Jani: Hello, everyone and welcome to He Restores My Soul with Jani Ortlund. Today, we have a very special guest again. My handsome husband is sitting across from me here and he has…well, honey, you’ve kind of asked me if you could do something.
Ray: Yes, may I please hijack this podcast, darling?
Jani: Anything for you, Ray. I want to be a submissive wife, I wonder.
Ray: Well, if you don’t mind, honey, because I want to roll out and introduce to our listeners and rejoice over your new book, Help! I’m Married To My Pastor, Encouragement For Ministry Wives and Those Who Love Them, which is released January 19 and can be pre-ordered at Amazon right now.
Jani: Well, thank you for hijacking this and thank you for helping me to get the word out.
Ray: You are so welcome. I’m really glad to be on the podcast today.
QUESTION #1: “Why did you Write THis book?”
Now, let me start out with this question, sweetie, the obvious question, why did you write this book? You had something in mind. You wanted to accomplish something. You wanted to apply a gentle healing remedy to something. You cared about something. What is it? Why did you write the book?
Jani: Hmm. Well, we’re in our 50th year of marriage, and in every year you’ve either been in ministry or preparing for it. So we’ve had, by God’s grace, a long ministry marriage together.
Ray: We’ve seen a lot.
Jani: Yes, yes. And over the years, as we’ve spoken to ministry couples, it’s become more and more apparent to me that I’m not the only pastor’s wife who has faced unique challenges as a ministry wife. The Lord has helped me and other ministry wives like your mother, oh my.
Ray: She was amazing.
Jani: Yeah, have encouraged me along the way. And, you know, darling, now I feel it’s my turn. That’s why I wanted to write this book. It’s not just my turn. I feel it’s my responsibility.
Ray: That’s right. We want to turn around and lift up those who are coming behind us.
Ray: And invest in them all the encouragement that we can.
Jani: Yes, exactly. And my heart especially goes out to pastor wives. So I want to encourage those younger ministry wives coming behind me. I want to offer support, encouragement, help. I want them to hear from me a friendly voice reminding them that they’re not alone in this sacred calling.
Ray: They’re understood.
Jani: Yes. I want them to be reminded that every effort to serve our Lord Jesus Christ is really worth it. And I want to also assure them that God is really faithful. I love that verse in 1 Thessalonians 5:24—I often come back to it—where Paul says,
“Faithful is He who calls you, who will also do it.”1 Thessalonians 5:24
Ray: And we are living proof of God’s faithfulness by now, aren’t we, dear?
Jani: Yes, we are. He called us. And he also did it.
Ray: And these listeners who are in the rising generation, they too, will be living proof of the faithfulness of God.
Jani: Yes, they’ll have a story to tell. Yes.
You know, Ray, I also want to cheer them on because I believe we serve the God who remembers and sometimes you can feel so alone in ministry. But Hebrews 6:10 says this,
“For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do.”Hebrews 6:10
It’s as if God is saying, “I would be unjust if I forgot what you were doing. I’m not going to overlook it.” And I want our listeners and also the readers of my book to know that we serve the God who remembers.
Ray: When other people don’t understand the commitment we’re making, the sacrifices we’re making, and they don’t say thank you, God knows very well how to say thank you.
Jani: Yes, we can look to him.
And I think the final reason I wrote this book was because I just want to share some of the ways God has encouraged us and helped us; tell some of our stories that might be able to help our readers.
A Chapter-by-Chapter Sneak Peek
Ray: So let’s share with our readers something about the book, its actual contents. For example, I’m looking at a list of the chapters here: 12 chapters, plus an appendix, an introduction. You gave me the privilege of writing a foreword for the book.
Jani: Thank you so much for doing that!
Ray: It was fun. I’m honored to be involved.
Chapter 1: “Help! I Didn’t Bargain For This”
For example, I’m looking at these chapter titles, I’m struck by “Help! I Didn’t Bargain For This”.
