The Assault on the Ministry Family, Part I: Heavy hearts and shaking hands.
New to the series? You may want to start with the Introduction.
You see her each week at church. She's saying hello to people, she's smiling and answering questions, she's holding hands with her children, and she's walking into church and sitting by herself because her husband is already there in the front.
He's the preacher (or the youth minister or the worship leader).
And she's his wife.
She stands by her husband. She loves to see her spouse in action. She loves his heart for ministry and the Lord. She enjoys serving with him each week.
She knows entire families by name. She knows that the Joneses are going through a difficult time. She knows the Smiths are expecting a baby. She knows the families who had a death this past week. She knows that so and so recently became engaged. She carries a lot of the secrets of the church members.
People are usually pretty nice to her. They all know her name, they know her occupation, and they know the names of her children. The people notice if she's absent and ask her husband where she is--and let her know that she was missed the following week.
She is careful to dress herself in a way that will be tasteful and modern, but modest. She ensures her children are also well-dressed and that their faces are clean. She is the one who gets everyone ready and out the door on Sunday mornings. She feels badly for all of the single moms out there, and thanks the Lord each week for her husband as she is hurrying the children out the door.
She worries when the children misbehave that it will reflect poorly on their family. She reminds them to always be on their best behavior in church each week as they are walking in the doors. Her children love that everyone knows their names and speak to them when they walk into the building.
She takes the compliments her family receives in stride. She loves being loved on. She appreciates the gifts at Christmas and the kind cards when they are received. She loves having the opportunity to eat lunch with families in the church. She also receives suggestions that congregational members want her to pass along to her spouse. She tries to smile and respond in a kind, yet noncommittal way.
She is expected to be at each church function. She is expected to bring food or organize events or serve in the lines in the kitchen. She is the first one to jump in during a crisis and tries to smooth things over to assist her husband.
But, she's also exhausted. It's been a tough week and now it's another long day at church. She'd really like to sleep in and go to the later service--or even skip church all together once in a while. She knows that even driving separately, they will be the first ones there and the last ones to leave.
She wants to tell the person who is calling for 100th time this week that her husband really needs to be home with his family rather than saying special prayers over their dying cat. She'd like to remind the people that office hours are posted for a reason. She cringes when his cell phone rings during dinner. She worries when he leaves in the middle of the night to assist a person in need.
She knows that her husband's paycheck is equal to his approval ratings. She knows that all it takes is angering the right person at the wrong time and his career is history. She worries when there is a board meeting and the leadership and her husband don't see eye to eye. She worries when the budget is tight, she worries about the careless remark he made, she worries that his sermon/lesson/song will be taken the wrong way. She knows when he's not at the top of his game because he's spent the week tending to the needs of the congregation rather than perfecting a ProPresenter slide.
She has to be very careful with whom she talks to. People often want use and abuse her position as a means to be in the know about things at the church. She is surrounded by a congregation who think they know everything about her, but only a handful actually get past the surface. She cannot vent her frustrations to the masses. She cannot say what she's really thinking to the arrogant jerk or the mean-spirited gossip who speak so poorly about her husband when they think she can't hear them. She cannot be authentic with the people she worships with.
She carries the criticism, she carries her husband's burdens, and sometimes she feels like she's going to come completely apart at the seams. Her husband cannot leave his work at the office because ministry isn't a 9-5 job. He carries bigger secrets and information. He's seen things that no person should ever have to witness. He's got the weight of the world on his shoulders and she is his sounding board.
He's probably caught the eye of a pretty lady at the church. This person merely sees him as a prize to be won and the thrill of the chase is so appealing to her. What starts as innocent counseling or a friendly conversation can often lead to dangerous situations. Her husband must be on guard at all times.
She's probably been to the emergency room for chest pains. Or she's sat with him as he's being examined. One or both of them have probably been treated for anxiety or depression as a result of serving in the ministry. Unfortunately, they cannot ask for help with this because people will start whispering the word "crazy" whenever she leaves the room. It's a prayer request that can never be put on the list.
They both carry so much in their heads and hearts and each week more and more demands are placed on him.
But she plasters on a smile for another week.
To be continued. . .