Emike: What was your journey to becoming a Pastor’s wife like? Many times I hear pastor’s wives say that they never wanted to marry a Pastor but somehow they found themselves in the role. Did you always know this was your life’s assignment or events just played out and you found yourself wearing the shoes?
Pastor Janelle: When I met my husband he was already a Pastor, so I knew if there was going to be anything between us, obviously I was going to be a Pastor’s wife but I cannot say per se that I really wanted to be a Pastor because I remember back then, when members of my fellowship would refer to me as Pastor, I would say “I jump am pass.” There was a time when I didn’t want all that, but when I met my husband, we became best friends. From our friendship, my husband made being a pastor more appealing to me. Maybe if it were someone else I married, my response to being a Pastor would have been the same. My husband’s personality, the way he serves God, made ministry more attractive. I knew what I was going into and the person I was with made it more beautiful for me.
Regarding some of the issues Pastor’s wives deal with, I think it’s a privilege to be a pastor’s wife. It’s a calling. It’s a grace. You cannot take that honour upon yourself. One thing being a Pastor’s wife helped me do is growing faster. When you know what you are doing is not just for you, you cannot grow at your own pace. If you used to pray for 1 hour every day, as you step into this office, you discover that it’s not enough. You need to grow quickly because that’s the only way you can take your place. You can’t do nothing about developing yourself and say, “I’m a pastor’s wife so you must respect me.” You cannot demand it. As you grow Spiritually, it brings honour, it brings recognition. Focus on yourself. How are you doing as a Christian? Focus on your growth and let every other thing fall in place.
I’ve never really had issues with people except for the time when people would make comments about how I looked so young as a Pastor’s wife. Someone actually walked up to me when I just got married and said I should try to gain weight so that people would respect me. I didn’t let that bother me because once you are growing in the things of God, every other thing will fall in place. Being a Pastor’s wife is an opportunity to serve. You don’t just show up and expect people to believe everything you say and just open up to you. So whatever is worth doing is worth doing well. It’s worth training for. Find yourself at the Master’s feet. Pray a lot, study God’s Word, be sensitive to the Spirit of God. Also, I had to learn to manage my expectations a lot. By default, if I reached out to someone once or twice and didn’t like their response, I wouldn’t reach out to them again. I was not very patient with people who were not passionate about God. But as a Pastor’s wife, I had to become more patient. When I meet people who are struggling with Commitment in the things of God, I pray for them; call them; visit them. I had to bypass my natural wiring and realise that not everybody loves God the same way. Because of my upbringing, I needed no follow up; No one cajoled me to love God. I just loved God and loved to be in church. I loved to give, serve, and win souls.
Emike: I wish I could say that my Journey was like yours .You had a smooth transition from being a single sister to being a pastor’s wife. I was a leader on campus and I assumed I would transition smoothly from being a campus leader to being a pastor’s wife. One thing I didn’t realise was that moving from a scenario where we were all in the same season on campus to church where we were in different seasons of life was going to be a lot for me. There was the grandma, the older single sister, the teenager etc it was like culture shock for me. But one thing that helped me was that I told myself that I was first a Christian before I was a Pastor’s wife. That’s the first thing you should settle in your heart .There will be tears here and there issues here and there, but as long as you settle that truth in your heart you’ll be alright.
Some women feel like they married a pastor accidentally because it was not one of the things they always wanted. How can such women wear their shoes perfectly, even if things have not turned out the way they planned?
Pastor Janelle: God doesn’t make a mistake. If you are there it’s for good. Don’t beat up yourself about it and don’t think it’s a difficult thing it’s not a difficult thing if you love God and you sincerely commit to growing. There’s nothing like prayers. You can’t get a substitute for it. You have to spend time praying. This will help a lot. Get trained. Attend meetings that build you up. God already pre-ordained where you are. It’s not an accident.
Don’t be a people pleaser because that’s how some people try to cope. They make pleasing everybody a coping mechanism once they wear the shoes of pastor’s wife. Focus on praying, focus on studying God’s word and let things flow from your fullness. Let Love be your motivation don’t take too much upon yourself. Do not put yourself under undue pressure. Take it one day at a time. Don’t start feeling like because someone else is having major programs you also need to be like her. You do not know what has gone on behind the scenes of her life. Don’t compare yourself with anybody. Be original. Be you. If you can just do this, you’ll be fine. Don’t try to be like any other pastor’s wife focus on yourself focus on your walk with God.
Emike: Looking at Apostle Paul, he didn’t set out at the beginning of his life with the plan to be an Apostle of Jesus Christ. He was on his way to Damascus for an entirely different reason, but ran into Jesus and his entire life changed. So to the Pastor’s wife who feels like wearing those shoes was not a part of what she planned, know that where you are is not an accident. You need to let yourself step into the new chapter that God is opening up to you. Paul did not just join the disciples after he encountered Jesus. He took time out and separated himself to study and pour into himself. So focus on pouring into you. That’s where strength comes from.
How does a Pastor’s wife stay authentic while trying to meet the expectations all around her?