Jani: Oh, I hear that a lot. And I feel that sometimes, “Lord, what are you doing?”
Ray: Who of us understands upfront, in advance everything that’s going to be asked of us?
Jani: No one. Not one.
Ray: Yeah, ministry is full of surprises that we didn’t bargain for.
Chapter 4: “Help! My Husband Seems Depressed”
Here’s another chapter “Help! My Husband Seems Depressed”. I remember some years darling, when I was incapable of feeling encouraged. I didn’t have the encouragement switch down deep inside wasn’t able to switch on. And, honey, you got me through that.
Jani: Oh, by God’s grace, Ray.
Ray: Well you did, sweetheart, and I will owe you an eternal debt of gratitude for that. And I really appreciate the honesty and realism that you’re pressing into a very sensitive, very personal area there. Help, my husband—see, my pastor husband—seems depressed. That’s amazing.
Chapter 9: “Help! I Need More of God”
Here’s another one, “Help! I Need More of God”. Now, just because we’re involved in ministry in a vocational kind of way, we’re still sinners and we’re still depleted. And we’re still on a growth trajectory.
Jani: Yes, we all are.
Ray: We all are. And sometimes we come to realize, “Okay, I’m thankful for, you know, the manna God gave yesterday. But I need something new and fresh from God that I’ve never experienced before. I’ve never received before. I’ve never understood before. I need more of God.” Again, it’s so honest, honey.
Jani: And pastor wives often feel that.
Ray: Yes, and how amazing it is when a pastor and his wife together having that kind of gentle honesty with each other can actually come to that threshold of daring to believe that God has more for us. God’s not in the recycling business. You know, he’s doing new things. And we can dare to believe that.
Chapter 12: “Help! Remind Me Why We Do This”
Here’s another chapter, “Help! Remind Me Why We Do This”.
Jani: I close the book with that chapter. Oh, we need those reminders, don’t we?
Ray: Yeah, we all need purpose. We need purpose more than we need relief. When we’re tired, you know, most of the great things being accomplished in the world today, sweetheart, including pastors and their wives, these things are being accomplished by tired people. And God meets tired people with refreshed purpose and vision. We get energy—it’s a good thing to rest. I mean, I’m totally, God built rest into the rhythm of our lives through the Sabbath from Genesis 1 for crying out loud—but when we when we can’t get rest, and we’ve got to keep going and just dig deeper. What we dig deeper into is purpose. So “Help! Remind Me Why We Do This” is a very realistic and hopeful chapter topic. I’m glad you included that.
Jani: Well, it was from a question that a pastor’s wife sent me.
Book Feature: Notes to Pastors / Husbands
Ray: Now, sweetheart, at the end of each chapter, you also include a brief note to kind of a letter or a message to a pastor.
Jani: Yes, what I wanted to do, darling, was help the communication lines between the pastor’s wife and her pastor. So there is a very short letter to her pastor at the end of each chapter, and she could encourage them, “Honey, which would you read this paragraph? Could we talk about it? I’ve been reading Jani’s book and there are a couple questions I wanted to talk through with you.” So hopefully, the book will not only serve the pastor’s wife but it will serve the ministry couple.
Ray: Wonderful. There’s so much we’re all crazy busy these days and that pause when a husband and wife stop and slow down, sit down together, look at each other and talk, that is a sacred space. That is a life-giving reality. There’s no topic off limits. There’s no comment that is going to be shamed and humiliated. Each one together, they’re looking for the win-win, the team win. And a husband and wife sit down and whatever is the awkward topic of conversation is the very thing they they need gently to discuss together and consider together and really listen, and then pray together. So I think, darling, that feature of your book, Help! I’m Married to My Pastor, the the brief letter that you include at the end of each chapter to the pastor is a stroke of genius that so many healing conversations are going to flow out of that, darling.
Jani: Oh may it be, may it be, that’s my hope and prayer.
