By Joy Lear-Bernard
My church traditionally wore large pretty hats. As a child, it was a flurry of sparkle and shine to behold the women beautifully adorned and bore little resemblance to my adult version of ministry dressed with kids, sandals, and car seats in tow.
Nevertheless, very early in ministry I had the rare occasion to wear a hat. I was greeted in the car park (parking lot) with a huge compliment that quickly collapsed like shoddily assembled building blocks. “You look beautiful!… Like a real minister’s wife.”
I was a real minister’s wife in that my husband was a real minister, and we really were married!
Therein wafted that familiar scent: False Expectation! Expectation of my dress sense, weight loss or gain, the way I smiled, walked, talked, parented, supported ministries, prayed, taught, sang etc. I was not naive to its prevalence. My husband had always been in ministry. But this was yet another reminder. The unspoken permission to expect of the Pastor’s wife was rife.
To survive we are so quickly forced to seek deep within ourselves as wives of Pastors. We consider what gifts we have or do not have, just how we will live our private and public lives and who we really are. Incidentally, I think every believer needs this same soul questioning. Our clear identity in Christ is so relevant for us all, in order to maintain our posture in this ever-changing world. But boy, do pastors’ wives get ample opportunity!
But you see everything changes so our quest to ‘find ourselves’ is a tall order!
I am not the same me I was when we first married; we change all the time. Therefore, I am convinced that our identity can only be safely found on our knees. Jesus is the mirror that never lies. His view of me is one of love. More importantly, He is the image, and I am the reflection. Now He may not wear a sparkly hat and 2-piece suit but He is always perfect and true. He is enough for me to fix my gaze on and attune my ears to. I want to be like Him!
The truth is, my likes, knowledge, and even my roles will shift as I change. But my identity? That is fixed. I am a child of God. I am wonderfully made. I am a representative of Jesus. I am a resident in the secret place of God, which is where I dwell and am safe.
If we are struggling with the expectations of others, they must take a back seat as we consult God on who we are. If we feel lost in our identity with roles, kids, career, health, grandkids, retirement, we can only ever become centered in the still moments when we look to Him, and He tells us who we are. That will never change.
Before we take on another label, think about if all this was said and done. Who does God want me to be? This is my identity.