As a twenty-something newlywed, I climbed the steps of the Royal Conservatory on Bloor Street in Toronto, eager to meet my petite French vocal coach for my regular lesson. I had no idea that a mere four years later I would become a pastor’s wife. My artsy, hipster existence would be forever changed.
Being married to a man with a shepherd’s heart is a wonderful blessing, but it also comes with unique challenges. When my husband transitioned from a Toronto Professor to a Calgary Pastor, the biggest change for me was that my house suddenly became transparent.
It’s no secret that pastor’s families live in glass houses. If you are married to a pastor, you’ve likely had to reckon with what it means to live your life in this highly visible role. Pride would have us try to live up to everyone’s standards, but as the wizened among us will tell you, perfectionism only results in unfulfilled expectations.
The irony of pride is that it makes us fearful, anxious and insecure. We constantly have to prove we are as good as we think we are.
Fortunately for pastor’s wives (and every other human on the planet), the bible nowhere praises people for their perfection and self-sufficiency. Instead we are encouraged to live everyday in view of God’s grace.
An Example in Sarah
The Apostle Peter held Sarah up as woman “who hoped in God” precisely because she placed her hope in Someone better than herself (1 Pet. 3:5).
Sarah wasn’t called a “holy” woman because she was sinless. She was called a holy woman because, when she sinned, she repented and her life shows a pattern of obedience and hope in God.
In hope, she looked to God when He called her husband, Abram, to leave Ur of the Chaldeans, with no idea where they were going (Heb.11:8). In hope, she looked to God through the inherent dangers in travel, even when Abraham lied about who she was on two separate occasions, and foreign kings took her as what we can only assume to be a concubine (Gen. 12, 20).
After waiting until the twilight of her life to conceive, Sarah’s faith came to the ultimate test when God told Abraham to sacrifice their precious son on an alter. Her faith was tried and tested, and as Peter said earlier in his letter, faith tested by fire is more precious than gold.
What Sarah exemplifies for us is not perfection, but a persevering faith. Sarah’s trials taught her to reject the false security of people and circumstances, and instead instead hope in something better. This is why Peter, inspired by the Holy Spirit holds her up as an example of a “holy woman who hopes in God.”
Secure in God’s Grace
It’s a mistake to tread lightly at the throne of grace. When trials or criticism make us feel unstable and vulnerable, that is precisely when we need to lean in more. Because of Christ, we can “with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Heb. 4:14- 16)
When I was vacationing in Arizona with my family recently, we went for a beautiful hike through the desert. The landscape was full of cacti, mesquite trees, and desert shrubs that were completely foreign to our Canadian terrain. And as we reached the summit of a hill, I saw on the horizon, not one, but two eagles gliding through the air.
I have to admit, I’ve never noticed how an eagle flew before that moment, but on this day, I sat there and observed. I noticed the ease with which these large birds seemed to glide through the sky. Their wings were not flapping, they were literally gliding on the wind. There was nothing frantic about it. They were not tiring themselves out. In fact it looked restful and invigorating at the same time.
Isaiah 40:31 came to mind. “But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”
And as the truth of these words penetrated my heart, I wondered how often I unnecessarily flap my wings, tiring myself out with my self-reliance.
The Lord is the one who forgives our sins and strengthens us for ministry. The Lord makes us soar like an eagle, gliding on the wind, empowering us by the Holy Spirit.
Our perfectionist dreams for ourselves may be more flattering, but they will never amount to anything more than unfulfilled expectations and a ginormous amount of wing-flapping. Whereas God is able to do “far more abundantly” than we even know to ask or think (Ephes. 3:20).
Our glass houses are a blessing in disguise because they remind us that there was only one perfect man in the history of the world, and we are not him! Jesus was perfect for us. He took on our sin and gave us his righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21). This alone is the reason a holy God accepts us.
Pastor’s wives are not perfect, but when we put our hope in God’s grace and sufficiency for us, we are no longer slaves to the next wave of public opinion or even our own changing emotions. Sarah’s life showed a pattern of obedience and hope in God and that is why Peter said that we are her daughters if we “do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.” (1 Pet. 3:6)
Glass houses become less scary when we’re secure in God’s grace.
Grace for the Pastor’s Wife was originally posted at canada.thegospelcoalition.org.