Sometimes it’s the unspoken expectations of doing ministry a particular way, or the pressure to befriend people in a certain group, but there are also church settings where the wife of a pastor is told in no uncertain terms what she should be doing.
Regardless of how the pressure you may be feeling is packaged in your particular church community, there’s one thing you need to hear on repeat, even if you’ve heard it a thousand times before:
Your identity is in Jesus. You are loved because of what he has done. You are more than enough because he is more than we will ever be. You’re safe.
Remember it when you’re in the dream-stage of church planting and everything seems exciting and electric. Remember it on that exhilarating morning when you’re setting up for the very first service. Remember it three years into the church plant that inevitably looks different than you dared ever ask for or imagine (for better or worse). You’ll need the solid food of the gospel—the good news of Whose you are and what He’s done for you—over and over and over again. The expectations you feel from people in your community will ebb and flow, but the truth that Christ is your all will never, ever change.
Bill and Joanne dreamed of church planting a decade ago, but as they prayed through their inklings and walked through the steps with their church network, they realized that this was not going to be their time. So when those thoughts began to resurface last year, and when they realized in a great big “Aha!” moment around the breakfast table that they were both hearing the Holy Spirit whispering about a church plant now, they were not only caught by surprise, they were excited.
You are more than enough because [Jesus] is more than we will ever be. You’re safe.
It has been a sacred privilege to watch them grow through the pangs and anticipation, building their launch team, working out the logistics of location and chairs and sound systems and logos. And Joanne has had to figure out where she “fits in” as they begin to grow a community.
“When Bill became an elder, I had to learn very early on that I needed to focus on where I am gifted. What God has Bill doing in our church community is not necessarily what I am wired to do, or even very good at.”
The whole idea of focusing on where she’s gifted has given Joanne much-needed freedom from the expectations she feels from others, both before their current church plant, and now, in the midst of its beginnings.
It’s a simple idea, but it gets to the core of Whose we are. He loves us so much, he’s gifted each of us with some excellent qualities and skills, and keeping a laser-sharp focus on where God is asking you to serve can free you from thinking you have to do or be anything more.
Of course, knowing where you should be concentrating your time is a matter of developing an ear for the voice of the Holy Spirit in your life. We tend not to be very good at slowing down and learning to listen for God, but it’s a critical step to freedom from the pressure of expectations.
“I had to stop and ask God, ‘Where do you want me to serve?’, and then I had to simply obey what I knew he was asking of me. So even when others would ask Bill, ‘Hey, where’s your wife tonight?’, I was secure in the knowledge that I was doing no more nor less than what God had asked of me.”
Part of the freedom Joanne has grown to appreciate within the context of ministry is the protection Bill has given her. He supports her resolve to serve where she knows God has called her, and only there. The ubiquitous questions of “Where is Joanne?” are met with an appropriate answer from Bill, decided upon long before the questions even started to pop up.
But there is an aspect to her freedom from doing and being all things to all people that has had a far greater impact on Joanne than anything else.
“I think I’ve finally learned to respond to the expectations and criticism of others with a reminder to myself: I am a daughter of Christ. My identity is in what he has done, and what he has done is perfect. I don’t have to be all things to all people, so I can focus on doing the things that God has asked of me in our ministry together.”
And here’s where we circle back to that glorious truth spoken in Colossians 3:11: “Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.” Christ is all.
Pastor’s wife, your identity is in Jesus. You are loved because of what he has done. You are more than enough because he is more than we will ever be, and his calling on your life is the only expectation that truly matters.