Among all the people with whom you, the elder's wife, are going to relate, there is someone special who deserves your attention; the pastor's wife. Why? There are actually several reasons why you should care for her, and the first is because you have lot in common.
Both of you are married to men who have been called by God to fulfill a mission to work in the administration of the church and preach the gospel. No wonder you are known in the church as "Elder __'s wife" and she as "Pastor __'s wife." You are the wife of the man who is to be the right hand of the spiritual leader, and she is that leader's wife.
Many people like to use the expression "first lady" when referring to the pastor's wife. History helps us in this respect by mentioning that the "first lady" had her "ladies-in-waiting." You can surely be a "lady-in-waiting" for the "first lady" of your church. And this title is not quite appropriate because you, without doubt, can serve as the right hand of this woman.
You might start by doing something simple yet vital for her: try to understand her. There is no one better suited to doing that in the church. Let me explain. As an elder's daughter since I was 10 years old and a pastor's wife for the past 20 years, I can understand both positions, and I can assure you that you have the ability to understand her.
We all know that the pastor's wife is a woman like any other, but we expect more from her than from anyone else. We expect dedication, interest, a thousand talents, vivacity, responsibility, constant presence, an abundance of smiles, right words at all times, and a good appearance. Hers is a special position but also a very difficult one. Although we realize she is not perfect, deep inside we still expect perfection. And when this doesn't happen, she may become the object of criticism from other sisters in the church.
I want to remind you, dear friend, that on a smaller scale, the church members view you in the same way. As a leader's wife, you are also looked at differently by the brethren. They all know you are not perfect, but deep inside, they expect more from you than from the other sisters.
You might be thinking, "Yes, but I didn't ask to be an elder's wife." Well, my dear, many women never dreamed of becoming pastor's wives, just as you perhaps never imagined that one day you would be an elder's wife.
How do we explain that? We don't. We simply accept it. First, because love doesn't have a pre-determined address. True love is drawn to a person, not a person's position. Second, you never know when God will make a special call for His service. We are all called for salvation; some, however, are called to fulfill a mission of responsibility in leadership. You and the pastor's wife were both called for a service of love, as you are united by the love of men who, above everything else, love God.
Isn't this beautiful? Yes, it is. But above all, it requires meekness.
Changes: To better understand the pastor's wife, you must remember a few important aspects. Frequent changes, such as moving to a new location, may cause stress for the pastoral family. Although they are aware of this reality and constantly preparing for it, we have to recognize that, along with their expectations about the new environment and new friendships, they will also experience losses and the uncomfortable feeling of the new and unfamiliar.
When moving to a new location, the pastor's family has many questions. What will the new city be like? How will they like their new house and the new church? Will they be accepted and loved? Will the children be able to adapt to the new place? What will the school be like? Will they make new friends? How long will it take for them to overcome the separation from old friends from the previous congregation? All of these and other questions float in the air, and the only comfort is to know that, if God has called, there is a plan. And everything is in His hands.
Your experience may be very different from that of the pastor's wife. Elders usually remain a long time in the same church. Therefore, you do not have to deal with these changes in your life and can enjoy having family nearby and longtime friends nearby. A pastoral family usually lives far from their loved ones and does not settle down in one place for long. This sometimes becomes a great problem, especially for the children.
That is why, my friend, when your church is receiving a new pastoral family, you can be the link that will help ease their transition, welcoming the new family until they are used to the local church. You know the church, but the pastor's wife doesn't. Your life will generally have more stability than hers.
Individuality: God was very wise at Creation, for He had important lessons to teach each one of us. Several aspects of God's character are reflected in nature, such as His creative capability, His love of diversity, and His extremely good taste. Have you ever stopped to think about the diversity of the world's flowers, fish, and plants? Do you realize that no two zebras have the same stripe pattern? This teaches us something about what God imagined and desired for the masterpiece of His creation: man. He desires unique beings, differing not only in appearance, but also in temperament and abilities. This becomes evident not only by what our senses can observe, but also by His Word, where we learn that, when it comes to gifts, the Holy Spirit gives them according to His will.
Then, my friend, it is not strange that in many churches we see the brethren wishing the new pastor's wife to be like the former one, or wishing that she had almost all spiritual gifts singing, playing, and preaching; a rapport with adults, youth, children, and the less fortunate; the physical and emotional disposition to visit the sick and attend all funeral services; sufficient knowledge to answer any question; and the ability to assume many functions in the church. This is not possible because it is not God's plan. To some He gave the gift of music; to others, the gift of evangelizing; to others, the gift of prayer or simply of being gentle and smiling.
Obviously, that doesn't mean that she cannot at times give more of herself and consequently allow herself to be a more efficient instrument in God's hand. But, dear friend, think and answer: What can you do to motivate and encourage her to develop her gifts even further? How can you prevent her from suffering because of unrealistic expectations and comparisons? What can you do to make her feel valued by the church simply for who she is? How can you help the church to value the qualities she possesses?
There is still another aspect of individuality. Each person's temperament must be respected. Her need for privacy in personal and family matters must be respected. She sometimes needs to have her husband all to herself. As a woman, you know how we need moments alone with our husbands; we need them to listen to us, and we need their attention and loving care if we are to remain emotionally happy in our marriages.
Perhaps you thought that being the right hand of the pastor's wife meant assisting her in her work, but to understand her and show her sisterly love means more to her than anything else.
Denise M. Lopes is the Women's Ministries Director, Brazilian North Union Conference