March 1, 2011

For Ministry Wives: More Advice from Shauna

Did you read what Shauna, a church planter's wife, said in my last post about supporting her husband Ben in ministry? I hope it was an encouragement to you, whether your husband is in ministry or not.

Today, in the second part of my interview with her, she talks about some of the common struggles of ministry wives, including developing friendships. 

What has been the hardest part about being a minister’s wife for you and how have you handled that?

Sharing Ben. I relate being a pastor's wife to being a doctor's wife. Our husbands are 'on call' 24/7. And that has just increased with technology in their pockets. I share Ben with every person that walks in the doors of our church. I share him with our church staff (people I adore). I share him with our partnering churches.

I'd like to say that though this was/is the hardest part for me, that I have handled it like a good wife. That I have blown him kisses each time he has had to hurry out the door. That I welcome the sound of a text message at dinner time. In my flesh, I am outraged at the demands of ministry at times. There have even been times when sharing Ben has caused me to 'cocoon' with my boys in our home and shut out the world. Then I step back and remember that it's not about me. I recall our initial talks of ministry. I remind myself to Whom I belong and that my self-worth is not tied to the gives and takes of this vocation. I grab hold of the truth that Ben loves me and has not sacrificed a 'non-negotiable' by running out the door or responding to a text. He is simply loving others and meeting needs. 

Then the even hardest part takes place. I have to apologize for my body language. I have to confess my selfishness. I have to rebuild and redeclare my support, love, and partnership with Ben. This does leave a mark, like all sin can. If I'm not careful, it not only leaves a mark on my husband's heart, but also the hearts of our community. Because Ben loves me so much, he'd sacrifice his ministry for his family. If he were to think that I was unhappy in this ministry life, he'd leave it in a heartbeat. 

Truth be told, I get the most of Ben. He's home for dinner. He wrestles with the boys when he gets home so I can put the meal on the table. He takes me out on dates. He greets me and the boys when we arrive at church. He calls and texts me throughout the day. He has my best interests at heart. 

How have you found and maintained community and friendship?

Being a pastor's wife can be the loneliest. But I strongly believe it can be the richest, most fulfilling this side of heaven. Your role requires two essentials. You must have a group of supporting mentors in your life - women who are older than you, who pour wisdom into your life, and who speak truth even when it hurts. This group of women, maybe two or three, are figuratively holding the other end of the rope for you. For me, I have a base of 10 prayer warriors, women who have served with me in the past. I write them often and sometimes urgently. I share openly, honestly, and with a commitment that everything stays between our Father and one another. 

You also need a not-in-your-current-church, believing friend! For me, this friend is 'approved' by Ben, so that the two of us can even ask each other hard questions in regards to ministry, family, and marriage. We hold each other accountable as to how we are raising our boys. We make sure that we are taking care of ourselves in regards to sleep, exercise, health, and looking nice for our husbands. I can vent with her. I can cry over the phone with her. 

And finally, meet people all the time, in your current season of life. Don't stay shut up inside. Surround yourself with a colorful group of people. I'm more introverted than Ben. It takes work on my part to have coffee with a new friend or to coordinate playdates. For my season of life right now with kids still at home, I try and have playdates with other moms and children. I coordinate girls night with the staff girls monthly. I take half a day to myself while Ben watches the kids to meet up for coffee with someone. I spend time with Christ followers who spur me on in the faith. I also love to spend time with my Jewish friends who teach me much about traditions and celebrations. The moms I hang out with come from all walks of life. We share recipes, parenting ideas, and life stories. 

But throughout all community relationships and friendships, I can pause and say I need down time or family time. It's when my cup is overflowing with His love and my home is joy-filled with a happy husband and happy boys that my community and friendships are the richest. 

Now it's your turn. How do you cultivate friendships, mentor relationships, and praying friends?