When ministry wives become ministry mamas

By Jill Waggoner

In the last few years, I have had the great privilege of discipling a few younger pastors’ wives in my church. Their joyful and eager spirits have been life-giving to me, and our relationships have provided a new ministry purpose in my current season of raising small children.

We share motherhood. We have grieved together and grown together as some faced miscarriages and stillbirths. Today, almost all of these dear girls are either expecting their first child or enjoying that precious first year. We talk regularly about pregnancy symptoms, labor, delivery and sleep schedules, but I also make sure to discuss the unique spiritual challenges that come with bringing a baby into a ministry home.

While many of these lessons were shared by my predecessors, some lessons I learned simply by doing it wrong or by being caught unaware of the temptation. Each story of your children and your challenges will be different. Mine certainly are. But know that what I’m about to write is covered in prayer and given with grace for your early, sleepless and hormonal days.

With that in mind, I want you to know these things:

This is your calling.

Girls, this is it. This is the primary calling of your life. You will have many other important callings and ministries, but the call to your family is one only you can fulfill. Every call of Scripture, every word of encouragement and every expression of the biblical community will be cast in a new light as you become a parent. God has planned this for you (Psalm 139:16), and He will equip you for this (Hebrews 13:21).

Yet, you will be tempted to look for purpose, identity and fulfillment in other more visible or more seemingly exciting ministries as the years pass by.

Never let the call to love and serve your family fall in line behind something else. The triumphant mark of a life well lived in Proverbs 31 is that her children call her “blessed” and her husband praises her. The family watches all her good works and those relationships matter unlike anything else.

Everyone does it differently.

Each tribe of mothers and fathers has shared a book or parenting philosophy as if it were the gospel. It’s not. I love to share things that were helpful to me, too, but that doesn’t mean your book or your idea is the only way to raise a child.

No two families have the exact same set of circumstances. Whether it’s sleep training methods or preferences on childcare, understand everyone does it differently. Let that free you and your husband to make decisions about what is best for your family as God guides you. See 2 Corinthians 13:7.

You are not the exception.

Beware of the temptation to think that your husband’s “job” keeps him or you from having the same experiences as other families. These thoughts breed resentment which is powerful and dangerous.

Job 5:2 says it plainly: “Resentment kills a fool” (NIV).

The temptation to resent the church or its members and staff is relevant to any minister’s wife, but when you add a child, the emotions are heightened.

The apostle Peter wrote, “Dear friends, don’t be surprised when the fiery ordeal comes among you to test you as if something unusual were happening to you” (1 Peter 4:12).

Parenting is not always a fiery trial, but Peter understands we are encouraged by the commonality of difficulty in the Christian experience. So many families have difficult circumstances such as a parent with an unusual schedule or demanding job (medical personnel, military, etc.). Even in the most difficult days or seasons, God will always provide what you need (2 Peter 1:3).

Your baby can become your idol.

You will be doing one of the most honorable and noble works of your life in caring for an infant.

Feeling successful at keeping that little person alive and growing is thrilling. Feeling like a failure can be devastating. Your highs and lows will be unlike any previous experience. Hello hormones! It will be so easy for your identity, purpose and joy to be found in him or her, allowing the baby into spaces of your heart that only God should occupy.

When the baby becomes your idol many other parts of your life become distorted. Your marriage, your emotional health, your participation in the Christian community and more may take a hit. Talking about how you are feeling, spending time in the Scriptures and making time for a spiritual life are your best defenses.

Sweet friends, the best advice I can give is to cling to Jesus even if it’s just by whispering you trust Him as you hold your newborn. My heart is thrilled to think of this love you will know. You will be given an opportunity like never before to see God’s goodness. It will be in your heart, and it will be in your arms.

The common grace for every mother is palpable but, as a believer, use this time to worship God with a new understanding of who He is and how He loves you. Don’t let the worries or chaos of the season get in the way of the joy. God will use the journey of parenting to change you for the better.

Published November 9, 2017

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Jill Waggoner

Jill Waggoner is wife to Brandt, a small groups and missions pastor at Foothills Church. She's a mom to two blonde-headed boys in Maryville, Tenn. She has served with the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission for 11 years and is currently deputy press secretary and lead brand strategist for Global Hunger Relief—a cooperative Southern Baptist hunger initiative. Find her on Twitter at @jjwaggoner.