Home » Feature Stories, Headline, National News

Reclaiming My Voice: A Pastor’s Wife’s Story

February 13, 2019 No Comment

By: Lise Haberstock

I wrote the first draft of this article in one sitting. Pages upon pages, ranting about mental health in the Church, focused mainly on pastors and their families—well me, really. Nothing I said was untrue, but the next morning I began to doubt my ability to make it public. Would our present congregation think I was talking about them? What about our former one? Can I talk about this without being judged because of my position as a pastor’s wife? Fear was stilling my hand again.

I am afraid. Afraid of your judgement, of your anger, of your frustration. Let me set this straight for you. I don’t blame anyone. I’m not angry; I’m sad. Sad that I let this happen. I lost my story. I gave away my voice. I thought I knew what I was getting into. I thought I knew when I married a pastor what I was in for. I’m not a regular person, I’m not a member of the congregation—I’m just the pastor’s wife. Let me explain how I found that out.

I didn’t want to go to Doxology’s 2017 “Grand Reunion” event (an event advertised for pastors and their wives). I’d looked at the website; it wasn’t my thing. My husband talked me into it. In my head I was entering my martyr state, telling myself: “I’m doing this for him, for my husband, the pastor.”

The conference was scheduled for Kansas in August. Ugh! Why can’t these things be in January when I want to leave the snow? Anything hotter than 28° C is not my favourite place to be.

We went anyway. Three plane rides (the last one I’m pretty sure was kept together by duct tape and chewing gum), one car rental, and we were finally there: Doxology: The Grand Reunion. Wait? Why a “reunion”?

We’re late, so we grab a seat. I spend the next 20 minutes trying to grasp the point the speaker is making. Just when I figure out what’s going on, he’s done. I’m confused. This is about pastors. There’s a lot of black shirts in the room. What does this have to with me?

Three days later I knew exactly what this had to do with me. In some ways, it’s hard to explain what Doxology is. It may be different for everyone. For me, it was a shake-up. I was a puzzle, but someone had put my pieces together wrong. Doxology made me see that I was still me; I just needed to rearrange the pieces. I had my faith, my family, friends, and work, but my life was becoming a check list. I wasn’t living my life, I was just getting through it.

I’d forgotten what life was like before I married my husband. Before it was “normal” to constantly watch what I said. Was it when I heard one elder say: “A pastor’s wife should be seen and not heard”—is that when I gave away my voice? Is that when I stopped easily giving my opinion on church matters? I didn’t even notice. It was my new normal.

I’d always been good at setting boundaries, or so I thought. We had it all together, didn’t we? When did my faith in people get so low? Was I bitter about the way my husband got the blame for problems at church? I am heartbroken watching him beat himself up wondering what he didn’t do. What he could have done to stop someone from turning their back on God. Even when we would go on vacation, his body was with us but his mind was back at the parish. He never gave himself a break from all the stress.

Is that maybe why I gave away my narrative? Did I not want to be one more burden to him?

I’m glad he pushed, prodded, and cajoled me into going to the Doxology conference. It made me step out of my own puzzle and take a look at the bigger picture. I had let it happen. I had given my joy away. I had let hurt control my behaviour. In the process, I had forgotten that there are some amazing people in my church doing wonderful things. I miss being a part of that.

Many pastors and their families are in the midst of crisis and we need to acknowledge that. Some end up walking away. Some are just going through the motions. At Doxology I looked around at a room of broken, hurting people (myself included) and knew I was in the right place to start. We need to start talking about the pain, the hurt, and the pressure that those in ministry are dealing with. All of them were called, they answered, and now they are hurting.

So, what’s my plan? I plan to keep learning. I plan to keep talking. I plan to keep healing. This is my new normal. I’m broken and with the grace of God I will heal and perhaps try and help others to heal as well. There is joy, an abundance of it everywhere. Doxology reminded me of that. I’d forgotten.

Lise Haberstock is wife to Rev. David Haberstock and a former community facilitator for people with acquired brain injuries. Since writing this article in 2018, she has begun exploring career paths through which she can assist people with mental health challenges. In January 2019, she began upgrading her credentials in pursuit of a master’s degree in Social Work.