I remember our first Sunday at our new church. I dressed carefully, eager to make a favorable impression. As the deacon’s wife shook my hand I felt her appraisal.
“Do you play the piano?”
“No,” I said, shaking my head.
She dismissed me with a subtle turn of her shoulder.
The bright clothes I liked were frowned upon. The soft blue we painted the sanctuary’s archway was too bold. Apparently the only respectable colors were serious, plain, and beige.
Beige isn’t my color.
My vibrant personality, although frowned upon, complements my career as a hairstylist. I could not read a line of music and my voice could never mimic the chiming bells at the Crystal Cathedral, yet I appreciate music. I’m certainly not Cinderella, but I’m not the wicked stepmother either. I fall somewhere in the middle with all the other normal everyday women trying to juggle life.
In the midst of this common juggling act, one question plagues us women: Does God know what He is doing? I had no doubts about my husband’s calling to the ministry, but I did doubt my ability to serve alongside him. This mirage of expected perfection hovered constantly, teasing and chipping away at my heart. My focus shifted as I spent many hours trying to force myself into a role God never created to fit me.
How do you respond to this pressure? Ignoring my gifts and desires, I served where I was informed it was suitable for me to serve. I lost my healthy fear of God and replaced it with a fear of the deacon’s wife. My quiet time was sacrificed while trying to please this unpleasable woman. In the end I wasn’t sure what I did out of love, obligation, or resentment. I had to re-learn the very lesson I was teaching each week in Sunday school: God loves me just as I am.
Continue Perseverance in Prayer
Sometimes prioritizing God requires stepping back from many involvements. Luke 19:20-27 teaches that God desires us to be responsible with our talents and use them to serve Him. Trying to please the individual quirks of an entire congregation wasn’t responsible or healthy. Moreover, when it started keeping me from God’s Word, it became sin. D.L. Moody once said, “This book (the Bible) will keep me from sin, or sin will keep me from this book.”
I discovered God made me unique, and He did it on purpose (Eph. 4:11). He has given me special gifts and talents, and He desires me to serve Him in a passionate way. It was no accident that I am the woman who married the man He sent to that church. I had something to offer and I didn't need to be ashamed. I soon found my greatest joy in serving came when I combined what I was passionate about with ministry. It became clear to me that when you find your passion, you find your heart.
Another lesson I learned the hard way could be observed in an episode of Roadrunner. Wile E. Coyote has a longstanding vendetta against the Roadrunner. He goes to extreme lengths to persecute the Roadrunner.
My personal Wile E. Coyote was a woman in our church. This parishioner believed it was her Christian duty to inform me of everything that was wrong with me. Her words and manners were harsh and cruel. Being aware I’m required to love her and being able to do it were two different things. My only defense was to pray for her daily (Matt. 5:44, 1 Pet. 3:9). It is impossible to stay angry with someone for whom you are praying. I prayed for our relationship, and for the Holy Spirit to teach me how to love her. With every prayer uttered, my ability to react properly was improving.
She was still placing the dynamite in my path, but God was preventing the oncoming explosion. I could choose to react in love (Matt 5:39). I could choose not to dwell on my wounded spirit (Phil 4:8). I could choose to forgive (Matt 6: 4-15). I could choose to give her the same undeserved love that Christ gave me (Rom. 3:10-12, 23-24). I learned that Christian love is not only loving people who are kind to you, it’s also loving people who disappoint you in life.
Pastor and author Chuck Swindoll once said, “Life is ten percent what happens to you and 90 percent how you react to it.” I could choose to pity myself, growing bitter toward all ministries, or I could choose to believe that God allowed this to make me stronger.
Be Who God Created You to Be
The conclusion I have drawn from my experience is simple. Serve where you are passionate. Spend quality time in God’s Word. Be proud of who God created you to be. Pray for your coyote.
I’ve decided it is a special blessing to be married to a pastor. I have discovered that ministry is hard. Working with people can be difficult, but I no longer take everything personally; after all, it’s not about me.
I’m still not a typical ministry wife (although I did learn how to play the piano!). I can now see how my personality complements my husband’s. God knew what He was doing when He led us into ministry. Although we no longer wear our rose-colored glasses, we choose to wear an optimistic outlook on life and people.
Recently I received a wonderful compliment that confirmed these life lessons in my heart. It read something like this. “Your husband taught me that God was for simple people like me, that He loved me. You taught me that not all ministry wives are meek wallflowers. You taught me it was okay to be vibrant and excited about life and living it for the Lord.”
I thank God for my individuality and for bringing me to a place where I can serve Him with who I am.