I have been a pastor’s wife for 20 years. I was 19 years young when I married my husband, right after he had accepted his first pastorate.
Looking back now, I realize I knew nothing then.
I knew how to stand at the back of the church dutifully by my husband’s side and shake hands with sweet people who really didn’t know me. I did this for many, many years.
Throughout those early years in ministry, I tried really hard to be a supportive, strong, encouraging leader in our churches. I really wanted people to like me. So in order to get people to like me, I needed to dress the part, serve in every area effortlessly, and make sure they didn’t know any of my deep struggles or, God forbid, any of my sins.
It was exhausting and lonely, and I was stuck.
While recently sharing part of my story with some friends in a Bible study, I found myself marveling at the changes God has made in me.
God has been so faithful to draw me out, change my heart, and, in the process, prove his faithfulness in so many lives. When we moved from Arkansas to Southern California to be on staff at Saddleback Church, I found myself for the first time not being the senior pastor’s wife.
In fact, I was one of many, many pastors’ wives on staff. There was no pressure. There were no eyes watching me. I could slip in and out of church with no one even knowing I was a pastor’s wife.
God used this time in my life to show me a better way. He surrounded Brandon and me with a small group of people who showed us what authenticity looked like. They weren’t just “doing” church. They had real problems, with real hurts, and relied on a real God for help.
They also relied on each other. This was foreign to us, and it was life-changing.
One year after arriving, we left Southern California to plant Grace Hills Church back in Arkansas. And we came back to the “Natural State” as different people.
We were determined that we would share our lives with whomever God asked us to — and not just the pretty parts, but the hard stuff, too.
Honestly, the first year of planting was one of the hardest years of our marriage. The enemy was seeking to rob, kill, and destroy, and some days he was seemingly victorious. It would have been easy to pretend that all was well, and most days it was really tempting.
Being real is hard. It’s risky, and sometimes even painful. There were days I begged God to let me go back to being the pastor’s wife that nobody really knew. Many times, sitting with someone who was hurting in their own marriage, I felt the gentle whisper of the Holy Spirit say, “Share your story.”
Seriously, God? I . . . don’t . . . want . . . to.
But I did. I shared my weakness. I shared my pain and my sin, and then I shared the grace that covers me and the redemption of a Savior who brought life and hope to a hurting marriage.
The more I opened up, the easier it was. The veil of shame was lifted and Satan no longer had a hold on those dark places. They were pushed into the light, and there I stood — vulnerable, but covered in grace.
I don’t share everything with everybody. I wait, and I listen to the Holy Spirit. I have surrendered my life and my story to God to use as he wants to. So I walk in obedience.
I desire to be real. I believe Jesus was real, and I desperately want to be more like him. Sharing my life — the good, the bad, and the ugly — with our local body of believers has been one of my greatest joys, and I won’t ever go back.
I have moments when I’m tempted to retreat, but I reflect on Paul’s words to the Thessalonians: “We cared so much for you that we were pleased to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us” (1 Thessalonians 2:8 HCSB).
My people — the ones I do life with and the ones I have yet to meet — are dear to me. Precious in my heart. Nope, I won’t ever go back.