A myth is a belief that is not true, even though it is accepted by most people. It is important that you do not shape your life, forsake your contentment, or wreck your effectiveness by mere myths. We must test them against Scripture and against reality. We must also watch out for half-truths, traditions, and assumptions lest they creep in and try to destroy us.
How do these myths start? Usually their beginning can be traced to some long-forgotten situation, which is not even relevant today. Sometimes they start as mere exaggerations, and grow from there. They usually sound believable because they contain a remnant of truth somewhere in them.
They also start when one person universalizes his own experience and begins to believe that his experience should be reproduced in everyone else’s ministry. They may also come from so-called traditions that actually grew from an event that happened only once or twice. What are some of these myths?
I think as you examine these myths you will find that they are usually believed and taken as truth by a person who is wanting to excuse her situation, her way of acting or not acting, and her sin. Don’t let these myths wreck your life and your ministry.
Church members will always be loving.
Or church people are always cruel in their reactions to our family.
Reality: Human beings sometimes disappoint you.
Notice the two extremes here, preceded by the word always—either they love you or they hate you! This is akin to the lie that your teenager uses to try to convince you that they are being left out, because after all, everyone else is doing it!
The reality is that when you work with people, you have to expect that you will meet both kinds. Don’t expect God’s children to always act like angels. Anyone who ministers to human beings will sometimes be disappointed by those they serve.
We all know that we are all supposed to behave with honesty, integrity, and love, but sadly that is not how we all live. Injustice and unfair dealings are often found in our congregation. If lack of fairness is going to be your crutch, you will find yourself hobbling along all the time, because life is not fair.
Usually most couples start out in the ministry assuming that they will work with saints. A surprise soon sets in when they discover that church members are seldom better or worse than the common run of people. The church is made up of people from all walks of life. Consequently, everyone in the church will not always treat you the way you think you should be treated.
What does this mean for a pastor’s wife? It means you should expect duplicity and be surprised by those who do not practice it. It means some Christian people have no principles. It means that even in the midst of a church family that is supposed to love and care for each other you will find those that are only concerned about themselves.
It means you should not be surprised by anything, but little is gained by repeating over and over, “Christians don’t act that way.” Doctors are not surprised by sickness, and a pastor and his wife should not be surprised by sin. The reality is that some believers should not act the way they do, but they sometimes do. And truthfully, some pastors and pastor’s wives should not act the way they do, but sometimes they too let sin creep in.
You can help preserve your own sanity if you don’t expect too much. Better to be surprised by goodness than to be disappointed by its absence. It is encouraging to remember that God is in charge of judgment, and also in charge of rewards. He sees and knows all. Keep your eyes on Him, and remember Who you are serving. You need to concentrate on keeping your own heart clean and make sure that you are acting in a right way.
Someone else controls my life.
Why can’t I control my own life?
Reality: Either you take charge of your life,
or it will be out of control.
As long as you think some sinister force in the church controls your life, you will experience continuous confusion and frustrating chaos. Comments such as, “Can’t they see what they are doing to us?” or “If we only had 50 dollars a month more, our lives would be so much less complicated. Why can’t they see that?” shows your belief in this myth. The reality is that they should see but they don’t. Most people outside the ministry don’t understand your pressures.
Most people, even spiritual people, are busy trying to keep their work in balance, to make ends meet, to keep their families together and to enjoy a quality life. They do not have much time, energy or imagination left for thinking about what is happening in the pastor’s family or marriage. But ignorance is not control.
Those realities mean that a pastor and his wife need to take control of their own lives. No one else can determine the degree of your satisfaction or the quality of your life. This means that the pastor and his wife needs to plan for their future, finance their needs, center on keeping their family in loving relationships, keep their home and work in balance, and live a Christ-saturated life.
Deacons and others in charge will usually respond positively when you state your needs in an understandable, non-aggressive way. Sometimes you may need to find a way to supplement your income, but other families have to do that too.
I’m expected to be a super-saint.
Why can’t they accept my humanness?
Reality: Our ideal is Christlikeness.
We have already touched on this one. In reality, no one expects you to be super-saint. What you do need to be is your best self for God. You need to be a genuine Christian, happy, involved, obedient to the will of God, and serving in the church as any Christian is expected to do.
The real issue is not to buy into stereotypes—not even your own—about the super-saint wife. The way to deal with this myth is to be an authentic Christian and not a mere appendage to your husband’s ministry.
Henry Ford once said, “You can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do. It is what you do that matters.” People in the church will accept and love you for being your own best self. And such a life always pleases God.
Beverly is a wife, mother, and grandmother. She and Doug Hammett have been married for over 35 years. Since her father was a pastor and her husband was already a pastor when she married him, she is well acquainted with the blessings as well as the problems of the ministry! Bev’s favorite things to do are read and spend time with her family.
In Autumn of 2010, Doug stepped aside from his position as senior pastor at LVBC to reach and train men in Botswana and South Africa. Beverly continues to write for our ladies publication, giving her unique perspective of life in the ministry, and now life on the mission field. You can read more about their ministry here.