After almost 15 years of being my husband's marriage, parenting, and ministry partner, I am just coming to understand the weighty responsibility of being his greatest influencer and most important sounding board. Because he is a pastor, I affect my husband's perspectives, sermons, thoughts on others, and his decisions. Am I giving him my opinions and trying to influence him to do what I want him to do? Or am I listening and speaking with a heart that trusts him and, above all, trusts the Lord? In other words, how can I use my influence for his benefit and for the benefit of those he influences?
You don't have to be a pastor's wife to have influence. You don't have to be a wife, for that matter, although that's another post for another day. Every wife influences her husband, and most husbands depend on their wives to be their primary sounding board. We color their perspectives on everything: work, manhood, children, friendship, the church, and God Himself. This is a great power and also a great responsibility. How can we do it well? Here are a few things I've learned (and am honestly still learning) about being my husband's primary influencer and sounding board:
Influence Through Listening and Asking Questions
When he has a decision to make and wants your insight:
Immediately pray for the Holy Spirit to help you know when to speak and when to not speak as your conversation begins. In relation to his work, I have learned that is a very rare occasion when I am to help make the decision, but it is often that I am the one that can help him come to the decision through the questions I ask and the ideas that we brainstorm together. Sometimes I want to tell him what to do from the get-go, which is why I need the Holy Spirit to nudge me if and when it's time to give my opinion.
When you have a strong opinion right from the start:
Know your power to influence the situation, but also know that your visceral instincts, experiential wisdom, and especially your preferences may not be godly wisdom. You don't want to influence him according to your preferences but according to God's preferences. Pray for ears to hear the whole of the situation, probing questions to ask to help your husband mull it over, and for the ability to wait for him to ask for your insight. Most of all, ask the Lord to give you His heart for the situation and that it would trump your preferences or instinctual response.
Influence Through Speaking
When he's stressed, discouraged, or overwhelmed and wants to talk about it:
Seeing my husband stressed and uncertain can be extremely disconcerting, not only because I hurt when he's hurting but because it asks me to trust my husband and the situations he's facing to the Lord. Will I trust Him and allow the process of sanctification or will I fear and worry in a way that increases my husband's stress? When I choose to trust the Lord, I am then able to speak truth over my husband and draw him back to the foundational realities that God is trustworthy and will sustain him.
When he is verbalizing his frustration with another person:
Every wife's instinctual response is to defend her husband, but I've learned that when my husband is sharing his frustrations, I can listen but there is no need to join in the sharing. I have the tremendous power of clouding my husband's perspective on people in his life. Even with words spoken in private conversation, I can cause division in relationships and frustrations to grow.
Influence Through Activity
When all you're talking about is one thing all the time (which, for pastor's wives, is often church):
The best thing you can do for your husband is to help him be a whole person. If he is talking about work all the time and that's all you two have to talk about, that is a sign of not being a whole person. A whole person has family relationships, friendships, recreation, healthy emotions, and has varied interests that are life-giving and restful. Influence your one-track-mind husband by encouraging him to pursue activities outside of that one thing and joyfully giving him the time to do it. When he has other relationships and activities in his life, he will have varied things to talk about.
Influence Through Prayer
When heart and lifestyle change is needed:
As a wife, I can help my husband through insight and feedback, but there is one area that I can only influence through prayer and that's his heart. Nagging and spouting off my thoughts and opinions about what he needs to do (even if they're accurate) aren't helpful in influencing any change. I can, of course, respectfully and gently bring my concerns to him, but I find it is always most effective after I have spent considerable time praying about my concerns and praying that the Lord would do the work needed in his life.
It's interesting to look back through this list and recognize just how influential we are and the scope of that influence. And it emboldens me all the more to seek to use that influence for good in my husband's life. What about you? Are you using your influence wisely and for your husband's benefit?