To the Pastor’s Wife Striving for Perfection
I once had a coworker throwing some serious shade at me.
She took a “helpful” tone and proceeded to correct everything about me.
I told her “Weight Watcher’s isn’t working for you.”
After a talk with my supervisor and then another talk with my husband when I got home and explained the whole situation.
My husband then and there created the “First Five Rule.”
This rule states that I cannot say the first five mean things that pop into my head.
Because they are mean.
You see, “Helpful coworker” wasn’t the first person I’d brought to tears, and without the First Five Rule, I’m sure she wouldn’t have been the last.
My comebacks are so quick I have to go through FIVE of them before I get to one that is nice or socially acceptable or appropriate.
I grew up in a home very different than the one I’m trying to create for my kids.
In my childhood home, we all cussed proficiently and often. My mom coined some of the most epic swear word phrases I’ve ever heard.
We cut each other with our words and only stopped under the imminent threat of violence.
I don’t want that for my kids, but that is what is inside me.
And for years I’ve struggled against it.
I’ve tried to get rid of this proclivity towards “unwholesome talk” through prayer and fasting, Bible reading, Bible studies, confessions, punishments (do a pushup every time you say something that Jesus wouldn’t), accountability partners, etc.
And it doesn’t leave me.
Somebody says something to me about my husband getting gray hairs and my head zeros in on the thing in their life that they are most sensitive about.
It’s like a thorn in my flesh.
“Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.” – 2 Corinthian 12:7
And maybe that’s how it’s supposed to be.
I was talking to a sweet lady in our church the other night and she was explaining what a terrible day she’d had and the unkind things she said. She made an offhanded remark about me being a pastor’s wife and not struggling with being mean.
I literally LOLed. (Laughed Out Loud)
I went on to tell her my story about “Helpful” and Weight Watchers (btw “Helpful” had commented on my six-week postpartum body and eating habits. Between sleep deprivation and momma bear hormones, she should have seen it coming.)
As this saintly woman laughed with me about my struggle to control my mouth, we connected.
That’s what ministry is.
It is connecting with people where they are and helping them to become more like Jesus.
As pastor’s wives, we often feel like we need to live up to a standard of perfection.
We need to be up on this pedestal so that we can be an example for people to live up to.
The Apostles didn’t do that in ministry. They pointed to the perfection of Jesus, not of themselves. I don’t think perfection is what we should strive for.
I think instead of trying to be the example of perfection, we should try to be relatable.
We should show people that we love Jesus, we’re married to men who have surrendered their lives to telling others about Jesus, we’re at church every time the doors are open, AND WE STILL MESS UP.
We still yell at our kids.
We still get so mad about the TV being on all. the. time. that we hide the remote from the kids and forget where it is for a month.
We still fight with our husband over cauliflower pizza crust.
Because we are still completely human, so we are sinners saved by grace.
Every single day we are given the grace that we haven’t earned.
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We aren’t up on a pedestal getting everything right.
We’re down in the messy middle and muddling through it all just like everyone else.
The only difference is that we know to turn to Jesus every single time.
And that should be what people notice about us.
They should see that we have struggles, and we work through them with fear and trembling leaning so heavily on Jesus that our feet are often dragging.
And I get it. That can be scary.
It’s much easier to pretend to have it all together and hide behind the facade of perfection, but if you’re ready to foster real relationships and come down off the pedestal, here are five ways to do it.
How to Come Down Off the Pedestal of Perfection
1. Be Honest
Tell people about your struggles.
It doesn’t have to be your deepest darkest secret, but let your small group know about your struggles.
Share that you sometimes have road rage on the interstate.
Tell them about your struggle to make time for quiet time.
Let them know that you’re terrible at housework.
It’s okay to let people know that you don’t have it all together and that you have difficulties.
Even though you are an example, you don’t have to be an example of perfection.
You should be an example of progress.
By sharing your struggles, petitioning prayer, and showing your progress, you are a living example of progressive sanctification, and that’s way better than being an example of fake perfection.
2. Be Real
Share a post on Facebook about how you’re having a rough day and can’t wait to get home and put on your pajamas.
