I have been a pastor’s wife for 19 years. I was a young 19 years old when I married, and my husband accepted his first pastorate. Looking back, I now realize I knew nothing. Seriously, nothing. I knew how to stand at the back of the church dutifully by my husband’s side and shake hands with sweet people who really didn’t know me. I did this for many, many years.
Throughout those early years in ministry I tried really hard to be a supportive, strong, encouraging leader in our churches. I really wanted people to like me. And in order for people to like me, I needed to dress the part, serve in every area effortlessly, and make sure they didn’t know any of my deep struggles. And God forbid they know any of my sin. It was exhausting and lonely and I was stuck.
This past Sunday, I taught with my husband about marriage. We shared openly about our own struggles, and afterward, so many people thanked us for being vulnerable. I was actually surprised at the ease with which we shared some difficult stuff about our past. But this has not always been my story. God has been so faithful to draw me out, change my heart, and in the process prove His faithfulness in so many lives.
When we left Arkansas to move to southern California to be part of Saddleback Church, for the first time, I was not the lead pastor’s wife. In fact, I was one of many pastors’ wives. There was no pressure. No eyes upon me. I could slip in and out of church with no one even knowing I was a pastor’s wife. God used this time in my life to show me a better way.
He surrounded Brandon and I with a small group of people that showed us what authenticity looked like. They weren’t “doing” church. They had real problems with real hurts and relied on a real God for help. They also relied on each other. This was foreign to us, and life changing. We left Southern California to plant Grace Hills Church back in Arkansas, and we came back to “the natural state” different people.
We were determined that we would share our lives with whomever God asked – not just the pretty part of our lives, but the hard stuff. Honestly, the first year of planting was one of the hardest years of our marriage. The enemy was seeking to steal, kill and destroy, and some days he seemed victorious.
It would have been easy to pretend that all was well, and most days it was really tempting. Being real is hard. It’s risky, and sometimes painful. There were days I begged God to let me go back to being the girl that nobody really knew. Many times, sitting with someone who was hurting in their own marriage, I felt the gentle whisper of the Holy Spirit saying, “share your story.” Seriously, God? I. Don’t. Want. To. But I did. I shared my weakness. I shared my pain and my sin and then I shared the grace that covers me and the redemption of a Savior who brought life and hope to a hurting marriage.
The more I opened up, the easier it became. The veil of shame was lifted and Satan no longer had a grip on those dark places. They were pushed into the light, and there I stood… vulnerable, and covered in grace.
I will say this: I don’t share everything with everybody. I wait and I listen to the Holy Spirit. I have surrendered my life and my story to God to use as He wants to. So I walk in obedience. I desire to be real. I believe Jesus was real, and I desperately want to be more like Him.
Sharing my life – the good, the bad and the ugly – with hurting people has been one of my greatest joys, and I won’t ever go back. I have moments when I’m tempted to retreat, but I reflect on Paul’s words in 1 Thessalonians 2:8, “We cared so much for you that we were pleased to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us” (HCSB).
My people – the ones I do life with, and the ones I’ve yet to meet – are dear to me. Precious in my heart. Nope. I won’t ever go back.