If you could time-warp back to middle school and give your younger self some hard-earned wisdom, what would you say? How about high school? College? Your first year of marriage? We all live and learn, usually the hard way.
In honor of Pastor’s Wife Appreciation Month, and because I have a particular heart for planters’ spouses, I thought I might offer a few bits of advice I wish I’d been given on day one of this wild ride, life hacks for simplifying ministry life. (Not that I have it all figured out or do this stuff perfectly. There are probably things the future me will shake her head at and wish the present me could have understood. The present me is still practicing all of this, sometimes awkwardly. Want to practice awkwardly together?)
1. Grow in Jesus. No matter what else changes, God isn’t going anywhere. Take this season as an opportunity to grow closer to the heart of the One who loves you no matter what. The gospel is so scandalous, so robust. As you begin to realize how wildly loved you really are, your life will expand from the inside out.
2. Grow in community. It’s tempting to rebel against the fishbowl of ministry and protect yourself from inevitable hurt by isolating. Rest in the Father’s good plan for you, your family, and this church by courageously reaching out. Do the messy work of friendship as much as you can.
3. Grow in engagement. Tim Keller suggests that a pastor’s wife be at least as involved as the most active layperson in the church. No, you don’t have to be at every church event ever, but you were called to this place at this time for a reason.
4. Grow in marriage. Your role as a wife hasn’t changed much—it’s still to love on that man like nobody’s business. How you love on him will shift as time goes on, but the basic idea is still the same as it was on the day you said “I do.”
5. Grow in your wiring. You are more than just “the planter’s wife.” (Don’t believe me? Check your birth certificate.) God gave you a unique identity, story, and set of skills, and He means for you to use them. The good part about a new church is that very few expectations are placed on you. It’s a blank slate, and you can plug in however you feel called to do so.
6. Grow in wisdom. Specifically the wisdom to know when to say yes and when to say no. If you always say yes out of fear of what people will think otherwise, honey, you’re not living solid in Jesus. If you always say no out of fear of a loss of control, honey, you’re not living solid in Jesus. I’ve been in both of those boats. It’s okay to commit, and it’s okay to back off. Just let the Spirit decide when to do which.
7. Grow in self-care. If you’re drowning emotionally, your husband and church will suffer. Personal time isn’t selfish; it’s an investment! And a crucial one at that. No one else has the job of maintaining your emotional, physical, and spiritual health. Steward yourself well and know what your canaries are (those little red flags of danger when you’re not getting enough metaphorical oxygen).
8. Grow in fun. Ministry can take a lot out of you, and it’s easy to zero in on the nonstop, gut-wrenching need around you. Search out beauty. Party well. Celebrate every chance you get. And on the days it’s hardest, you need it most. Build an arsenal of happy—good restaurants, funny movies, family dates to try, whatever.
9. Grow in rest. This isn’t your church. It’s not your husband’s church. It’s not your funding partners’ church. It’s Jesus’ church, and at at the end of the day, it’s in His hands. Rebel against your fears by intentionally stopping your activity. Learn to sabbath in big chunks and little chunks.
10. Grow in grace. Remember that nothing can make the Lord love you more (even all of the ministry in the world), and nothing can make Him love you less (even on your worst day ever). Put up reminders where you need them that God loves you simply for who you are and because of who He is.
As I wish someone would have told me five years ago, sweet girl, you don’t have to have this all figured out. God is big enough to work out His will in, through, around, and even despite you. Breathe in that freedom. He has been at work here much longer than you have been and much longer than you will be. So be brave. Be present. And be you.