The Best Advice for a Pastor’s Wife (and Everyone Else)
A couple of years ago I started feeling a little bit discouraged. A combination of factors related to our church were piling on in an unusually burdensome way, and I just felt like there was a huge weight on my shoulders. As a pastor and a pastor’s wife, Chad and I are sounding boards and burden-bearers for many in our community, and Chad says that he has learned to embrace the melancholy that sometimes comes with being a spiritual shepherd, a counselor and secret-keeper. At times it is a weary load that a pastor, and often his wife, carries. It can be difficult to deal with people in all of their human glory, their faults and failures and their ever- pressing expectations.
Around that time, we happened to meet a hospice chaplain. He, too, had pastored churches, and as we talked he turned to focus on me. He told me that during his years of shepherding a church someone offered his wife a wonderful piece of advice.
He said, “Just love the people.” At those words I felt the weight in my spirit shift. The burden didn’t disappear–the heaviness that comes with being intimately intertwined in the lives of others. The sense of melancholy that Chad talks about was still present. But in that moment I remembered that I am not a pack mule struggling to shoulder everyone’s problems. This calling is so much more than that. It’s an opportunity to love sacrificially (though imperfectly) and, even more amazingly, to receive sacrificial love in return from the (imperfect) people who make up our church family. I was reminded that I am a follower of Christ first and a pastor’s wife second. Jesus told us all to love the Lord and love our neighbors, and I certainly shouldn’t expect to do anything less than that.
It turns out his advice for a pastor’s wife is good advice for all of us. Sometimes loving others looks like absorbing wounds inflicted by the very people you are called to love. Sometimes it looks like mourning in unison. Sometimes it looks like laughing, eating good church food, watching our kids grow up together, marveling at the many ways God is working in the lives all around us.
I stood and nodded at the chaplain and wondered if my heaviness of heart felt extra burdensome because I try to complicate this calling with too much problem- solving, too much time spent trying to figure things out that have no real solutions. I think I forgot that loving people, although not always easy, is fairly simple.
This heavy load that Chad and I sometimes bear is not ours alone. And neither is your burden yours to carry. Ultimately, it belongs to Christ, and He is more than strong enough to shoulder it. So when I feel myself starting to stoop under the weight of it all, I pray that I will remember the advice that gave me pause on an especially wearisome day, that I will lay these burdens at the foot of the cross and open my arms wide to those whom God has given us.