Ever wonder what it’s like to be married to the ministry? Since my husband and I are both pastors, we understand this one from the inside out.
From my position as pastor’s wife, here’s what I’ve learned.
1. You understand the Saturday crabbies
Sunday morning is serious. There’s a lot that goes into it behind the scenes, and the more effortless you can help Sunday worship look, the better. No one but the pastor’s spouse and kids sees the sermon rehearsal, the last-minute scramble for the perfect illustration, the ironing of shirts and pants, the arranging of props and prayers.
If something’s going to go wrong–a water leak, a sick baby, a bout of insomnia– odds are it’ll happen on a Saturday night. Our first Saturday night in California we had five fire alarms go off in our condo the middle of the night on a Saturday. Five. It would have been comical if it weren’t so insane. Good luck preaching well after being woken up every hour and a half! Ha ha!
Back when we owned two cats, if one was going to barf on our bed, it was always on Saturday night. Now that we have kids, if one is going to get the stomach flu, it will always be on Saturday night.
This leads to some grumpiness.
2. Your conversations are full of $5 words
Hermeneutics. Eschatology. Barthianism. (And yes, that’s pronounced “Bart-ee-an-is-im,” not “Barth-ee-an-is-im.”) Christology. Homiletics. Ontology. Justification. Exegesis. Pedagogy.
We are SUPER fun dinner guests, let me tell you.
On the plus side, I’m pretty sure we have convinced our preschooler that Mommy and Daddy are spies who talk in code. So that’s fun.
3. You know to save any constructive criticism for Monday
I heard one pastor describe how he felt after he preached as “having no skin on.” There’s something about preaching that leaves a person raw and vulnerable in a way nothing else does.
So if I caught a bobble in the sermon delivery, or an illustration that wasn’t quite right, or a new verbal tic that needs to be corrected, I know to save my constructive feedback for a few days later. He asks for it and wants to hear it, but Sunday after the sermon is for spousal kudos and love, not suggestions for improvement.
On Sunday, the answer to my husband’s “How did the sermon go?” is always, always, always, “Great!”
4. Leaving town a few times a year is essential
It’s hard to fully relax if you’re a pastor or married to one. Emergencies can and do crop up and interrupt family days, birthday celebrations, and even much-needed nights of sleep. Meetings run long. Holy Week and Advent are nutty-go-nuts.
So at least a couple of times a year, loading up the minivan or hopping on a plane is essential for mental health.
I can see my husband relax as the miles spin beneath our tires. Those breathers renew him in vital ways for whatever new work is ahead.
5. You understand that Sunday afternoon naps are GOLD
My grandfather, part of the faith heritage of my family, always says, “Sunday afternoon naps are the secret to a victorious Christian life.” TRUTH.
Sunday afternoons our house naps. When the preschooler isn’t into it, he gets to watch alltheshows because the PREACHER NEEDS TO SLEEP. It’s not a want. It’s a need.
One minister described a pastor’s Sunday mornings as being “ON. Like, Beyoncé at a concert ON.” Your emotional and social energies burn bright on Sunday mornings. There is lots to do, to remember, to think through, to pay attention to. Daryl always comes home with a spinning head. What was that visitor’s name again? Who did he promise he’d follow up with? What about his preaching needs a fine-tuning before next week? It’s exhausting.
So Sunday afternoons? We nap. When he preaches, I give him as many minutes in that bed as I can.
6. You’re their number one wardrobe fixer
Yeah, I’m the one who sets that twisted collar right, straightens the tie, or gently reminds him that there’s still a Band-Aid on his head from Saturday’s run-in with the park swing.
7. You live amidst ALLTHEBOOKS
A guy who worked for a moving company once told me, “Our company used to offer great discounts for ministers. Then we realized they all owned a BAZILLION hardback books and always kept them upstairs.”
As he said this, he suddenly fell silent as he watched his crew carrying the eighteenth box of hardback books out of our upstairs library.
“No offense, of course,” he said.
I’m guilty of being a book hoarder. My husband is even worse. Hardback theology, philosophy, commentaries, novels, you name it. Pastors READ.
Merging our libraries when we got married made me almost as happy as the wedding itself.
8. They often make you burst with pride
When I see him notice a need and meet it behind the scenes. When he knocks a sermon out of the park. When, day in and day out, he is faithful to the God who has called him.
It’s one thing to be drawn to the few glamorous bits of ministry – leading worship, being “up front,” saying the prayer at a town gathering. But when he responds patiently and gently to an irate phone call? I love that guy.
9. Their sermons still convict you
Even when I’ve heard the rehearsal or helped edit the draft, I’m still convicted by his sermons more often than not. Knowing him as intimately as I do doesn’t change the fact that God speaks through his preached word.
Even if that word is being preached from someone who takes out the trash at my house and who I know for a fact opens bags of tortilla chips like he’s a grizzly bear.
10. You love your “new normal”
Holidays are always off by a day or two (because, seriously, how do you celebrate your own family’s Christmas Eve between four church services?!). Schedules change at the drop of a hat. But the fact that Friday (or Monday, or Tuesday, or whatever) is your spouse’s day off? That has loads of perks.
The grace and beauty of making the church rhythm your family’s rhythm? What a gift.
Plus, you’re the only one who can say, “Golly, he looks cute in that suit,” (or “Gee, she looks smokin’ in those heels!”) without being a total creeper.