Let your husband use you being a normal person as an example in his sermon.
Wear your hair in a messy bun on a Sunday morning.
You will have a much more vibrant ministry if you let people see that you are a real person struggling with real things.
You might find yourself on a pedestal that you don’t remember stepping on.
Just hop right down.
Show up to church with wet hair and people will stop thinking you’ve got it all together lickety-split.
3. Be Relatable
This may be hard to overcome if you’ve spent the last few years of your ministry striving for perfection and living on a pedestal.
Since I frequently show up late with wet hair in a messy bun, this has never been a struggle for me.
But if you find yourself in the position of wanting to be more relatable, you’ve got two options here:
Share your struggles with a few close friends.
Tell your small group about a real thing that you are struggling with.
Let them know about your dismal prayer life or non-existant quiet time or your unhealthy relationship with food.
And as opportunities arise, let more people in. You’ll find that it’s extremely hard at first and that it gets easier and easier the more people you let in.
Tell your small group or Sunday school class that you struggle with trying to look perfect.
Ask them to pray for you to have sincere connections and accountability.
If you ask God to provide opportunities to let more people in and be more real, He will. So be sure that you’re ready for the real before you start praying.
And if you’re not sure if you’re relatable or not, consider how many close friends you have in your church.
Think about who you would call if you needed to talk to someone about a situation in your life.
If the list is small or nonexistent, you aren’t being relatable.
You may be super approachable and the nicest, friendliest pastor’s wife that has ever existed, but if the relationship doesn’t go two ways, it’s not real.
That’s just you fulfilling a duty to the members of your church to pray for them or bring them a meal or whatever.
It’s not you being a real person with real relationships at church.
And it’s awesome if your BFF doesn’t go to your church and lives in a different town, mine does. (Hey Kim!)
But I also have a long list of people in my church that I could call and get wise counsel from (or just vent to) if I needed to.
Find some people in your church that know you.
Not people that know the polished, front row sitting pastor’s wife.
People that know you and love you.
4. Be Needy
This goes hand in hand with being relatable.
Being relatable is showing people that you don’t have it all together. Being needy is asking people to help you with it (whatever it is).
Ask people to pray for you.
Share your burdens – like your actual burdens.
Telling your Sunday school class that you have an unspoken prayer request does not count.
I’m terrible at this.
When my father was dying, I still did not ask for prayers from my Sunday school class.
Part of my issue is that I’m an introvert and I hate talking in front of groups.
But part of my issue is just my own insecurities.
I assume people don’t want to hear about my problems or that they’ve got enough on them without worrying about me.
But that’s not true.
Every time I find out something about a person’s struggles that they haven’t told me, my feelings are a bit hurt.
I wonder why they didn’t trust me enough to let me pray for them and support them in their struggles.
I worry that I should have read it on them and questioned them.
And I’m sure people felt the same way when they found out my dad died.
It’s okay to be needy.
God did not design us to go through life alone.
And if your husband is the only person you’re talking to, you’re missing out.
As Christians, we are supposed to be a part of a fellowship of believers that completely support each other.
“So that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” 1 Corinthians 12:25-27
And while everyone at your church may not be your new bestie, there is at least one person that you can have a deep relationship with.
And if you go through the whole church directory and can’t find a single person to be friends with, ask God to send you one.
God defeated death.
He can definitely send you a friend.
It’s great to model yourself after Jesus.
As a kid who went to church camp in the nineties, I still have the thought, “What Would Jesus Do?” when faced with tough decisions.
If only I still had my 43 neon WWJD bracelets…
But it’s no good to pretend you have it all together whether you’re married to a pastor or not.
And if you feel pressure to be perfect, perhaps you need to examine where that pressure is really coming from.
Are there actually people in your life who expect perfection or is that an expectation you’ve placed on yourself?
I know it’s not from God.
Because our God knows every single thing you’ve ever done and he loves you despite all of it. And that’s the story that we should shout.
We are sinners saved by grace who still mess up every single day and are forgiven and loved every single day.
Are you (or were you) a pastor’s wife striving for perfection? Tell us about it in the comments!