Being the wife of a pastor for 40 years has had its share of challenges that thankfully we learned to navigate, especially early in our marriage.
We were 28 years young with two small children when Jimmy accepted the call to lead Trinity, which made for several very difficult years for our marriage and family. I know our struggles are not unique to ministry couples – far from it. So when Jimmy asked me to write for the July-August issue of Ministry Today, I knew I wanted to share some of my own experiences and story in an honest letter to pastors’ wives. (If you’re a pastor reading this, you’ll likely gain some real insight into your wife’s journey.)
What follows are some specific lessons–sometimes learned in hard ways–to encourage you that you are not, and never have been, alone.
Marriage and family are prime targets for Satan, especially pastors’ marriages. When we began MarriageToday, we were actually going though the toughest times of our lives and marriage. We began to recognize that marriage and family are the areas Satan attacks the most. If you’re a pastor’s wife, you need to grasp that Satan wants to destroy your family even more than the church.
Understanding how God sees me gives me the freedom to be myself. I knew I was not the typical “pastor’s wife.” I didn’t teach or have any musical abilities. Our church never put pressure on me to be anything more than Jimmy’s wife.
However, the first couple of years were very trying. Jimmy and I had no mentors or experience. We loved our church and the people, but the stress began bearing down on us personally. I was fighting feelings of not being the wife Jimmy needed to lead the church as well as my own insecurities. The greatest struggle for me was to not feel guilty about who I was as a person before we came to the church. I would beg God to change me and tell Him I would accept the gift to speak if He wanted to give it to me.
The year before Jimmy became senior pastor, I had begun reading the Word every day. I had made a commitment to God to know Him and Jesus for myself. I was growing in my relationship with God and His Word and realized I was gifted in serving. I loved discipling women to grow in Christ. I also had a love for prayer. I found that serving in different areas of ministry helped me feel accepted and take my mind off myself.
The real changes came when I began to see myself through the Word and not my fears and insecurities. The Lord was healing me by His Word, and it caused me to start to see value in myself. I began to deal with the guilt and see my worth as a child of God and to not feel unworthy if I loved being a wife and mother. I began to accept myself and not be afraid to just be me.
When the ministry comes before the marriage, something has to give. Being married to a pastor is even more of a reason to keep your marriage first. Because of his own fears, Jimmy began to disconnect from us emotionally and mentally, which caused me to withdraw, too. Ministry began to take its toll on our marriage. The constant stress of trying to raise young children was difficult. I knew in my heart that being honest about the stress was important. I supported Jimmy with all the church issues but couldn’t accept his behavior of checking out on us at home and leaving me feeling like a single parent. The resentment toward each other grew. I would seek counsel from elder friends, but even they didn’t seem to have answers.
After months of fighting, we began to realize that the ministry had come before our marriage. It’s funny, but during that time I never questioned if Jimmy was supposed to leave the church. He actually was the one who offered to quit to save our marriage. I knew quitting was not the answer, but protecting our marriage before the church was.
We began to talk about how to cut back on the demands. Jimmy encouraged me to see that just being his wife was a full-time job along with parenting and volunteering at church and other places. My own journey of healing and maturing came as we both learned how to lead the church and have a great marriage. After years of Jimmy driving himself to exhaustion and sickness, we now go over what is important and the timing of his schedule together. Above all else, keep your marriage first.
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Since founding MarriageToday in 1994, Jimmy and Karen Evans have encouraged and coached countless couples in building rewarding marriages and healthy homes. With more than 50% of unions in America ending in divorce, the Evans are committed to sharing proven truths that can make the most troubled marriage good, and any good marriage great. They bring more than 25 years experience equipping and teaching couples to MarriageToday’s mission to restore the dream of marriage in America.