What is A “Win-Win” Marriage?
But Ray, before we go on, I would just like to take this opportunity to have you speak to my listeners about something you mentioned, just briefly. But it’s been such a help in our marriage.
You have taught me over the last 50 years about making our marriage a win-win. Would you describe that for our listeners and it would help those who are married (or those who are looking forward to be married)?
Ray: Well, when we got married, honey, you and I were not hoping we’d be able to sleep with a critic.
Jani: That’s true.
Ray: We wanted to sleep with a lover. Someone who accepted us. The predominant tone of a marriage that can not only last but be happy is not correction but acceptance. When you accept me darling with my many flaws, and I accept you, and we just live there together that’s the win-win. And who couldn’t flourish in that kind of social environment? Yes, we have created a culture together. In our home, there’s a certain alternate reality. We’re a subculture in this world, and we decide what our ground rules are and what our core values are and what our rhythms are going to be. And together, we shape and define that reality the way we want it to be. We’re not stuck with anything. And Jesus rules here. And we want our marriage to feel like Jesus is is in this. So correcting, shaming, finger-pointing, it’s just unthinkable.
Jani: Well, listener, whether you’re a ministry wife, a wife-to-be or a wife right now, I wonder if that might not be an encouragement to you. Even if your husband’s not listening, you can begin thinking about, “How can I make this relationship a win-win? How can I help my husband feel like a winner in this relationship and not a loser.”
Ray: Yeah. And it’s not always easy. We’re the first to say it’s not easy, but it is possible by God’s grace.
Jani: And it’s worth it.
Ray: Totally worth it.
Common Hardships as a Pastor’s Wife
Now, sweetheart, let’s turn this to you. What have been some difficulties, some challenges, some hardships, some barriers that you have faced through the years as the wife of a pastor, and by God’s grace, you found your way through when you tell us about that?
1. The Weekends
Jani: Well, one of the things that has been hard for me through the years are the weekends. Because you have been most busy on the weekends. Most Saturdays, you have been working on your sermons or helping with weddings, things like that. Now, when the children are younger, you would always make sure to be there for their games and you know, you were very present. But I knew that Saturdays were a sacred day for you. It was a work day. And you asked me in particular, please, let’s not invite friends over on Saturday night for dinner. I need to be focused.
And then would come Sunday, when you would leave early. And I would be getting the kids up alone getting them to church. So I had to readjust in my mind about the weekends. And when my friends were talking about what they were going to do with their family, I would praise the Lord that I was married to a pastor who loved Jesus and wanted to serve him and I got to help you serve Him. Now also, we got to have Mondays off. When everyone else was having to go to work, here you were taking me out to breakfast.
Ray: And Mondays were sacred. We guarded our Mondays for each other.
Jani: Yes. But Sunday’s were hard for me, Ray, too. Sometimes it was hard to get all the kids to church and get them to their Sunday school classes and then find a place to sit in the service maybe with a friend or I would sometimes feel a little lonely.
2. The “Fix Him” Fever
Something else that has been a challenge for me through the years, maybe some of our ministry wives can identify with this. I call it the “Fix Him” Fever. And I’ve suffered from it a lot and you have, too. I’ve drawn you and it happens when a pastor’s wife is seen as the closest and easiest conduit to her husband.
Ray: Sometimes church members don’t really understand what they’re doing.
Jani: No, they think they’re helping. They don’t want to bother their pastor, but they need to get a message through to him. And so,
Ray: So they use you.
Jani: They you know, they would stop me and say, “Oh, Jani, I know Ray is so busy. Could you please tell him that, you know, he mispronounced the missionary’s name this morning?” Or “Could you let him know that at our church we wear our lapel pins on the right side of our suit, not the left?” or whatever the issue of that week was and, oh, Ray, I’m sorry for all the times I tried to fix you.
Ray: I feel bad that you feel bad.
