VANCOUVER – I vividly remember sitting with her as she wept, during a retreat I was leading. She was broken, she was exhausted, and she was utterly burned out. This precious wife had been on the church planting journey for seven years and she had no idea how to continue on. Their church was doing really well, despite the typical church planting highs and lows, and she was a woman rooted deeply in the Word and in her faith. But she had reached her limit and she was just so weary.
The retreat had been a space for her to simply meet with Jesus and to rest (literally rest) at His feet. But this time set apart for renewal would soon be over and she would be re-entering a life where her circumstances had not changed at all. So how do we become changed women without expecting changed circumstances? How do we deal with burn out and soul depletion without expecting a journey that is easier or more comfortable? And, if this is your wife, how can you walk alongside her and encourage her to embrace the adversity you will most certainly continue to face?
As a church planter, this might be one of the most important tasks you will ever face. If your wife is drowning, your whole journey will be affected. Ongoing care for your spouse is not an option; it is a requirement. This is an issue much more complicated and intricate than one blog post could ever tackle, but here are three places we can start:
Help her become more aware of God’s story in her life. In the past few months, as I’ve lead various trainings with planter wives, I have been shocked by how many are not aware of God’s story in their own lives. They see it in your life. They see it in your church. They often see it in their children. But they rarely take time to sit and process through God’s story in their own heart. We all need to be deeply aware of where God has brought us from, where He is currently working, and where He is leading. It encourages us, it inspires us, and it feeds our souls.
Help her discover more about herself. More than likely, as a pastor or church planter you have had multiple opportunities to explore or discover your personality, your strengths, your weaknesses, and your leadership style. And more than likely, your self-awareness has made you a better leader, a better pastor, and a better husband and father. Your wife would benefit greatly from some of these same opportunities.
Help her discover the value of investing in herself. I can pretty confidently say that your wife struggles with the lie that investing in herself is, at the very least, selfish and lazy and, at the very most, sinful.
If your wife is burned out, there is a very good chance she has lost sight of this to some degree. When your wife is encouraged to intentionally process His story in her life, she is reminded of His goodness, His presence, and His sovereignty. She becomes energized by her relationship with the Father and not depleted by the task set before her.
When we become women who have a full understanding of our own strengths, weaknesses, and personal tendencies, our service becomes more life-giving and soul-feeding. We are fully aware of how we respond in difficult circumstances and can counter that response with what we know is more Christ-honoring. We know well the areas where God may use us most, as well as the areas where we need the most refining and transformation, and we are completely open to God’s work in those areas.
Your wife desperately needs permission and encouragement from you to care for herself along the journey. And let’s be realistic: This is going to require some sacrifice on your behalf. It may require you to “hold down the fort” for a few hours, or a few days, while she can get away. The small sacrifice it will require of you will be multiplied immensely in the blessing it is for her soul.
When your wife is given the time and space to invest in herself, she rediscovers the freedom in Christ that allows her to rest in, and not wrestle through, her ministry role.
The reality is that you have received some incredible training, coaching, and mentoring along your journey that has helped you process through some of these very things. At the end of the day though, if your wife is not also receiving ongoing care, everything you have received is for naught. She is an essential part of this journey, and it is critical that she is equipped for the same battle you are being sent out for.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Amy Corbin lives in Vancouver, B.C., Canada with her husband, Tim, who serves as a church planting catalyst. They have three daughters. Tim and Amy are both originally from Dallas, Texas, but moved to Seattle, Washington, in 2007 where they were church planters for eight years in urban and suburban settings. Amy currently serves as the coordinator for church planter wives support with Vancouver church planting, as well as the North American Mission Board's consultant for church planter wives development.