Strong Pastors’ Wives, Marriages, and FamiliesBy Laura White
October 30, 2020
If I could go back in time to before we planted our church, I wonder what I would have wanted to hear about being a pastor’s wife. When we planted our church, I had four kids, all under four. And I had no clue what this pastor’s wife thing was. And so, I did the most logical thing I could think of—I started a women’s ministry. To me, that’s what a pastor’s wife did.
I dove in and dragged my kids everywhere. All of my coffees and meetings were at night since I had little ones and my husband was gone during the day. And we did that for a while, all the time thinking, “this is what a pastor’s wife does.” I would do everything in my power to keep those women involved and present in our church because I was the emotional connection. And I was exhausting myself.
But God graciously and slowly helped me realize that I couldn’t be all things to all people—particularly women.
And, by God’s grace, truly there was no great big fallout. It just came to a head where I had to stop and take a step back. I was five years in and I assumed a much quieter role in our church. I began to disciple women one-on-one and I invested in my children.
Seeking and Setting
When I say “pastor’s wife,” I don’t mean the role in the church. I want you to think about the role God’s called you to and those you are called to disciple. That’s first and foremost in your marriage and in your children. Everything else comes after that.
Through Colossians, God kindly taught me in view of three relationships. First, my relationship with Him. Next, my relationship with my husband. And third, my relationship with my kids.
Colossians 3 tells us that we were buried with Christ and raised to life in his power. As pastors’ wives, we need to have an eternal focus. There are two things that deal with our focus in Colossians.
The first focus is to seek things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God (Colossians 3:1). We’re supposed to seek the things that have to do with that authoritative Lord. He is the actual image of God, and the authority that comes then is in Christ and his name.
So the first thing we’ve got to do is look at and seek him. The Greek term for seek in this passage is in the present imperative active form. That means we have to keep on seeking God. It doesn’t get done. It is actually the dependence on God that we require.
The second focus of the passage seems almost repetitive but it’s not. It says to set your mind on things above (Colossians 3:2). What is the difference between seeking and setting? While we have to keep on setting, just as much as we’re keeping on seeking, the focus is slightly different. Seeking is the effort to get there. Setting is looking for and staying on. It’s not succumbing to the distractions of the day. If we take it into the context of this with families—my kids misbehavior, their grades, their issues, my husband having a hard conversations with church members—all of a sudden, I don’t see God but man. My mind goes and I try to fix all of those things instead of setting and staying.
So, it’s true for me that I need to do the continual, everyday work of staying put and directing my mind back, and letting those realities be judged according to what my eyes are fixed on. Of course, we can’t ignore those things. I still have to deal with school, the laundry, and other things that are happening, but when my mind is fixed on things that are above, I filter everything else through that lens, not the other way around.
This is our spiritual life. We have to keep seeking. We have to keep setting.
But let’s go to the next thing that we are called to be in this passage. Strong pastors’ wives are transformed. Put to death therefore what is earthly in you (Colossians 3:5). If we have died and our life is hidden in Christ then it makes sense to take and put to death these other things. We cannot live two lives.
If we look at the list, we see two different groups. Sins of the flesh: sexual immorality, impurity, passions, evil desires, covetousness (which is idolatry), and sins of the mouth: anger, wrath, malice, slander, obscene talk, lying.
These are things that we, this side of heaven, will struggle with, and we have to put them off. But we can’t put off when we just sit and focus on what we should put off. For example, I can’t say I don’t want to complain, I don’t want to complain, I don’t want to complain. What am I thinking about? Complaining! So, Paul, in the beauty of the balance of this passage, knows we cannot just focus on what to put off. We have to then replace it with what to put on.
Then, we move into then what we should do and what we should put on, and we replace them with the next part of the list: compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience (Colossians 3:12).
Now that’s a list I want to be on! This is the one on which I want to set my heart. After I have allowed my eyes to be focused on all the truth of who God is, then this is what I need to put on and how I need to clothe myself. This is when it is impactful in your life, in your marriage, in your kids, and then the outflow past that into ministry. It leads to relational change.
Three Primary Relationships
So, with that in mind, I want to apply this to the concept of who you are in the three relationships I mentioned above.
First, how does this putting off and putting on affect my marriage? I encourage you to lots of questions.
Is my intimacy with my husband healthy and protective of both of us in marriage? I am a firm believer that this has to be dialogued. It is a target of the enemy, and we are foolish to think we don’t play a part rightly in protecting our husbands on that area. So have a healthy conversation on that.
Additionally, do I feed or enable his comparison of other’s talents, churches, or successes—which is covetousness or idolatry? Do I enable his struggle in this area? Am I so filled up with thankfulness that then it affects him, that he then sees the other things and the blessings of others through eyes of thankfulness, or am I enabling his struggles?
Do I fill our marriage with notes of thankfulness and peace? Am I a safe place for my husband? He lives a life of walking down a path often where not everyone’s safe. Are you safe? Are you trusted, and is he able to be fully himself without criticism to you?
Then, what about my relationships with my kids? Do I demonstrate anger at home but kindness in public and send my kids mixed messages? We’re all going to struggle in that at some point. Let’s be real with them. Let’s admit our struggle in those moments and seek forgiveness and go after these things, that love that leads to perfect harmony. How does that affect my discipleship of them?
Do I correct the fruit of their issues instead of dealing with the heart and their eyes? Am I just talking about the lying and fighting? Where do you see God? How big do you see that he is? Do you see how much he loves you? Do I forgive my kids quickly, and do I ask for forgiveness quickly to my kids?
Have I set my eyes right? Have I fixed these sin tendencies and put off and put on so that I then, in the midst of my home, find the heart in the middle of it? Is my walk with the Lord affecting my husband’s and kids’ thankfulness, gentleness, and kindness?
Ministering to the Church
Before I can minister to the church, I need to focus on the pastor’s wife’s actual role. And here’s the thing: the church desperately needs this. They need the peace, the harmony. They’ll clamor for all of the instruction. You get it right with your husband and you’ll have a line of women wanting to know how did you do it, and you point them to set their eyes on Christ first, and follow the steps in which I followed in my walk.
If I have my own fruitful walk with the Lord, my pursuit of him, my eyes set right then I can just be in the church and the title they put on me as pastor’s wife is just a blessing for more opportunities to speak and guide more people to this truth.
We will never submit to our husbands or lead our children without first seeking God and setting our eyes on him and then allowing his perfect plan of putting off and putting on to transform us daily in new ways in each year of our lives. And here’s the bottom line, we should never attempt to minister to his church until those three relationships are right. That’s how you burn out. That’s how we get to the point where they think we’re doing it all on our power and we’re not. So maybe first start with our relationship with God and then tend to the people that God has lovingly placed right before us.