Well, it’s been almost 8 months since Athena Dean became Athena Dean Holtz. On June 13, 2014, I married Pastor Ross Holtz, founding pastor of The Summit EFC in Enumclaw, Washington and officially joined the ranks of “pastor’s wife.”
Since that time, old and new friends alike will look at me, cock their head, and say “Sooooo, what’s it really like?”
I must admit when I said YES to the idea of spending the rest of my life with this man, I had no idea what it meant to be a pastor’s wife. I knew it would be refining, but I really did not know what to expect.
First I consider it an honor that God would give me this pastor-husband to love. A man whose heart is to proclaim God’s faithfulness with his family motto of Infractus Quod Invictus, which is Latin for “Broken But Undefeated.” His calling is vital, demanding, and rewarding, all at the same time, and to be the one God has chosen to minister to him as a friend, confidant, fellow Jesus-follower, and lover is a privilege I do not take lightly.
From the moment we began to spend time together, believing God had brought us together and marriage was the goal, there were some highly charged reactions from some we both thought were our friends. Many who loved their pastor were very protective and, understandably, emotions ran high. Here I was, going to be a pastor’s wife, and it wasn’t long before we had people turning against us…some of whom had trusted Ross as their pastor for decades. It didn’t seem to matter that the entire family on both sides was supportive, or that his late wife encouraged him to marry me.
Moving into the role of Pastor’s wife required me to forgive, again and again, those who opposed my husband in one way or another regarding his decision to marry me. I know that Jesus taught we must forgive 70 x 7. We all struggle with forgiving those who hurt us or those we love. As a regular church-goer it would be much easier to nurse a grudge and get away with it. Being the pastor’s wife, however, puts me in a fishbowl of sorts, where everything I do and say is magnified, critiqued, and sometimes judged. So I have no wiggle room… I must allow God to refine me through every challenge, every disappointment, every struggle, every betrayal.
James 3:1 talks about leaders / teachers being called to a higher standard. I believe that filters down to the pastor’s wife. I joyfully accept that requirement, because I want to see God do everything He wants to do through both of us, and through the ministry He has established at The Summit.
So, what’s it really like? Well, it’s a blessing to be married to someone who is the same person on stage as he is at home. That makes our relationship authentic and that is important to me. At the same time, it has instilled in me a new level of the fear of the Lord. I realize that my actions, emotions, decisions, and attitudes, good or bad, can affect a man who shepherds an entire congregation of believers. That’s an intense responsibility that I’m sure I haven’t quite grasped in full as of yet.
I also must admit, I struggle a bit with being in such a high profile position during intimate times of worship. I often stand and raise my hands in surrender to Him…and weep when something in a worship song or sermon touches my heart with gratefulness or conviction of sin. I remember one time the enemy whispered “if they see you crying they’ll wonder what’s wrong…” in an attempt to shame me into quenching the Holy Spirit. Well, I’ll tell you right now… I didn’t listen then and I won’t in the future. It’s not hard for tears to flow when I’m worshipping so I’ve pretty much embraced the fact that some folks may misunderstand, and it is what it is…I’m okay with that.
I really think this pastor’s wife gig is simply a test of my willingness to surrender in new ways.
Since I have a full time commitment being a business owner, carving out time for us to spend together without one or the other of us working is quite a skill. I have finally worked it so that I can take Mondays off to spend that day with Ross. I typically want it to be down time for him, do something restful and recreational… a Sabbath of sorts so his batteries are recharged.
Sometimes, my well-laid plans just don’t happen… someone lands in the hospital, a crisis comes up, the Lord whispers that we need to visit someone who’s homebound. There are many times when hospital visits or other responsibilities take his time in the evenings. I could pout and whine, but instead I have the opportunity to rejoice always and join him in the hospital visit, or stay home and pray for the situation at hand.
So, what’s it really like? It’s really just like any other marriage… you love one another, you nurture one another, you look for ways to encourage one another, and you lay down your lives for one another. Since we’re still on our honeymoon, it’s hard to imagine neglecting one another or growing apart… but committing to an intentional decision to build our relationship with God at the center is what makes all the difference.
I’m sure as we go along, I’ll make mistakes and not meet people’s expectations of what they think a pastor’s wife should be. So, in advance, I continue to ask God to keep me sensitive to Him, open and authentic with my husband and our church family, and committed to His will in every area of my life.
-Athena Dean Holtz