Tips To Survive Being A Pastor's Spouse: Part I
While I’ve only been married for 2 years, I’ve learned several valuable lessons, and each day I’ve grown stronger in faith, ministry, and marriage, and I’d like to share all the lessons I’ve learned here. In this 2-part post, we will discuss it all. The good, the bad, and the kinda ugly truths about surviving being a Pastor’s Spouse.
Here’s the truth: I turned my husband down on multiple occasions as he attempted to pursue me. MUL-TI-PLE. Why? Because I’d grown up in church, specifically the Black church, and felt like I knew all too well what it meant to be a First Lady (or so I thought). In fact, I recall asking God not to send me a person in the Military, A Firefighter/Policeman, and definitely not a Pastor (I also asked God not to send me a little person…Thank you Lord for listening). God definitely has a sense of humor.
First of all, I was NOT trying to be a Church School teacher, the pianist/organist (even though I cannot play), the choir director, nor did I want to be present at every single Fish Fry and Chicken Dinner ever hosted by the church. I mean, because after all, that’s what a First Lady does. So, I tried my hardest to kinda…shake him off, but love prevailed.
When we were engaged, I received a copy of a booklet written by a Former Episcopal Supervisor of the AME Church. The Pastor’s Spouse who gave it to me is definitely a First Lady Extraordinaire, who makes being a Pastor’s Spouse, a mother, a wife and a career woman, look like a cakewalk. Well, when I got done reading the book, I called my fiance and told him “We are Finished”. Side Note: Poor man!
I was terrified. In hindsight, the information was helpful, but at the time, I felt so overwhelmed at the thought that my life, as I knew it, would be consumed with expectations and responsibilities that I did not desire.
By the time I had gotten married, I had accepted that life would change, but I had no idea how. And life has happened. I’ve been resentful. I’ve been angry. I’ve been afraid. I’ve been excited. I’ve been lonely. I’ve been prayerful. And I’ve learned that Marriage Is Like The Time I Learned To Ride A Bike. But, through it all, God has met me in all of my stuff, and I share my lessons in hopes of uplifting someone else.
Perfection is Not Possible
If you think that your mission is to be perfect, then chile…you trippin’. In the beginning of our marriage, my concept of perfection was defined by my ability to care for my husband, care for my home, and look happy while doing it. Yeah Ok!
Even now as I type this, a suitcase from my anniversary getaway still sits in the middle of the floor. Clothes are in the dryer that have been dry for the past 2 hours, and while there are things that need to be done, I’m watching the NBA Playoffs. I’ve even subscribed to Amazon Fresh to have groceries delivered because there are some days that I would rather eat peanut butter from a spoon, than go to the grocery store. #JudgeYourself
I’ve realized that my idea of marriage was never based in reality. It was based in Hollywood and Fairy Tales. Most women are taught from a young age to care for others. We took care of baby dolls and pushed mini shopping carts in the grocery store, while boys played in dirt and broke toys (that’s a whole other post). But, in all that, we didn’t learn how to be a wife.
So, when we finally get married, we can cook and clean and iron shirts better than the dry cleaner, BUT, we struggle internally to find our place in marriage and in ministry. I’m learning that it’s ok to take the time to figure it all out, and I accept that mistakes will come with the territory.
2. You Will Get Lonely
As the spouse of an Itinerant Pastor (the call can lead your spouse to different locations to preach the Gospel), I accepted early on that we would not always be in our hometown to do ministry. But, my God, did it happen quickly. Within a month of being married, we were moved to do ministry in another state.
While the decorating and rearranging was fun, as the months progressed, the more I realized how isolated I felt. Even though we were surrounded by wonderful church members, and we were (and continue to be) loved and cared for, the loneliness grew “louder” for me as the days went by.
I needed major surgery in our first year of marriage and the recovery process away from my family and friends was difficult. But through that, our marriage grew. I watched my husband split his time between caring for me and taking care of church business. He never complained. I learned to rely on him in a way that my “Independent”, “Single Ladies”, “Don’t Want No Scrub”, self never thought I could. And everything that I felt I needed, God provided.
3. Mentorship Matters
I have always been a proponent of mentorship. I’ve been blessed to have met THEE BEST mentors throughout my life. Both my professional and spiritual mentors have poured into my life in a way that cannot be measured nor described.
I’ve been blessed to have a few significant Black Women Mentors that I can call on for anything I need. While not all are Pastor’s Spouses, each provides me with “pieces” that add up to perfect gems of wisdom.
These women have seen my tears, both happy ones and ones of anguish. They have heard me vent. They have witnessed me stumble and fall. They have heard all of my nonsense and they love me regardless. And I’ve listened…even when I didn’t want to.
The key to finding a good mentor is being humble enough to realize that you don’t know all the answers. And, I’m a firm believer that God will provide everyone that you need.
4. You Ain’t Called
First of all, you aint (I know what I wrote) called to be a First Lady, A Leading Lady, The Queen, or a Pastor’s Spouse. I’ve NEVER read that in my bible. God calls preachers of the Gospel. I do not believe God calls Pastor’s spouses. So, if you’re walking around saying “The Lord called me to this”, you a whole lie. You may be called to preach or be called to ministry, but to be a Pastor’s Spouse? That’s a NO.
With that in mind, I’ve been able to set realistic expectations of myself and keep it all the way real with others. I don’t attend my husband’s meetings (because I’m not built with his level of patience) and because I know how to stay in my lane. I don’t interfere in church matters that are not under my leadership. I am comfortable stopping folk and redirecting them back to their Pastor.
I know my lane. I’m comfortable in my lane. I stay in my lane.
5. Be Authentic
I’ll be the first to admit, I’ve not always been comfortable operating in my authentic self. I’m naturally a people pleaser. I can look back at times to see that my desire to please others, had caused me to try to be some other version of me.
However, growth is amazing! Thankfully, my mentors have poured in to me in a way that has grown my confidence and ability to be exactly who I am, even when that makes others uncomfortable. And in many ways, I think, process and act like my older and wiser female mentors…I have very little cares to give about nonsense. Zero Cares.
I’m mindful of the way in which I present myself to the world. First, I’m a Christian, and my goal is to ensure that others see Christ in me. After that, I’m who I was designed to be. I’m OK with being misunderstood. I’m OK with not being liked. I’m confident in the skills and gifts that God has given me, and that allows me to walk in my authentic self.