5 lessons for a pastor’s wife from a pastor’s wife
Life’s funny, isn’t it? I always assumed the most important lessons I’d learn about being a pastor’s wife would be in seminary, or sitting at the feet of an older, wiser pastor’s wife. But I’ve discovered if you keep your eyes open, life will teach you all kinds of lessons in the most unexpected ways.
So, here are five lessons I’ve learned on the back of our Harley Davidson:
- Let the driver do the driving.
Although I hate to admit it, I had to learn to let the driver do the driving! Now, not all pastors’ wives are going to need this lesson and you can skip it if you want to. But if you happen to be a tad headstrong or a teeny-weeny bit bossy, you may want to finish reading this point.
It didn’t take me long to realize that when we were out riding, the best plan was just to let my husband drive. I found out pretty quickly it was not only distracting but dangerous for me to be shouting instructions from the back. “Turn here, slow down, go faster!” The truth was it didn’t seem to matter how loud I yelled anyway; my husband wasn’t paying any attention to my back-seat directives. Then something strange and wonderful happened. I can’t tell you how exactly, but to my surprise I started to like being the passenger. I’d climb on the back of the bike and breathe a big sigh of relief – I didn’t have to drive! I didn’t even want to drive anymore. I could just sit and enjoy the ride. All the pressure was off. Someone else was in charge.
It’s hard to believe how perfectly this mirrored our ministry journey. We were travelling along just fine until my husband stepped up from an associate position, that he’d held for 25 years, to the lead position. Somehow, in a way that’s hard to describe, it felt different – not bad, just different. I wasn’t sure where I was supposed to sit anymore.
Here’s the pew I landed in: Ultimately God called my husband to drive, not me. He was actually getting paid to do it, not me. The buck stopped with him, not me. And I realized I could support him in a hundred different ways without actually taking the wheel. That was very freeing for me. It may be for you too.
Now, if you are co-pastoring with your husband that’s a different story. You will have to find a way to “drive together” that doesn’t involve shouting ideas at one another or grabbing the wheel. I’ll let you figure out exactly how to do that.
- Look into the wind.
I will admit there were a lot of things I was unprepared for as a new Harley rider. One of the most surprising was the force of the wind I experienced on the back of the bike. There were times I spent the majority of the ride just attempting to stay on. I would try and position my body to minimize the force of the wind but often in turning my head away from it, it seemed to make it worse. After much trial and error, I finally found a trick that helped me keep my balance when those strong winds blew. I learned to look directly into the wind. Although I can’t explain it, facing those winds head-on minimized the force of them.
Just like riding the Harley there were some winds that I wasn’t prepared for when we entered the ministry. And over the years I tried all kinds of ways to “stay on the back of the bike.” I ignored the wind. I turned my back to the wind. I rebuked the wind. Most of those strategies had a dismal success rate. But the older I got, and the more ministry experience I had, I realized the best way to deal with those “contrary winds” was often to simply face them head-on. I learned to address them with truth and grace, and it was surprising how quickly those winds died down. The winds will always blow, my friend; how you deal with them will often determine if you can ride through them or have to pull off the road.
- Lean into the curves.
This was a hard one for me because when you’re going around a curve you naturally want to lean the other way because it feels like you’re going to fall off the bike. But doing that is a big mistake. You need to learn not to fight the lean. The scariest news is that the sharper the curve the more lean is needed to keep the bike in balance. So even though it feels completely counterintuitive, the very best thing you can do is follow the lead of the driver and lean into the curve with them.
Ministry is much the same. If you haven’t discovered it yet, hold on because pastoring is rife with curves. Some you can see coming from a long way off and prepare for. Others come up unexpectedly, with no warning, and you are left to decide how you are going to handle it. If you decide to pull in the opposite direction of the driver, you will find yourself exhausted and ready to jump off the bike completely. There’s no denying it, curves can be challenging, but let me remind you, God knew that curve was coming, and he has given you everything you need to lean into it and safely navigate it together.
- Take some risks and be willing to travel down some unfamiliar roads.
I’m pretty risk averse. I like the safety of knowing where I’m going, when I’ll arrive and where I’ll be stopping along the way. And that’s OK. But I can tell you that the most beautiful things I’ve seen riding on the back of the Harley have been when we turned left instead of right and took a road that we’d never been on before. It was stopping along the way to stuff fresh picked corn into our saddle bags for dinner or turning around to go back to a coffee shop that caught our eye. It was full on racing the storm to get home before the heavens broke open.
Looking back on almost 40 years of ministry I’ve found the same thing. The highlights for me were the risks we took to try new uncharted roads, different ways of doing ministry, untried ways of reaching our neighbourhoods, new ways to pray and lead in worship. They were roads I would have never chosen at first glance, but those roads turned out to be sweetest, most fruitful seasons of ministry for us. So, take a risk and take the road less travelled every once in a while.
- You may not ride forever.
This is the very first time I have written those words. And it’s still shocking for me to stop and read them over. I always thought we’d be two very, very old people who would ride off into the sunset on the Harley. But it appears it won’t be that way. That beautiful bike that brought such joy into our lives is now for sale. It’s taken me by surprise. I suppose it was a combination of things: the death of one friend on his bike, the realization that we weren’t riding nearly as much as we used to, and admitting even when we did, it wasn’t filling us up the way it used to. The season, as hard as it is to believe, seemed to be coming to an end.
This can happen in ministry too. Sometimes the ride comes to an abrupt halt because of someone else’s decision; sometimes it’s a combination of errors made by the driver; or perhaps it’s simply this growing awareness that this season is over for you. That’s what happened to us. It was as if God leaned down and asked, “Want to try a new road?” The thought of it was both frightening and exhilarating. And while there were scores of reasons to say no, we said yes! We turned off the pastoring road that we had been on for 35 years and five years ago became the directors of Focus on the Family Canada’s Kerith Creek in Alberta.
For those of you who, for whatever reason, have ended up on the side of the road, I want to encourage you – your ride isn’t over yet! My husband and I ended up travelling down a beautiful road that we had no idea even existed. And the loveliest part of all was that every highway, every detour, every curve had, in the most remarkable of ways, prepared us for the road we are on now.
Merrie Eizenga is one of the program directors at the Alberta Kerith Retreats location with her husband, Marshall. For more information about our retreats, visit KerithRetreats.ca.