Stray Thoughts sent me her copy of Her Husband's Crown, by Sara Leone. Here's what happened - I slipped it up on my bookshelf and then forgot it. It was easy to forget because it's more a pamphlet than a book and it slid easily between two other books and out of sight altogether. I was moving books around the other day and out it popped! My extreme apologies, Barbara! I decided that enough time had gone by since receiving it, it was a short enough read, and I ought to sit down and tackle it already. So that is exactly what I did this past week.
Her Husband's Crown was written by a pastor's wife and specifically for pastor's wives. As Barbara pointed out, and I agree, Leone offers general principles which can be applied to wives liberally across the board. Treating one's husband well is not something that only pastor's wives must learn to do. We're all subject to the judgment and it's a good idea to think about our own behaviors and how they are helping - or hurting - our husbands.
I thought, generally speaking, Leone attempted to offer very practical advice. She encourages and reminds women of their roles to support their husbands in their work, through both prayer and practical means. Her best piece of advice (in my opinion and as applied specifically to me) is to be a good listener. Women are most definitely known for talking but the verdict is out on how well they listen. Some do this better than others but it's good to ask yourself if your ears are open to hearing what your husband is saying so that you will know when he is discouraged or tired or extremely happy. Listening definitely factors in to one's ability to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice and so I think we can agree that it's a good habit to get into. (Do note that I am by no means saying that I'm a saint in this area. You'll recall I mentioned that I found this to be good advice and an admonition!) Leone's advice about listening was probably my biggest takeaway from the book.
Then there is the large part of the book in which Leon addressed pastor's wives directly. Now, I've never been a pastor's wife nor do I ever anticipate being called into this role. However, I do know pastor's wives and feel it can be a good idea to familiarize one's self with their struggles in so much as you ever can. The purpose in doing so is to learn to be more supportive and kind to them as they navigate frequently harsh waters. (Come on. We know about the existence of these harsh waters. We tend to create them, don't we?)
The one piece of advice that Leone gives to pastor's wives that I found the most sad was the advice to take care not to show favoritism to any particular person or make too close a friend within the congregation. Let me be quick to say that I do see her point. I understand human nature well enough to know that a pastor's wife probably has to be very, very careful to be liberal with her affections so as not to hurt feelings. (But how draining must this be? I can't even imagine.)
I guess I take issue with this suggestion for extreme caution because of my personal history which I do want to take care in explaining. When I was growing up, I was best friends with the pastor's daughter. We called each other "sisters" and for all intents and purposes, we were. (Seriously.) We were very, very close for many years. And yet there was always present the need to take care to be friendly towards others equally. Half of me understood then and understands (more) now why this needed to be so. The other half of me sees this as being an almost unnatural pressure to cut yourself off from experiencing the joy of a deep friendship for the sake of not ruffling feathers. And I have to ask myself how fair that is to those in the ministry to require that they spread themselves about liberally without taking time out to refresh themselves with those who "get them" better. Also, how fair is it to the people who could be close, supportive friends if everyone else would agree to allow for the friendship? Personally, I'm in favor of letting a pastor and his family have the friendships that they need just like I'm in favor of letting you have the friendships you need. (Just like I don't intend to apologize for the friendships which I am currently in possession of which I very much need, thank you very much.)
If my pastor's wife were to make good friends with another woman from our church and clearly enjoyed spending time with that person, I would be incredibly happy and satisfied on her behalf. I wouldn't care that it's not me. I would rejoice for her in finding such a friend. Leone suggests taking care about being seen in public with just one person repeatedly or too frequently and the need to perhaps settle for phone conversations instead of in person gathers so as to avoid jealousy issues in case you are spotted. (What?) Although I do understand her point, I disagree. I knew even at a younger age and I most certainly know now what type of friendship I had and how I felt when the need was expressed to diversify for the sole purpose of not making others upset. I think a close friendship is a huge gift from the Lord and I wish that sort of friendship for everyone and do not begrudge a single person for the joy of such a relationship.
Might I suggest that perhaps the better lesson is for members of the church? Perhaps it is us that need to grow up a little and allow people to make special friends with others. If we're upset about not having any close friends of our own, perhaps we should be asking ourselves what is preventing such a friendship. I suspect the matter to be internal and not external most of the time. Let any woman who is so blessed to have a loyal friend keep them. Don't resent; bless!!
I am all for being polite when in the company of others and being as inclusive as humanely possible. At the same time, I know the strength and beauty which is derived from having that close friend who comes along side you and cares for you and your feelings no matter who, no matter what. Reading a pastor's wife instructing other pastor's wives to take care not to make too close of friend within the congregation she is placed it makes me want to cry. I feel a very strong need to give grace in this area. Grace, people. Grace! Why make a pastor and his family feel more lonely than they probably do anyway? No one can quite identify with their struggles and no one carries the load of so many people on their shoulders. Allow them their safe place to relax, laugh, and be loved.
Obviously that little bit of the book struck a nerve with me and created a nice long blog post. On the whole, I have to admit that I didn't find this book terribly useful to me personally (aside from the bit about becoming a better listener). She does have some good advice to pass along and I wouldn't want to dissuade anyone from it who might greatly benefit. There are certainly nuggets of truth to dig out and insights into the life of a pastor's wife which are good to contemplate! I can't give this a glowing review but I do realize that there are some out there who might find this little book particularly useful. I wouldn't wish to discourage anyone away from it.
If you think you'd like it, pick it up! Like I mentioned, it's a very quick and easy read.
Many thanks to Barbara who send the book my way for a read. I appreciate that she would want to invest in me from a distance by wanting to send this. These are the kindest little gifts to receive when you can't have a face-to-face conversation. An exchange of ideas through books is rather a pleasant way to learn, in my opinion! Thank you, Barbara!