Pastor Janelle: I do what I’m supposed to do, and I’m motivated by love. Do all you do as unto the Lord because, like my mum would say, if you lie on the floor to let people walk all over you, there’ll still be those who will say you’re not flat enough. Focus on serving God genuinely and don’t bother about the rest. Another thing is, you need faith for all you do. Look away from the distraction and focus. If you you give money to someone and he does not appreciate your kindness, does that mean you will not give money to anyone else again? No! Remember that God will pay you for what you do. So don’t focus on pleasing people. Make being a God pleaser your focus. When you do this, every other thing will fall in place. God will always reward your labour of love. I’ve lost count of how many times I go shopping and total strangers offer to pay the bills. If I gave you more time counselling you for free or gave you money but you don’t appreciate it, God still pays me. He still takes care of me. Also know that if there is someone who seems to always criticize you, always bitter, it’s not about you. It’s about them. They usually have personal issues to deal with. Sometimes women who have marital issues take it out on everyone else. Do your part and never forget that God is the rewarder.
Emike: Wow. That’s so profound. The key is focusing on your heart and remembering that it is God who rewards. I remember how I figured that I had to get closer to a certain sister in my church who I felt was distant . So my first step was to ensure that on her birthday I wished her happy Birthday loudly so I took note of her birthday and looked forward to how I was going to wish her Happy Birthday on that day. Two days before the birthday I registered in my head, someone put up a picture wishing her happy birthday on the women’s WhatsApp group. Then I realised I had gotten the dates wrong. I felt so bad and then this was about 8 p.m. So I had to quickly post a birthday wish for her and send a private message to apologize for mixing up the dates in my head. I felt really bad and kept wondering why I made such a mistake but then the Spirit of God spoke to me . He said what was in my heart was what mattered. What counts is that I truly desired to Celebrate her on her birthday. That freed me and I let it go. So what matters is your heart , your intentions. Don’t be stressed out by what people think. Focus on what your heart carries.
What are some of those very crucial behind the scene role of a Pastor’s wife that we have to keep playing even when no one sees it and applauds us for it?
Pastor Janelle: A pastor’s wife’s most important role is to be her husband’s wife. That is a role no one else can play. You can have 1000 staff, many PAs and all that but you can only have one wife. To me that is the major role. If you can play that role effectively every other thing will be fine. Pastors go through a lot of pressure so when that pressure is on who is that one person who is with him that can help him unwind and stay encouraged? That person is you. I see women who abandon that role and chase preaching. They want to be in the limelight. One other thing to know is that a Pastor should not forget that his wife needs his validation.You see this validation of a thing, the easiest way to get it is to ensure you play your role well. Ensure the food is ready when it’s supposed to be ready. Ensure you are in your office as a wife when no one is looking. Be the wife and excellently do those things that can’t be delegated. Then serve God genuinely. You must not be behind the pulpit. You don’t need that kind of validation to be relevant.
Emike: Wow! This is so freeing and liberating. Not that I didn’t know before now, but the way you put it just hit me hard. Our most important roles as Pastor’s wife is being his wife! When church has closed, we are the ones that stay with them. Instead of losing sleep over not cracking his kind of Rhema, focus on your role that can not be delegated.
I Tim 1: 12
God gave the apostle Paul Strength to carry out his assignment, and God is consistent with His ways. If he gave him strength, then He has given strength to everyone he called. You have strength and remember that when you are asked to help someone; it means you are equal to the task. I can’t tell my 6-year-old son to help me lift a table because his strength at this stage of his life does not match mine. So when you say you are a Pastor’s Helpmeet, it means you are qualified for the role. Let’s take away that pressure of not feeling up to the task. You are qualified.
I know you to be someone who is committed to your husband, your children, your role as pastor and your role as a Marriage counselor
How does a Pastor’s wife remain wholeheartedly committed to her role as her husband’s helper without losing herself?
Pastor Janelle: You know God created women so specially. Once on mother’s day, I came across a picture of a woman with several hands showing the multiple roles that she joggles. God gifted us with so much ability . That’s why he gave us the role as Helpmeet. Also, my husband has been very supportive. He is also committed to my other God given assignments. When God is dropping ideas in my Spirit for a book or for a blog post, and I’m too tired to write, I ask my husband to help pen down the thought and the next morning, he promptly reminds me. Sometimes he encourages me to do a voice note until I’m able to pen down the thoughts.
Emike: In closing, can you share some practical tips for an effective life as a young Pastor’s wife?
Pastor Janelle: 1. Have times of refreshing (personal quiet time, prayer, study of God’s Word.)
Make out time for this. No matter how busy you are, when you are hungry ,you don’t ask someone to eat on your behalf. You drop everything and eat. In the same way, make out time for your prayer time. When you have this in place, take things one day at a time.
2. Have a good support system. Be open to receiving help. You don’t have to prove to anyone that you are a super woman.
3. Focus on one activity at a time
Give it your full attention and move to the next thing. When you are done , take a break. As long as you have done what you should do, step aside and rest. It doesn’t matter what anyone thinks about it.
4. Take intentional care of your mental health, Emotional health, Spiritual health and physical health.
When do all this, you will look at the results in your life with gratitude.