18 January 2019 |
Dear Aunt Sevvy:
My husband is a pastor. On a recent Sabbath morning I taught Cradle Roll Sabbath School, told a children’s story, then sat up in front and kept my little ones quiet for the whole service, helped serve fellowship dinner (for which I’d prepared two dishes), and met after church with the social committee. Still, some saint whispered in my ear that she thought my dress wasn’t churchy enough, and another told me that I’d ignored an elderly lady in the lobby—which I was rushing through on my way to something else and surely didn’t “ignore” her. I could live with that, except this is only a mild example of the rubbish I’ve put up with in my few years as a pastor’s wife. I’m ready to walk away from it all—but it’s my husband’s career. Advice?
Signed, I’ve Had It
Dear I’ve Had It:
As someone with experience in this arena, Aunt Sevvy’s heart goes out to you. However, one nice thing about never being good enough is that you realize that you are never going to be good enough. So stop trying to please everyone! As the pastor’s wife, the expectations put on you are unfair. Aunt Sevvy’s advice: do your best, but stop caring.
Ask yourself these questions
- Am I getting paid to do this work? (No.)
- Will my dress, or my attention to another task that causes a minor slight, impact my husband’s ministry in any way? (No—and if the answer is yes, there are bigger problems here).
- Is it serving me or my family in any way to carry this unfair burden of expectations? (No.)
Aunt Sevvy has learned this about being in a pastor’s family: while part of the job is surely to love and care for people, you can’t make your happiness dependent upon the church members’ approval, or it will destroy you. In fact—and this goes for both pastor and wife—don’t expect true, deep, transparent friendships with the people in your church. A certain kind of loneliness is in the job description. Even while you act like the warmest, friendliest person ever, always keep part of yourself to yourself, guard your privacy, and never trust too much.
God intended church to be a place of blessing and fellowship—a place where people can receive life, not have it drained from them. But that is a blessing a pastor’s family cannot rely upon, especially in a congregation where you are criticized for something so trivial as your outfit. I suspect the best you can hope for is to move the goalpost to “doesn’t make me want to abandon my life and move to Aruba.”
In the words of a much overplayed Disney Princess: “Let it go!”
Also, I do hope you talk with your husband about your feelings. I know a pastor who cracks jokes from the pulpit about roundhouse kicking anyone who criticizes his wife. He would never do such a thing, but they are also reminded frequently that they are to lay off his wife or they will have him to answer to.
You can write to Aunt Sevvy at DearAuntSevvy@gmail.com. Please keep questions or comments short. What you send us at this address won’t necessarily be, but could be, published—always without real names. Aunt Sevvy writes her own column, and her opinions are not necessarily those of Adventist Today’s editors.