Confessions of a Broken Pastor's Wife

I love the community that has formed on this blog. There are several of you who are regular commenters; you have become a part of this blog family, and I feel like I know you.

Some of you come to the blog in affirmation of what I have written. I am always grateful for such encouragement. But some of you disagree with me. I gladly post your comments for two reasons. First, I want to be fair to all who take time to read my blog. Second, I am wrong some of the time and I need to be corrected.

How This Story Began

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Sometimes, however, you come to this blog hurting deeply. You need a place where you can be heard, and you need a place where you can share your pain without fear of retribution. That is why I allow you to comment in anonymity if you so desire. My only requirement is that you enter your legitimate email in case we need to confirm that you're not hiding behind a fake address. But we will never publish your email address.

Not too long ago, I wrote a post about pastors' wives, and what they wish they had known before they became a pastor's wife. The article struck a nerve. Much to my surprise, I discovered a depth and breadth of hurt of which I was unaware. I was ashamed I had been so oblivious to this pain.

The Story of Good Pastors

Please hear me clearly: Most pastors are good pastors. Most pastors are good people. Most pastors are good family persons.

But some pastors forget their priorities. They neglect their vows to their spouses. They abandon their families under the guise that they are doing God's work. I served as a pastor of four churches. There were times that I neglected my wife and my three sons because I could justify my busyness as God's work. I was wrong, terribly wrong.

The Hurting Pastor's Wife

As my post on pastor's wives became a lively conversation, I was struck by one comment in particular. Indeed I was almost brought to tears as I read it. Here are her words without any changes, additions, or deletions:

I wish my husband would have included me in his life to be his cheerleader. I wish he would have respected my calling and ministry. I wish someone would have told me that he was going to neglect me and forget about our dreams as a married couple. Now he lives for the church. Birthdays and anniversaries do not exist in this home. I'm tired of eating dinners alone and having anniversary trips cancelled because he has no interest. What does he always tell me? Oh yeah, "The Kingdom of God is always first." Now even my faith in God is at question. How could God give me a husband who is a pastor and so easily live without me? I feel stuck in this marriage. I am unfulfilled as a woman, wife, minister, and mother. Everything he promised me he has broken. I wish someone would have told me it would be this way. Then maybe I would have paid more attention to my gut feeling!

Wow. The pain is so obvious. The hurt is so deep.

The First Ministry

When Paul was giving Timothy the qualifications of the pastor/overseer, he made a summary statement in 1 Timothy 3:5: "If anyone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of God's church?"

Pastors often share with me the difficulty they have in balancing the priorities of family and church. But the Bible, through Paul's words, gives us a slightly different perspective. Pastors are not choosing between two different priorities. Their family is actually their first level of ministry in the church. If they cannot minister to them well, they cannot take care of the church.

Pastors are pulled in countless directions. The demands and expectations are endless. But pastors, please don't neglect your first ministry. Don't neglect your family. Let every member of your family know how much you love them. Even more, show every member of your family how much you love them every day by praying with them, giving them time, listening to them, and demonstrating they are your first ministry in the church.

Satan would love to destroy your family. In God's power, please don't let it happen.

Dr. Thom Rainer is president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

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