No, I don’t play any instrument. I can’t sing very well either. And while I am excited about mission and ministry, I am not sure I feel equipped and ready to leave this “Lutheran Island”. Is there still time to brush up on some useful skills, so that I can become a proper vicar’s wife and later—maybe– even a pastor’s wife?
There is so much fact and fiction, there are so many expectations, ideals, horror stories, hopes and dreams connected with that particular role.
Arrrgh—what am I going to do when a church elder visits our home unexpectedly and asks me to please be in charge of the upcoming Christmas pageant? “Hey, there are still two weeks left to get it all done!” Then he turns around, sees all the popcorn on the floor, uneaten apple cores in the corner, unfinished science projects on the table and half empty laundry baskets on the couch. He shakes his head with a look of pity and leaves the house to have a talk with my husband.
What if I just can’t fill the shoes of the previous pastor’s wife? What if I don’t have “my own ministry”? Will the congregation be disappointed? Will I suffer burn-out as you sometimes hear?
Pondering all of that I find the Lutheran doctrine of vocation to be extremely helpful. God calls us into different positions during our lives: that of student, daughter, wife, mother, neighbor, doctor, teacher, Sunday school teacher, grandmother, business owner, SWA member, civic leader… In these roles we are to work as if serving the Lord (Eph 6:7). It is a holy calling, inasmuch as Christ works through us in every important and also seemingly mundane job—cleaning the house, changing diapers, raking leaves...
But I can’t fulfill the duties of all these positions equally well. There are not enough hours in the day!
Jesus tells us to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul and mind and then to love our neighbor as ourselves (Mt 22:39). But who is my neighbor? At different times different people are our closest neighbors. In my mind, the closer the neighbors are, the more time and effort they deserve.
Your single years seem to be an ideal time to actively seek out opportunities for service, at home, in the church, the community, and even abroad.
But after the wedding, our husbands should be our second priority after God. (Eph 5:22). The love, respect, spiritual support, and encouragement we can give our husbands will form the foundation of his work and family life.
When there are children in the family they are clearly the next closest neighbor—for a while at least. These gifts from God need to be brought up in the training and instruction of the Lord (Eph 6:4). I believe that’s one of our most rewarding opportunities for mission work! And it promotes church growth :)
If you support your husband financially by working for a company or running your own, or you are still in college, you have more close neighbors to serve: your manager, co-worker, customer, teacher, and clients. And don’t forget your extended family, physical neighbors, friends, community, and church congregation members!
With all these different demands competing for my limited time, effective housekeeping and time management alone can’t resolve the conflicts. I sometimes have to make tough choices when selecting the most important vocation of the week. Trying to identify my closest neighbor at a given time, helps to prioritize the jobs at hand. The job I would like to have is not always the one that God has in mind for me today.
And now the vocation “Vicar’s/Pastor’s Wife” is going to be added to the mix. Even though I—and likely the new congregation as well—have ideas for my involvement in the church, at this stage in life I have to look realistically at my available time slots. Well, the good thing is that a major part of this new vocation is actually an old one: “wife”.
My husband, not I, will be called to be an ordained minister in the church. So my future job shouldn’t be much different from the one I have now. Yes, the children and I will have new opportunities to serve the church as a family. But we won’t be able to do all we wished we could. My core responsibilities will stay the same.
Now this gives me comfort and peace and I don’t feel rushed to take some last minute crash courses for pastor’s wives.
I pray that the talk about vocation between the church elder, who will see the mess in my house, and my husband will lead to a better understanding of the challenges of being a “Pastor’s wife”. And to forgiveness for the lack of love and service to my neighbors.
What do you think?
First published in the Seminary Women's Newsletter