Two Callings, One Home
By Beth Hart, MDiv ’09
The day before I moved to St. Louis to begin the MDiv program at Covenant Seminary, my grandma hugged me goodbye and said, “I always knew you would make a great pastor’s wife.” I love my grandma, but I was shocked, embarrassed, and a little outraged at her comment. At the time, I was 23, single, and had no plans of ever becoming a pastor’s wife. I was attending seminary to teach and pursue vocational ministry. God had stirred in my heart a strong calling to study his Word and serve in his Kingdom—but not as a pastor’s wife, definitely not as a pastor’s wife.
Now, six years later, I have just completed my first year-and-a-half as a pastor’s wife. The Lord brought Zane into my life during our first semester at seminary, while studying Greek. We married over Christmas break the following year, and we honeymooned in Hebrew class. Zane understands my calling. He knows that God made me to be a deep thinker and to think deeply about God’s Word and how it applies to this world. Part of what I love about him the most is how he encouraged me to finish my MDiv. Zane wants to see me fulfill my calling, and I want to see him fulfill his calling too. But that is where it gets complicated.
As we entered our final year of seminary, a friend of ours asked, “So, what happens if Beth is offered her dream job in Colorado and Zane is offered his dream job in Virginia?” We replied, “That is the question of our marriage right now, and we don’t have an answer.” We knew that God had called us both to vocational ministry, but the details of who and where were unsettled. Our answer came a month later when we found out that we were expecting our first child. Surprise! I took my final exams while enduring practice contractions, and our beautiful daughter, Miranda, was born two weeks after Zane and I walked across the stage together at graduation. Zane started his job in youth ministry shortly thereafter, and I entered into the roles of pastor’s wife and new mom.
Three months later, I started leading a discipleship group for our middle school girls, and the group’s first meeting foreshadowed the year I had ahead of me. I had so much fun with the girls who attended. We baked a dessert, ate more of it than we should have, laughed, studied the Bible, and prayed together. From this first time together, I saw God work in the lives of these girls, and he was allowing me to help shape their spiritual formation. But I was the only leader at the group, and our daughter also attended. I struggled to focus as my attention was divided between my role as leader in this group and my role as mother to my fussy, tired baby. When the evening finished, no one else saw firsthand what happened that night. I had no one with whom to evaluate the evening. There was no one to dream along with me about the future of the group. There was no one with whom I could think deeply.
As I entered into my calling as pastor’s wife, I feared that my studies in seminary and my passion for theology would be wasted. The Lord’s kindness has not allowed this fear to materialize. I continually find application for my studies. Opportunities for spiritual leadership in young women’s lives arise, and I am thankful that God gave me the experience and training to handle those situations. I love to teach, and on many occasions, I exercise that gift at youth group, in Sunday school, or at women’s retreats. God has also provided part-time editing work where I can exercise the theology muscles in my brain. Also, I listen, counsel, and pray with Zane in the midst of some of the hardest moments of ministry for him as a wife who has been in similar situations myself.
With the opportunities of this past year also came painful personal frustrations. In my past ministry experiences, I always worked with a team—fellow laborers who were in the midst of the battle with words of encouragement and support when needed. This form of ministry support is noticeably absent in my new calling. In many ways, I am taken care of as a mother and supported as a wife. But I have no network to support me in my calling to ministry and to challenge me to become more of the theological thinker that God made me to be. While Zane enjoys mentors and peers at work everyday, I confess the jealousy I feel over those relationships. On good days, our callings feel at tension with each other; at my worst moments, they feel incompatible. I wonder if and how my calling to vocational ministry will fit into our family’s life.
My grandma was right; I am called to be a pastor’s wife. I’ve grown to embrace and even love this role. God also called me to mother our daughter. It’s a delight and joy to see her grow. But the question lingers within my heart, “Where else am I called to serve?” The same deep thinking that led me to move halfway across the country for seminary training still lives. Becoming a pastor’s wife and a mother weren’t part of my original plan; yet as I embrace this season of life, these new roles have not erased my gifts and aptitude for theological education. Surely God would not have created me this way without having a way to use my gifts and passions. But I still wonder, “Am I expecting too much? Not enough? Am I right where God wants me to live faithfully, or am I the King’s servant who has hidden her talents?”
I don’t have an answer to these questions yet. I am still searching and praying, but I know I am not alone in this struggle. Many other pastors’ wives and moms have faced similar struggles, and I’m wondering if there is a broader conversation to be started here. I’d love to invite my grandma.