Jani: Oh, okay. Well, let’s not feel bad on our podcast together. We’ll just rejoice that the Lord has helped me through this “Fix Him Fever.”
Example: “What every man on the planet needs…”
Ray, I’ve got to tell our listeners how he used you. You probably remember this (maybe you don’t), but you were the pastor of a very large church, and you had a very busy schedule. You preached twice each Sunday morning, and oftentimes you would be the preacher in the evening service with a different sermon. Sunday nights, you would ask me when we got to connect, you know, “How do you think it went?” And my Fix Him Fever would rise up and I say “Oh, well, the sermon was great. But what I think about this…” and you know…“Mrs. Brown asked this, and Mr. Smith said this…and…”
I remember one Sunday after a very tiring week and the Lord’s day where you had really served him faithfully. I was chattering away about how to fix yourself. You took me in your arms, gently turned my face toward you. I stopped talking when you looked in to my eyes deeply with your big blue eyes and you said something like this—correct me if I’m wrong, but as I remember it, you said, “Jani, I just want you to know something.” I thought, “Oh, well, okay, I better listen.” You said, “Every man on the face of this earth needs one person, just one person, who isn’t trying to fix him, who kind of likes him as he is and thinks he’s okay. Would you be willing to be that person for me?” And I took a deep breath and I thought, “Yes.” I told you right then, “Oh boy, yes, I’m going to be that person for you.” And the Lord helped me to change.
So I have struggled through the years with trying to fix my pastor, and the Lord has used you to gently help me to see that that’s not the pastor’s wife’s primary job.
Ray: Oh, that is so sweet, honey. Thank you for that.
Jani: Well, thank you for helping me. You know, I found it really works to just look that member in the face and say, “Well, now that’s interesting. Here’s Ray’s assistant’s phone number. Why don’t you try to set up an appointment with Ray. He’d rather hear it from you than from me.”
Ray: Very wise.
3. The Goodbyes
Jani: Well, there are other things that let me just add one more that I have found hard through the years and that’s the goodbyes.
Jani: Both the goodbyes of people who leave; people whom we’ve invested in and I’ve kind of formed a friendship with and I kind of envisioned, oh, you know, spending the rest of our lives together.
Ray: Oh yeah, these are our best new friends. This is gonna last forever for the rest of our lives.
Jani: Yes, we’ll serve Jesus until we died. Those have been hard when good, godly people have left because they feel they should go to another church.
Another goodbye that’s hard is when we have to leave a church. When the Lord has moved us on and there are so many goodbyes. Goodbyes are hard. It’s so unusual for a minister to spend his whole life of ministry in one ministry. There are usually many goodbyes for a pastor’s wife.
Ray: We deeply miss so many people who we just don’t see as often anymore. And in a way, it’s one of life’s privileges, to feel so strongly about someone that we really, really miss them. We feel incomplete without their presence in our life today. So actually, it is a form of suffering but it’s also a privilege.
Can we do this again on the next episode?
Okay, so honey, there are some more things I’d like to explore with you about your new book, Help! I’m Married To My Pastor. May I hijack a second podcast with you?
Jani: Oh, okay.
Ray: Okay, so that would be great. Again, the book comes out January 19th. You can pre-order it at Amazon right away. Help! I’m Married To My Pastor. Here’s one last thought. This is from Jonathan Edwards, who was a pastor. He said,
“Those ministers who faithfully preach the gospel of Christ, are accepted by God and are a sweet savor to him, whether they are successful or not.”Jonathan Edwards
That quote has been a comfort to me through the years and that is equally true of the wife of a pastor. Whether she feels successful or not. Whether the ministry is going well or going poorly and it’s very difficult. She is accepted by God and she is a sweet savor to him. Whatever people think this is what God thinks, and what God feels about every ministry wife serving him faithfully. It’s a great thing.
Jani: Oh, thank you, Ray. That restores my soul and may it restore the souls of our listeners.