When I say ‘hard’, I don’t necessarily mean they keep me awake at night.
Just some of them have pushed my buttons at certain times. And maybe some have kept me up at night on occasions, like the other night when something started gnawing at the back of my mind and I got restless.
Also I know that life is hard for everybody, that nobody has an easy time of it. You could have 10 Things I’ve Found ‘Hard’ about being married to a farmer, or teacher, or a nurse or not being married, or on and on.
So this is just my angle on some things that I’ve found in particular about being a minister’s husband.
1 You can’t just talk about stuff. Or it sometimes feels that way.
Like I couldn’t go into specific details of things here on the blog or in a Facebook post about something in particular that we might be struggling with. It might be a pastoral issue or it might be some story that breaks your heart but you can’t share. I mightn’t feel comfortable talking to people in church about it, which is hard as I’ve always thought that church is the place where you should be able to share things that are difficult. I won’t feel comfortable talking to people outside the church as they mightn’t get understand the intricacies of church.
2 Probably tied up with this is a sense of loneliness and isolation. You might feel like you’ve no support or that nobody understands what it’s like to be a minister’s husband in your particular situation. Even finding something like thoughts about what it’s like to be minister’s husband online is tricky. I guess that loneliness and a sense of isolation is a universal thing we all feel.
3 You don’t necessarily know how to react if you feel that people are treating the minister unfairly.
If they are judging without knowing the whole picture.
Or if you feel they’re taking the mick a bit and looking for something they need then disappearing when they get it.
The judging thing often isn’t church people, it is a feeling that there is a large segment Irish society who don’t have any time for organised religion and are ready to run over people involved in organised religion, especially church leaders. Maybe it’s the subtle threat of persecution? Even when you hear people taking the mickey out of Christians you might feel your hackles go up. I’ve heard people down at the pub saying things about the religious that they never say about other group in Irish society
It’s hard because your natural reaction is to protect and you might be angry, but you might feel an extra pressure to keep a lid on it what with the whole loving your enemy thing and showing grace (because we’re all sinners).
4 You can have a sense of helplessness or powerless at things that can’t be controlled.
Or maybe a better way of putting it is you’re aware of the brokenness of the world?
A minister is a bit of point person for stuff and we often want to talk to minister’s when things are hard or we’re struggling. So maybe that rubs a bit of on me? I know people are really struggling out there. I’d be a bit of a glass half empty type by nature so hearing some of the stories can sometimes make me sad and wonder how to make things better for people.You can feel a bit powerless in the face of something like a housing crisis or unemployment, sickness, family disputes etc. I know the Sunday School answer is to pray or Jesus, and I should do it more. But sometimes (or even a lot ) or time it isn’t that easy.
5 Sometimes you feel guilty that you don’t do more to support or help. To me it’s a bit like if you married a musician and every Sunday they’re playing a gig that you feel you have to go to as support as it’s an important gig. The church service sometimes feels like a ‘gig’.
In other ‘jobs’ you wouldn’t feel a pressure to support them when they went to work. But in Presbyterian circles with the sermon and Sunday morning worship being such a big deal you know that doing a sermon is a big deal and want to be supportive.
But sometimes you might be dealing with things in your own life like feeling low or discouraged yourself and want to stay in bed, or you might just be feeling overwhelmed and want to hide in a corner. If you’re self employed and trying to make money you might feel the pressure to work when something is on though strictly speaking you could go along.
6 Tied in with this it can be hard to worship as an ‘ordinary worshipper’. Or at least that is my experience.
For example it’s hard for me to separate the minister and the wife. During the week there is give and take in conversation, you talk a bit, they talk a bit, back and forth. Then suddenly you’re in church and you’re not having a conversation, you’re being talked to for 20mins in a sermon. Is it your wife or a minister (or both?) giving it. I find it a bit disorientating trying to work out what voice is talking to me sometimes.
7 I think some people assume that you’re going to agree with them about certain issues based on that fact that you’re married to female minister. Maybe you’re seen as being more open minded, cool and less of a ‘tight boy’, or more of a liberal if you want to put it that way. Sometimes it’s feel like people might make assumptions that you agree with stuff that you mightn’t necessarily agree, or you might be on their side on certain issues.
8 I think it would be easier to be married to a female minister in other denominations than my own. I’m not looking to be invited to lunches and meet-ups, just more a general attitude than having a minister spouse who is a man is a normal thing. I’m not looking recognition for myself but just a church that seems to recognise it’s normal.
9 I don’t know how to phrase this but I guess that you could sometimes covet what other churches seem to have, because if you had just a little of what other churches had it might make the life of your minister and church easier?
For example, you might think of some small town in Northern Ireland that might have a pile of Presbyterian churches nearby, all with decent toilets and a hall and you might get annoyed that you’re sitting in a major city of Ireland with the Sunday school meeting in mouldy, damp rusty storage container. The reason is that stuff like maintenance or upkeep of the building can add stress to the minister, which might stress to the life of the spouse.
10 This hasn’t been a problem so much out west, but in the past I’ve felt judged by default by people who believe that women shouldn’t be church leaders and that men and women should have certain roles. I assume that if someone believes that it isn’t God’s will that a woman should be a minister then they’d also assume that the husband is in the wrong as well, because he hasn’t been doing the whole head of the household thing or something. As I said, not a problem here but there have been times when I’ve felt like that before.