I checked my phone all Sunday afternoon. While I was driving home from church. While I was lounging on my living room couch, watching a show. While I was getting dinner ready that evening. I was waiting for that small green notification to pop up on my screen, telling me I’d received a new text message.
I had given my cell phone number to a woman at church that morning and told her to reach out. Maybe we could meet up for coffee or a walk. You know, the things that normal friends do. In terms of my schedule, I was wide open that upcoming week, which I told her. Based on the excitement in our conversation, I figured she would have texted by now.
But the hours turned to days and the days turned into weeks, and I didn’t hear from her.
About two months later, I bumped into the same gal at church and finally got the courage to ask her, “Hey, how come you never texted me?”
She had a sheepish look on her face as she replied, “Sorry! I just assumed you were busy.”
I assured her that my life was just as averagely busy as the next person’s, but I did genuinely want to get to know her better. We can be as busy or unbusy as we want to be, right? When it comes to friendships, I’d like to think that I’m pretty flexible with my schedule and willing to shift things around to make a hang-out possible.
We eventually did get together (and still do hang out)! But the woman’s initial response stuck with me. I have heard words like hers over and over again as a pastor’s wife.
This general assumption that pastors’ wives are super busy is honestly one of the hardest things for me about being a pastor’s wife.
In my twelve-plus years as a pastor’s wife, I’ve regularly battled loneliness. Folks often put pastors’ wives on unfair pedestals, making assumptions about who we are, our accessibility, and even what kind of leadership we should have in the church. Sometimes, people think I’m out doing ministry on the streets 24/7. But, in all honesty, I’m not any busier than the next person, and I need friends just as much as everyone else.
There is a faulty perception in our society today that being productive equates to busyness. We often think that because someone is doing a lot (in my case, writing books and homeschooling, among other things) that they don’t have time in their schedule to hang out.
When we choose to assume someone is too busy to meet up, we create barriers to beautiful God-honoring friendships.
One of the things that I love about Jesus’ ministry is that He never made assumptions about people. He never thought to Himself, “Man, I’d really like to hang out with this person, but I’m sure they’re too busy.” In fact, He just went to people.
In Luke 19, we see how Jesus goes to Zacchaeus and invites Himself over to his house. Jesus literally tells Zacchaeus, while the man is up in a tree no less, that He wants to meet him. And He’s not deterred by a crowd who thinks Jesus’ time would be better spent elsewhere.
There is a beautiful relentlessness in the way Jesus pursued people, and I truly believe pastors’ wives are in need of a similar kind of relentlessness.
It’s challenging when everyone knows bits and pieces of your life as a pastor’s wife, without fully knowing you. Sometimes we’re seen as pastoras, as fellow pastors with our husbands, and all the expectations that come with that. “Hey, how come you’re not teaching at church?” “Why don’t you lead any ministries?” “Why weren’t you at that church event?” The congregation even knows a lot about our marriage to our spouse because our pastor-husbands use our relationship as fodder for sermon examples and as advice in mentoring relationships (and I don’t say that in a negative way).
To an extent, everyone thinks they know the pastor’s wife, and yet far too often no one hangs out with her.
What a pastor’s wife needs is folks in their church who intentionally choose to leave their assumptions at the door. Instead of assuming she’s too busy to meet up, reach out and ask, “Hey, want some company this week?” or “Hey, can I bring some coffee over?”
When it comes to building friendships, pastor’s wives (like everyone else) need to be given the options of “yes,” “no,” “maybe,” or “how about later?”
Rather than assuming that your pastor’s wife has enough friends, doesn’t need encouragement, or is too busy to meet, just ask. Show up. Love on her. Bring her food or a bouquet of flowers, like you would any other friend. Be a shoulder to cry on, or someone to offer a safe listening ear.
Can a pastor’s wife (myself included) be the one to pursue a new friendship? Absolutely. But when you’re in the position of always being expected to initiate or that you’re already relationally full, sometimes it’s really nice to know that someone else cares enough to take that first step.
Just remember: your pastor’s wife needs friends too, and you might just be the exact person she’s been praying would reach out.