By Jeff Leach, whose wife (Tara Beth) is a Nazarene pastor and a student at Northern Seminary.
When I was a student at a Small Christian college in the Midwest, I encountered young women who would express a desire to be a Pastor’s wife. I don’t think I ever encountered a single guy that said it was their hope as well. I can’t say that it was a dream of mine to be a Pastor’s husband, but I wouldn’t change a thing.
I think Tara Beth and I are a bit of an odd couple. Then again, given that most people are not pastors, and even fewer still are female pastors, I don’t expect to meet many more people in our situation. Working as an engineer, which is typically a male dominated profession, I’ve never come across someone who does not respond with a “oh” type of response after learning what my wife “does” for a living. After the initial shock of my unexpected response, many people will ask more about my wife’s career with intense curiosity. I suppose I’m not surprised since women Pastors are still a minority.
Marrying a Pastor doesn’t come with a guide book, and marrying a female Pastor is certainly a rare frontier. There are many articles, support groups, blogs, books, and even conferences for Pastor’s wives, but when it comes to Pastor’s husbands, it is few and far. Being a Pastor’s husband has been a 7 year journey (our entire marriage), and it seems I learn something new every year. So what have I learned?
Stand Down: As most husbands do, I like to protect my wife. Let’s face it, pastors face a beating now and then. People say things and people do things that are hurtful. Whether it is intentional or unintentional, I often feel the need to shield her. Yet, I have to allow her to be the minister God has called her to be, and sometimes this means allowing her to work through her own battles with me in the background providing her support and comfort.
Live counter-culturally: It should be quite obvious where I stand on the “women in ministry” debate, but I must say I have been surprised by some of the reactions we’ve gotten over the years. There have been the light-hearted situations like when the Mormon team (on their mission) stopped me on the sidewalk and attempted to debate theology. The look on their faces was priceless when I stepped back and let my wife take over, which I think threw them for a loop because they didn’t really have anything to say in response. On the other hand, we have had those moments where individuals just can’t get past the typical stereotypes and questions such as how it could ever work to move for my wife’s job.
Several years back, my wife was serving at a Church in Upstate New York and I was an engineer with a wonderful company. I will never forget my boss’s reaction when I told him I was resigning to move to a place where I would have no job lined up. In retrospect, maybe he did have some good points though, because I ended up working at an Olive Garden for 7 months until I found a job. Still even then, I didn’t second guess it, and never held Tara Beth to blame. For us it’s not about who will sacrifice for whom, because really we’re both sacrificing our agendas for where we feel God leading. I suspect it is the same for many Christian couples.
It’s our calling: Speaking of calling, I really do believe it is our calling. After all, the two shall become one, so how can we have different callings? Sure we have different gifts and edify the body in different ways, but my actions and how I live out my relationship with Tara Beth can greatly impact her ability to live out her calling to her fullest. For us, this can manifest in activities like talking through her sermon on a Saturday night, taking the boys out of the house for an entire day so she can meditate and write a sermon, whispering a prayer for her as she gets up to preach, reading the same theology book with her so we can discuss it, or caring for the boys and just letting her sleep in on a Saturday after a rough week of ministry. It is, after all, our calling.
Sure, there are those Sunday Mornings when I am trying to get the boys (we have two wild toddlers) ready for church after Tara Beth has already left that I wish she were home, but I have never once doubted her (no our) call. In fact, if it were easy and the sensible thing to do, I would actually start to question the perceived calling. I am not aware of many examples where God’s plan was predictable and easy.
While it can lead to some interesting situations (like having our 2 yr old yell “MOMMY” right during the sermon), it definitely places me in a unique situation to really see God’s plan in action. Though I didn’t know all that I was getting myself into, I wouldn’t even think about trading it. It is our calling.