There are times in your life as a Pastor’s wife when you will have to put yourself aside, your family needs aside and encourage your spouse to go and do his work first. This will be hard, but during those times your husband really needs your permission and to know that it’s okay with you and the family for him to go and do his job. If he doesn’t receive this permission, he will still go and do the work, but he will be torn from limb to limb about his presence there versus his presence at home and with the family.
Giving permission is hard. It’s one of the many sacrifices that we make in a calling to most professions. Doctor’s wives know that when their spouse is on call they will most likely not see them much. Athlete’s wives know that there are large spans of time that they won’t see their husbands due to practices, camps and away travel games. And the biggest sacrifice of all, and those that I’m most amazed with personally, are the Military spouses. They lose their spouse for the longest periods of time, sometimes even to the point of not knowing what their spouse is doing or where they actually are, and they run a very high risk of actually not seeing their spouse again. God bless our Military spouses and our Military, because I for one know that I could not voluntarily (or involuntarily) give up my DH for extended periods of time without knowing much. I applaud my dear friend Kaiti for the love she has for her husband and country in sharing her husband and giving him the permission daily to follow his dreams.
I know that it sounds silly that we have to offer permission to our spouses to go and do their jobs, but we do. Have you ever felt a strong desire to do something that would take you away from others and never been told it’s “okay” to go and do it? Offering permission is our way of reminding our spouse that we love them and simultaneously support their calling to follow their hearts. And a lot of times that permission comes at a cost – mostly to us and our families. When they are needed elsewhere for work, but we need them at home too, we have to say “go…we will be fine.” It’s hard. It’s not really something they prepare you for in marriage counseling, and it’s certainly not really something we’re prepared for in life if we don’t have a parent living a similar lifestyle.
Granting permission means giving of oneself to the other and validating their calling. It shows respect. It offers love. It grants freedom. And it reminds them that we will all be right here waiting for them upon their return. It’s one of the highest forms of support we can possibly offer to our spouse. And it’s also the hardest bit of support we can offer too, because we have to sacrifice something of ourselves. Most of the time it’s just something as small as a change of plans. Many times, especially where the Military are concerned, it’s something as large as swallowing our own emotions and needs for the sake of their focus and safety.
For me, the hardest part about granting permission in the case of my DH’s calling, is being able to grant the permission to offer emotional support to another freely without me being jealous or upset. As a wife, the idea of my husband granting emotional support to another, especially a woman, in her time of need – death, divorce, fight, birth of a child, baptism, marriage counseling, etc. – is not something that I relish about the job. I know it’s part of the profession and calling, but there are times when it feels like, “sure honey, go let another woman cry on your shoulder and know that I’m perfectly okay with it.” We study pastoral care in seminary where we are taught how to offer support but work to keep professional boundaries. The one thing we don’t do is adequately prepare the pastor’s spouses for the fact that our spouse will be involved in very personal and emotional situations. I think the only way that we as spouses can learn this and how to best respond, to best offer permission, is to experience it ourselves in a pastoral care or CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education) type of situation. For this experience, which I loathed leading up to it and even during most of it, I am grateful. It’s helped me to grow as a spouse and to be able to freely offer permission, even when I don’t want to.
I keep going back to a song that Steven Curtis Chapman wrote so many years ago, For the Sake of the Call. It’s a Christian song that speaks about leaving behind what we know in order to follow the call that God places on our lives. Although we as spouses aren’t necessarily on the “front lines,” we too are leaving behind something in order to help follow “the call” that has been placed on our spouse’s heart. This call must also be placed on our hearts in order for us to be supportive, encouraging spouses. I leave you now with the song, hoping that it will encourage each of you today, so that you may then go and encourage your spouse.
Permission is hard to grant, but it’s a necessity.
Just think of it as being “for the sake of the call…”