I have a confession to make:
I have never felt intimidated by a mannequin.
Not even the most well-dressed mannequin, with a perfect figure and a flawless complexion, would make any woman feel jealous or less than “enough.”
Because we all know that a mannequin isn’t real.
That perfect, plastic lady in the department store window has never
- had a bad hair day in her life,
- never dealt with hormone issues,
- never needed face cream to slow down signs of aging,
- never plucked a gray hair,
- and never had to lose a pound in order to fit into her clothes.
I will never relate to a mannequin, because I’ve had to do all those things!
And it goes without saying that I’ll never “be friends” with a mannequin because, well, that would be weird.
So what does a mannequin have to do with being a pastor’s wife?
Sometimes I feel like the women in our churches can relate to us about as well as I relate to the plastic lady in the shopping mall.
Over the years, I’ve heard these confessions from especially honest friends and church members:
“You’re the only pastor’s wife I’ve ever felt like I could actually be friends with.”
“I always felt like pastors and their wives are ‘up there’ and the rest of us are ‘down here.'”
“I would have never guessed you’re a pastor’s wife. You seem really relatable.”
I’m not sure where these kinds of illusions about pastor’s families come from, but I have a feeling some of them might be self-imposed:
We feel like people expect us to be something we’re not, so we hold everyone at arm’s distance to protect ourselves from being criticized or judged.
Like a picture-perfect mannequin, we mechanically do all the right things, say all the right words, wear all the nice clothes…
Content to live behind glass walls of isolation and loneliness…
Where no one can get close enough to discover that we actually bleed and cry, just like everyone else.
We pastor’s wives impatiently joke about living in a “glass house,” but do we ever question the glass walls we build that separate us from friendship, community and influence?
My friend, God did not call you to perform on a pedestal or collect dust on a pew.
Ministry is a living thing, as real and powerful and humble as the living God who called you into this life of service.
Don’t hide your gifts and your heart. God’s people need the gifts He equipped you to give.
Here are three ways a pastor’s wife can live “real” in the vulnerable and sometimes very isolated world of ministry.
#1 Remove the Mask of Perfection
A few years ago, God did some really deep heart-work and let me see the importance of transparency in ministry.
In some ways, He gently removed my masks of fear and pride.
In other ways, God knocked me off my pedestal and allowed my facade to crash into a million pieces.
While a few people may find an odd sort of comfort in imagining that their pastor and his wife are above mistakes or struggling, here’s the truth:
Most of us will never relate to someone who appears to never have any problems.
No one is friends with a mannequin.
We crave flesh-and-blood connections with people who are real and imperfection- like we are.
Perfection is a burden that you and I were never asked to carry, so there is no grace for the load.
The grace is found in humility.
But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.'”James 4:6
These days, I’m a firm believer that friendship is the road to influence.
And there can be no relationship unless people can relate to who I am- the real me, the imperfect me.
#2 Cultivate and Maintain a Life Outside the Walls of Your Church
This was a big one for me, since I come from a long line of vocational ministers.
Most of the people I have known over the years have either been fellow ministry families, or members of the churches were I have served.
There have been times that I had no friends and no community outside of our church, and that isn’t necessarily a healthy place to be.
Think about the people in your congregation:
—–> Most likely, every single one of them have friends, jobs, and communities outside of the church body.
Pastor’s wife, you need friends, community, and connections outside of the church body, too.
This isn’t in exclusion of your church family, but in addition to.
Well, a few reasons come to mind:
- Outside community will sharpen your perspective.
- Hobbies, jobs, and friendships outside the church provide an outlet for you to live, work and breathe without the expectations you’re likely dealing with on a regular basis as a pastor’s wife.
- People in your church will relate to you better if they feel like you have a life beyond the “role” they see you operating in on Sundays. If you’ll excuse my use of the phrase, we must endeavor to engage in the “real world” where people are living.
A woman who is actively cultivating her skills and enriching her soul will be the kind of woman other people enjoy being around.
As a pastor’s wife, you’ll have more to offer to the people in your congregation if your scope for living is broad, instead of narrow.
#3 Spend Time with People
It goes without saying that connecting with people and building influence takes time.
Lots of time.
Maybe even a lifetime.
Cultivating deep roots within your church family is just as important as broadening your community outside of the church.
Both dimensions contribute to the health of your role and influence as a pastor’s wife.
If people are going to connect with and trust you, you’re going to have to invest some time in letting them get to know you.
Chances are, you show up with your husband at every wedding, funeral, church service, work day and dinner.
I’m not talking about the compulsory activities. People view those occasions as part of your job.
Move past the sacred shadow of the church and enter their worlds. This is what Jesus did.
Show up for their birthday parties, graduations, open house gatherings, moving days, birth days and sick days…
Send cards, remember names, remember birthdays.
And invite them into your world too.
Listen to their stories and share your own stories.
Invest in healthy friendships, cultivate communication, and let loneliness teach you a few things about friendship.
In our fragmented culture, it’s so easy to live in isolation, even within the Body of Christ.
As much as you are able, open your life to the women God has called you to serve.
Let them see you live and learn and love.
And, yes, let them see you struggle through the hard parts of life too.
Pastor’s wives, you and I know that we are very real people, with very real struggles, joys, and capacities to know and be known.
But the only way other people are going to believe this is if we have the courage live it.
Let people see you live authentically.
It can be painful.
It doesn’t feel as safe or as pretty as the plastic mannequin, just out of reach on the pedestal.
But there are worlds of grace and freedom and love to be found when you let the real woman live larger than the mask.
Here’s to living & loving well-
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