As the wife of the pastor, I am in a unique position to know a lot and, simultaneously, know nothing at all. I am at church so much, both in my role as DCE and in my role as wife of the pastor, and I am also next to him at home when he gets phone calls and heads out the door to see members. I hear the Word of God spoken out loud from the front of the sanctuary and in hushed tones in the middle of the night from bed.
I see the woman with tears streaming down her face asking for prayer, but I don’t know what the prayer request is.
I hear men’s voices, but not the words they speak.
I will sometimes watch television in our bedroom so my husband can have a private chat with someone in our living room (or vice-versa, if he’s on the phone instead of in-person).
I notice the glares from angry faces, but don’t know the source of the anger.
I observe the tension in my husband’s shoulders as he carries the weight of so much need, grief, and hardship – while at the same time, trying to fend off accusations against his leadership choices and preaching.
I spend a great deal of time in prayer every week, for him and for members of our congregation. Most of my prayers are vague and some even don’t include the names of individuals, just “Please God, take care of the people my husband has cared for this week.” God knows who they are, even when I don’t.
I sometimes go to bed and wake up with a stomachache, filled with worries about God’s people. Who is hurting? Who is needing help? How will it all ever get done? Who is angry with my husband this week?
I married a man of God who has strong convictions and a strong personality. The people who meet him either love him or can’t stand him, but there’s rarely any middle ground. That’s ok, except that I also married a man who wants to please people and struggles every day with it. He’s slowly learned that he cannot make everyone happy, and when preaching both law and gospel, he SHOULDN’T make everyone happy. Sometimes, the law will convict a person, and instead of using it as an opportunity to grow and change, they will lash out at the messenger. When the Word comes from the pulpit (figuratively speaking – my husband hasn’t used a pulpit in 15 years), the pastor ends up the target.
So why do it? Why would anyone want to be a pastor?
He is sometimes one of the first visitors for parents who have had a new baby. And then in a few days or weeks, he gets to baptize that baby, too!
He spends time with those who are struggling through illness or marriage problems or difficulties with sin, and gets to speak the Words of Gospel into their lives.
He finds no greater joy than to see someone who was doubled over under the weight of sin stand up in the strength of God’s forgiveness.
Each week, he stands in front of the congregation and proclaims the Word of truth. And he is so good at it (check out some of his sermons here).
He is invited into the lives of families from beginning to end, birth to death.
He loves to sit with folks in hospital waiting rooms as the hours of surgery tick by. He brings comfort, humor, and distraction for them along the way.
When a member dies, he is one of the first people to meet the family, accompanying them to the funeral home as they plan the service and all of the end-of-life details that must be attended to. He puts his entire schedule on hold and is available to them 24/7.
And when that funeral happens, from the moment the casket is closed until the end of the committal service at the cemetery, he stands by the casket as the physical representation of the Great Shepherd, Jesus, leading His sheep through the valley of the shadow of death.
Every single week, he reaches out to families from church. Some are folks who are going through tough times. Others are ones who haven’t been in worship for a while. But he takes the time to email, call, and send hand-written cards out each week.
He’s learned the art of listening to the same stories again and again from our oldest members, some of whom are living in nursing homes. He can hear the tales for the first time, repeatedly.
Once a year, he spends a couple of hours on his knees, hearing the prayers and concerns and needs of our members during the New Year’s healing worship. Then he prays for each person individually and anoints them with oil.
He is called to Word and Sacrament ministry, and it is where he thrives. He is able to be vulnerable and honest with everyone, and share the love of God and his own love for the people in a way that is so clear.
And I am privileged to see it all. This is what ministry is to us.