It was 10:25 one night when the phone rang. My husband instantly jumped up and started putting his shoes on because the only time the phone rings that late is if someone has an emergency. I began praying as I was answering the phone, knowing that someone needed physical protection or spiritual guidance. The lady on the other line just said, “Hey, Steph, what’s up?” “Not much,” I answered, perplexed, “What’s going on?” “Oh, nothing,” she replied nonchalantly. “I’m just calling to chat. I saw your lights on and knew y’all hadn’t gone to bed yet.” “You can see me? Where are you?” “I’m looking out my kitchen window and I can see you standing at your window.” Yikes! Time to close the blinds! No telling what else she may have seen!
Our parsonage sits right on top of a small hill in our community, and, like the biblical “city on a hill,” we cannot be hid. Living as a pastor and his family in a small town is much like living in a fishbowl. Your life is always on view for all to see. People see how early you get up and if you’re still in your bathrobe when you put your kids on the bus. They see how many weeds you let grow in your garden. They take note of how you drive and don’t assume you’re racing to the hospital if you tailgate them to town. They know what movies you rent, if you order wine with your pasta, and if you dance at your daughter’s prom.
My husband and I respond to this pressure in opposite ways. When I discovered that people can see me lounging around the house before bedtime my response was to buy new pajamas. My husband’s response was “if they don’t like what they see—they don’t have to look!” Both responses have some merit. I tend to care too much about what people think. Preacher’s wives especially tend to focus on keeping up appearances instead of just being real. I need to feel free to not be perfect, to express real emotions, to leave the house without makeup. I need to allow my husband and children to not be perfect, too. To let my husband sleep in on a weekday without feeling guilty for him, To let my children work out their differences with the neighborhood bully their own way– without necessarily quoting Bible verses at him. To acknowledge our own imperfections is to admit that we are real people and need God as much as the next person. When people see that you are being real, they will better hear what you have to say. It’s hard to listen to someone who seems like they’ve always got it all together– especially if you know they really don’t. When people can see that even the preacher and his family have “fallen short of the glory of God” they tend to more freely acknowledge their own guilt and need for a Savior.
On the flip side, it’s always good to keep in mind that people are watching you to see if you really do practice what you preach. It’s hard for the waitress who served you lunch last Sunday to sit through your sermon on being a servant if you were rude and demanding. If you just led a Bible study on forgiveness and then go to school and blast your child’s teacher for something she did last year, it probably won’t help your testimony. One winter we had a severe ice storm. Many people were without power and trees were down everywhere. My husband went out and bought a chain saw and went around the neighborhood chopping up trees. One older man from our congregation commended him on this. He said, “Preacher, I’m glad to see you put your money where your mouth is.” We used to always have a saying that something is “easy preaching—hard living.” So true. It’s easy to talk about loving God more than anything, living justly and loving mercy, walking humbly before our God. But to actually get down to business and LIVE that way? That’s taking it to a whole ‘nother level.
People are always watching to see if our walk matches our talk, if our actions match our passion. But this is not true of just the preacher and his family. It is true of anyone who claims to be a Christ-follower. Our lives should bear witness to God’s truth. We should all live like someone is watching, because Someone is. Our Father is watching. He knows when we go to bed and when we get up in the morning. He knows what we wear to church and what we wear to the grocery store. He knows what we do with our spare time and how we treat our children. He is watching to see if what we do in the relative privacy of our own homes matches what we say we believe when we walk into church on Sunday morning.
For my own part, I’m trying to strike a balance. I’m trying to live my life in such a way that I will not be embarrassed to discover that someone was watching me. But I’m also trying to “dance like no one is looking” and just be real. I’m seeking to serve my Audience of One while still keeping the blinds closed.
What unique lessons are you learning as a PW or ministry wife?
(To read more of my thoughts about being married to a preacher, click on the PW tab at the top of this page)