Shepherdess: Who do we Think She is?

On the ideal minister's wife.

DON G. JACOBSEN Department of Religion, Andrews University

WHO do we think she is, anyway? Solver of church problems, paragon of virtue, ideal wife, model mother, immaculate housekeeper, impeccable dresser, meticulous budgeteer, leader of the Dorcas, cradle roll, choir, and United Fund, Sabbath school pianist and prayer meet­ing organist, all rolled into one.

Impossible. Of course it is. Yet we have painted just about this picture when we have tried to describe the ideal minister's wife. You have read some of those books. And asked your wife to read them. If she did she may have cried herself to sleep.

And that's not all. Many a fine coed has read them, too, told herself, "That's not for me; I'm not sufficient for these things," and directed her interest elsewhere. In many cases maybe she should have. But do we not do these women, and the ministry, and our churches an injustice by creating this artificial image?

The standard is a high one. It is for the min­ister, and it must be for his wife. Indeed, for him to be a leader in a Christian community his wife must stand beside him in a unique way. However, the reason ministers are moved from one district to another is because no one man is strong in every facet of the ministry. Therefore they are rotated so that each man takes his strengths from one place to another. Also his weaknesses do not make permanent havoc of his present district.

But to his dear wife a different hand is ex­tended. Someone may say, "Well, in this church the pastor's wife usually leads out in the primary room." Now maybe that's her long suit, and she takes the job. But someone else suggests, "In our church the pastor's wife usually plays the organ." And by the time she is barraged by all of the things "the pastor's wife usually does," she is suffering either from exhaustion or from guilt.

Perhaps the situation is a bit like the man who asked a hotel porter what the average tip was for carrying suitcases up to a room. The porter replied that the average was about five dollars. The tourist thought that it was a little high, but he paid it. Whereupon the porter looked at the bill and said, "Thanks, mister, you're the first one yet that has come up to the average."

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DON G. JACOBSEN Department of Religion, Andrews University

December 1967

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