We see them on large platforms, speaking to small groups, or one-on-one with those in need of pastoral wisdom. Their arms seems to stretch far outside the means of the body, embracing more hurting and needy people than one person should have capacity for. They answer late night phone calls from congregants desperately needing a voice of wisdom.
This is the role of a pastor.
It’s a strangely beautiful relationship, this love affair between a pastor and his people. A burden to pray for revival while often staring stagnation in the face. It is pointing people in the right direction, while not forcing them walk the right path. It’s forgiving those same people when they blame the pastor for their own lack of growth or faith. It’s late night sermon prep and early morning Bible reading.
As the wife of a pastor, this tension is awesome to behold. The dedication my husband holds to serve God in the muck and mess of others’ husbands, their kids, or his fellow staff members — it takes thick skin and an even softer heart. Most pastors struggle with putting their own family first, simply because their passion to serve the church often feels too pressing to say “No.”
As people of the church, we imagine our pastor lives in a bubble, sealed off from the rest of the world and its temptations. Perhaps he drinks a special filtered holy water, while the rest of us bums are regulated to tap. Pastors probably wake early to the sounds of the Holy Spirit taking their breakfast request- “How would you like your eggs today, Pastor?”- and fall asleep to inner hymns playing on repeat.
I, being married to such a man, get to fall asleep to the soothing sounds of him snoring, thank you very much.
I want to share a little secret with you:
Being a pastor is not what you think.
A “Pastor” title does not make someone super-human or above the rest. They don’t have all the right answers, and they will never “get it right” 100% of the time. Pastors are people, with hopes and insecurities and struggles like everyone else. The Bible says they will be held more accountable for what they do on earth. More than the rest of us. The biblical requirements placed on a pastor to lead a church are more strict than TSA at Thanksgiving, I promise you. It could be possible, that those closest to them hold them to an even higher standard, for better or worse. I may be speaking from personal experience.
One Saturday evening my pastor husband and I both crawled into bed. I watched him as he reached a hand to click off the lamp. I wondered if this is what all pastors did on the night before they preached, a simple turning off of a light? It almost felt like cheating the system, that simple living. Shouldn’t he be fasting somewhere? Possibly memorizing Bible verses? Taking communion and praying? Surely there is a penance to pay prior to being used by God the next morning; a supernatural act of submission and sacrifice that makes him worthy of such a call. Is serving God really this simple?
And God reminded me that my husband, my pastor, is qualified for this job because of Christ and not because a perfection found in himself. Walking in his calling is a grace and a gift that he doesn’t need to earn. He only needs to be brave enough to walk in it. Occasionally bravery looks like trusting God enough with our tomorrow to sleep well tonight.
The following morning was possibly the most powerful message I had ever heard him teach. Not because it was flashy or perfectly spoken, but because I could tangibly feel the Spirit of God through the entire service. The words that came from my silly, goofball husband were slaying our hearts in one swift motion. I wondered for a moment who that man was, someone who carried the presence of God with such grace and love to a room of hundreds of congregants- was that truly who I slept next to the night prior? A man whose deep trust in God filled his night with sleep and not sacrifice?
My kids and I are honored to share our favorite guy with the church, but we also want to guard his heart. Won’t you help us and all other pastor families out there? If you have looked at your pastor as some sort of super human, don’t. If you have brought a concern to them with words that are less than loving, stop. If your opinion of his clothing choice or imperfections cause you to look down on him or whisper to your friends during service, check your heart. If you have a need that isn’t an emergency, please let it wait until his office hours so he can protect his days off.
Remember: Pastors are real people, and we should pray for and love them as such.