February 1, 2019 • Dennis E. Ellingburg
My wife and I do not celebrate Valentine’s Day. It’s not that we don’t go out to eat, or make sure to tell each other we love one another, we just both hate the commercialization and the pressure to do something big (or at least that’s what she tells me…maybe I’m in trouble.) But that being said, the season of love is a great time to remind ourselves of the duty we have as ministers to minister to the most important member we have in our church, our spouse. Often in the hustle and bustle of ministry, we can neglect our marriages, focusing on hospital visits, sermons to prepare, shut-ins, and the other demands of life.
So let me encourage you pastor, to take this Valentine’s season as an opportunity to find ways to love your wives well. Here are 5 suggestions to help us be better lovers this year:
Remember you are in the ministry, not your wife.
One of the biggest challenges to ministry families is the feeling by members of the church and even some pastors that their wives are a part of their ministry. They are a support to the ministry of the pastor, and a needed one at that, but they are not called to the ministry as you are.
I learned this the hard way in my first ministry when I volunteered the newly minted Mrs. Ellingburg to a committee in a church. I won’t go into the gory details, but it didn’t go well. The point is this, God has gifted you, equipped you, and charged you to preach, teach, and minister to the flock. He has also gifted your spouse, but not in the same ways and not for the same ministry. As pastors, we are called to minister to our spouses and lead them, but they are not tools in our ministerial grab bags, but partners who God has blessed us with.
Put her second in your life.
The most important relationship a pastor has is not with his wife, but with his Christ. While this goes without saying, it needs to be said because often pastors are guilty of allowing ministry to trump our relationship with God, but also our relationship with our spouse. We are called to love our spouses as Christ loved the church (Ephesians 5:25-27), to honor them with understanding (1 Peter 3:7), to lift them up (Ecclesiastes 4:9-11), to desire them (Song of Songs 7:7-12), and to lead them (Ephesians 5:23), but we can only do this effectively when we are connected to the head, Christ.
Pastor, if you lose your marriage, you lose your ministry. Love your wife sacrificially.
Woo your wife in big and small ways
This leads to my next suggestion, woo your wife. To woo is to pursue. I remember when Kristy and I first started dating I worked for Jitney Jungle, a local grocery chain. Every so often I would buy a bouquet of the grocery store roses (I know, I’m a real Casanova) and would take them to her. She would take the petals from the roses I brought her and press them in the pages of her Bible. To this day, she still has some of the dried out rose petals in her Bible.
Husbands, we should never stop pursuing our spouses. We should never give up the chase. The chase only begins when we say “I do.” Find what makes your wife’s heart go pitter patter and do it for her, both in big and small ways. It could be as simple as a text message sent in the middle of the day, or as elaborate as a carefully planned dinner under the stars. Whatever it is, never cease to pursue the woman you love.
Pray for her and with her
Soren Kierkegaard once said that“The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.” When you and your wife pray it changes both of you, drawing you together and growing your hearts. Praying for your wife is part of discipling her and helping her grow in her faith. So take the time to pray with your wife. If you don’t already do so, take time to begin this practice in your marriage, you won’t regret it.
Give her time and space
This is a hard one, because our lives are so busy, but give your wife time. Kristy is amazing. She juggles so many things in her life. She’s a mom, a full-time employee, a lover of my soul, and a disciple of Christ. She needs time. For Kristy, that time shows up in the form of rest. I hate to sleep, but Kristy basks in the glory of uninterrupted sleep. So, on the weekends when our schedule allows I give her this time. I take care of the boys on Saturdays, giving them their breakfasts and guarding the bedroom like a bridge troll (there has been clubbing of children threatened if they entered the room). She needs it and she deserves it.
Find what your wife needs. Does she have a hobby? Give her time to do it. Does she have girlfriends? Give her the time to go to a movie or out to eat. Whatever it is, encourage your wife to take “me” time. It will benefit your life and your marriage.