Please note: nothing in particular drove this post other than my thoughts on how we all fall into this trap. I didn’t have a fight with Travis last night or get frustrated for something he did today. That does happen from time to time, but was not the driving force of this post.
The problem with putting someone up on a pedestal is that they will eventually fall off. I think that’s often a problem in marriages in general and in pastoral marriage in particular. Women (me included) go into it with rose-colored glasses, assuming because their chosen spouse is training for or already serving the Lord, that they will be the perfect husband. Not only that, but he will also be the perfect pastor, and will never mess up except in little, tiny, unnoticeable ways. But really, once he signs up to be an under shepherd to the King of Kings, all of that pesky sin gets wiped away, right?
Ha! To all of those pastors’ wives out there who still live in this fantasy, get a grip. Regardless of whether or not your husband is a pastor or a janitor, an elder in the church or unemployed, he is a sinful human being. Unless you come to terms with that, you will be severely disappointed. Here’s the thing: there will always be church members who will elevate their pastor’s status to sainthood, no matter what, because he is a man of God. I knew a congregation once whose pastor was preaching horrendously false doctrine (even by some very loose standards) and yet half of the members defended their pastor to the end. It just happens.
This isn’t to say that it is the job of the pastor’s wife to cut him down to size, either. No, it’s just a matter of seeing reality for what it is. Husbands and wives disappoint each other. Every marriage book ever written will address the issues of men and women being cut from different cloths, how being raised by families with different values and experiencing different things as your grow up can shape you into the person you are, often different from the person you married. That’s a good thing! How else will we grow and learn from each other in marriage? But if you assume perfection in your spouse, you will definitely be disappointed. It’s a guarantee.
Maybe your husband will fall into the trap of pride. It’s pretty common. Look at Jesus’ disciples, arguing over who would be the greatest in the kingdom. And they walked with Jesus personally for three years! If they were overcome by pride, isn’t it possible that a pastor today can be, too?
Maybe he is trapped by busyness. No, that isn’t a sin in and of itself. But some pastors get caught up with doing ministry at the sake of everything else: family, health, sleep, even personal prayer. They confuse putting God first with putting their job first. It’s an easy trap for men to fall into.
Maybe his sins are much deeper, more personal, and potentially damaging. Will you still love the broken man who is healing from scars that you cannot even imagine?
Sometimes all three of these, and many more, exist in a pastor. That is probably the most dangerous combination of all, because pride keeps him from getting help and busyness helps him ignore the pain. Those pastors caught in this trap have often had very public downfalls. But the point of all of this is to realize that pastors, like everyone else, are sinful human beings. They need the forgiveness of God just as much as the rest of us. As their wives, we have a choice in how to respond.
We can ignore the sin, pretending it isn’t there and attempt to live in the fictional world we’ve created for as long as possible. Probably won’t work for long. We can lash out and become accusatory, treating our husbands like traitors for not being perfect and embarrass him publicly by behaving like petty school girls. Or we can lovingly wait for the appropriate time to address what we see is a problem. This goes for everything from the cliche annoyances like toothpaste caps and dirty socks to the bigger issues I mentioned before.
Regardless of what the issue may be, we are called to pray for our husbands. That is why I find so many of the marriage books to be entirely appropriate, even when they don’t address my specific situation. Yet they do talk of respect, love, sex, encouragement, and care, all of the things that are needed by all men, whether or not they are in the ministry. And let’s be honest: any Christian man has a ministry to do, to tell others about the love of Christ. He might not be paid to do it, but it is still part of his calling. I’m trying to remember that every day.