By Heidi Goehmann

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. (Eph. 5:25 ESV)

God invented the idea of husbands, and He invented the idea of pastors.

All you need to do is read 1 and 2 Timothy to see that He knew  these two things would reside together, under the same roof.

Many of us are left wondering, however, how to do this particular thing well — spiritual care in the clergy marriage.

Can my husband also be my spiritual caregiver?

Perhaps it’s something you’ve never contemplated, but maybe you’ve experienced this difficult dynamic in your own marriage.

Life comes with all kinds of challenges.

Challenges might be a difficult time in marriage, life as a new parent, moving someplace new, a health scare, or a difficult situation with an adult child.

Many people take these struggles to their pastor. They lean on their spouses and family for support, but they also dial the church’s number or check the communion card box and ask for a visit from the pastor.

But what if your pastor is your husband?

What if you wake up one morning next to that person and wonder, “How did he miss that I’m hurting?”

Or maybe you think, “How can I burden him with my junk? He’s got so many people to care for.”

Even the most independent wife may silently pray, “Lord, I need someone to care for me.”

Can our husbands also be our spiritual care providers? Yes and no.

Husbands are certainly always the spiritual heads of the household. They offer spiritual care for us by loving us as Christ loved the Church.

Husbands pray with us and for us, as husbands, whether or not they are pastors.

They lead our families and guide the family ship through the turbulent sea of life.

Just because pastors know the Biblical picture of marriage and seek to fulfill it in their homes, that doesn’t mean they are perfect.

Sin comes in and life overwhelms us, even in the pastor’s family.

When a pastor’s wife sits and listens to the Word on Sunday morning, does she receive it from her pastor or her husband?

What if they had an argument that morning? Does that change things?

Wives are charged to honor their husbands as spiritual heads, even when the care is imperfect.

Jesus’ forgiveness gives us the grace to make things better, and His mercies are new every day in our marriages.

This question then is worthy of contemplation. In fact, I hear it all the time from wives:

How can I know when he’s my husband and when he’s my pastor?

My suggestion as a deaconess, pastor’s wife, and therapist is to attack this conundrum head on.

What if church-worker couples actively reached out for pastoral care from other pastors and church workers?

  • Some workers have a Father Confessor they take their sins to and receive absolution.
  • Others seek a church work friend of the family to hear their struggle with objective ears.
  • Some offer to be another church-worker couples’ source of encouragement on a regular basis.
  • Some couples strategically take communion together at the Table every week, every other week, or once a month.
  • Some couples “check in” with another circuit couple once a month.
  • Some may utilize the circuit visitor as a pastoral caregiver in a time of need.

Whatever receiving pastoral care in the church-work marriage looks like, it helps for it to look intentional.

We may have anxiety with sharing our burden, but we can be more transparent in the safety of the Body of Christ and our fellow workers in the Kingdom.

These intentional relationships do not replace our husband as pastor to us, but it frees them up to love us and be to us who Christ intended them to be in their familial vocation — husband, lover, and best friend.

I wouldn’t trade my pastor/husband for the world. I love him. I love seeing him in his many vocations. I love seeing God’s big amazing plan in our strange and wonderful lives.

I also love him and our marriage enough to ask difficult questions and open a conversation that doesn’t have easy answers.

Ephesians 5 wasn’t meant to give easy answers. It’s a mystery, after all, how God works in marriage, including my own.

But through the work of His Spirit, the death and resurrection power of His Son, and the love of the Good Father, we are strengthened to work through His Word together and find encouragement along the way.

What has worked for you? How do you address spiritual care in your clergy marriage?

Share your comments below. Thank you for sharing thoughts and ideas to spur on one another in love.