An Argument or a Missed Opportunity? There’s a Third Option
“Hey honey, I’m home. How was your day?”
“Good, except the dog swallowed a sock and the kids decided to make a mud hole in the backyard. But it’s all good. Anything important happen today that I should know about?”
“Well, I think we’re moving ahead on the building plan and meeting with the bank tomorrow.”
Long silence. You aren’t sure you think this is the best decision. You see potential landmines all over it. What should you do?
This moment is a fork in the road and your response can mean either a conflict/argument (if you bring up your concerns) or a missed opportunity (if you stay silent). But are those really the only options?
How do you support your pastor/husband when you don’t agree with him?
We get this question every semester in our cohort conversations. It’s a tough one. And I’ve gotten it wrong more times than I’d like to admit.
When you are a Pastor’s wife, there’s an expectation and a need for you to be in your husband’s corner as you navigate the challenges (and land mines) of leading a congregation. But there’s also a “sacred privilege” (as Kay Warren aptly calls it) of being in this seat of influence. It was not good for your husband to be alone in this, so God created you and placed you beside him. And there’s no one else that has the kind of influence that you have. And there’s some wisdom you bring to the table that is a gift.
The challenge is using that influence wisely, especially when we have a different idea of how something needs to be done or a decision that needs to be made.
First, let’s remind ourselves of some scriptural principles that need to guide us. Here’s a passage that pertains to this dilemma – Romans 12:9-12. This is from The Message, hopefully giving us a fresh look:
9-10 Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.
11-13 Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder.
Principle #1: Sincerity
So faking my support isn’t an option. It actually creates division because he’ll likely be able to read that I’m not “all in”. He might be reluctant to ask why, out of fear or not wanting to entertain another obstacle.
But, I can remind him that I’m “all in” on helping him lead forward, that I love the heart behind… (whatever the project/decision is). And then I can honestly say, “Can I ask some questions?”
Principle #2: Humility
So then, let’s go back to the passage. “Honor one another above yourselves.” “Practice playing second fiddle.” This means that I need to do a heart check and see if I have a posture of humility or pride.
- Do I assume I am wiser than he?
- Do I assume I am a better leader than he?
- Do I think God made a mistake in putting him in this position?
One of the first things you’re going to want to do it ask the Holy Spirit to help you see your true heart.
But sometimes our guys have blind spots or there are issues that we can see more clearly from our seat on the bus. That’s why we are their “partner”! It’s trying to discern when these issues need to be brought to their attention and when they don’t that is difficult. But at the same time, we have to remember that sometimes hearing another voice of dissent is just discouraging.
Unless it’s a clear sin issue, where he needs to be confronted about a sinful behavior (see Mt. 18), then what we’re dealing with is a difference of opinions or preferences. I need to call it that…and it’s vital that we recognize this and engage it from that perspective. I need to let go of any spiritual superiority or pride that keeps me from realizing that, as strongly as I feel he’s wrong, it’s equally likely that I’ wrong. After all, if I think I have a perspective or some information that he lacks… isn’t it equally possible he has a perspective or some information that I lack.
In this situation, pride asserts my own opinion while humility asks questions. But they have to be real questions, not those pre-loaded questions designed to make a point.
And sometimes, it’s also important to ask,
- is this really that important?
- Is this something that is going to make or break the church?
- Are there irrecoverable consequences?
And if the answer is “no”, sometimes I just need to let it go and trust that…
- It’s more complex than I know
- Even if it fails, it’s not fatal
- God will cover for his mistakes, just like He does for mine.
If, after asking myself these questions, I think the potential for damage is high enough to warrant an uncomfortable conversation or that the potential damage will require extensive investment on his part to fix, then I need to take a breath and “put on my big-girl pants” and have the conversation.
Please hear me. I don’t have this all figured out. I’m just trying to lay out how this goes best from LOTS of conversations that went really badly…for your benefit.
I might say something like,
“I want to understand and be wholeheartedly “in this” as your partner. You have a different seat on the bus than I do, with a different perspective. What is it that I don’t know that has led you to this decision?
“I have some things I’m concerned about. Can you help me work through them so that I can wholeheartedly lead out with you. Remember, I am asked a lot of the questions that people don’t ask you.”
Or better yet, “Can I be honest? I don’t see this as the best decision, but I also know that you’re wise and you’ve probably thought more about it than I have and you probably have information I don’t…so can I ask some questions so I can understand where you’re coming from on this?”
Principle #3: Purposeful Passion
“Never be lacking in zeal but keep your spiritual fervor.”
If it turns into conflict, sometimes I just have to remind him that we’re having it because I am “in this”. I care. I’m passionate about our community and the Kingdom purpose God has called us to. If I didn’t care, if I wasn’t invested, I’d just write it off and hope he just leaves me out of it.
But I do care. And I do trust him to “walk in a way worthy of the calling he has received.”
If we press into these conversations, the fruit is that we are both pulling in the same direction, with a wholehearted focus. We are seeking His face and hearing His voice leading us as we lead out together. And lastly, we are helping each other to discern His voice from our own agendas. “So that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 4:11)
If you want to dig into conversations like this, join one of our cohorts – the one “Building a Healthy Marriage in Ministry” is especially relevant and hits on many of these challenges that are unique to doing marriage in ministry.