It started with a personality profile quiz and a brief conversation in our living room, ten years ago. The kids were settled into bed. My seminary-student husband was reading, and I was grading papers with occasional breaks to browse Facebook or read a friend’s blog. I happened upon a personality quiz, so naturally, because I was procrastinating, I took the online quiz. My result indicated the Commander personality type (ENTJ if you’re curious). I read some of the results out loud to Eric incredulously. “This thing is bunk. This sounds so cold and harsh. This isn’t me at all. I’m taking it again.”
My sweet husband laughed, went back to his reading and muttered, “Why take it again? It sounds pretty accurate to me.” Partially offended I retook the online quiz again, determined to proffer a more pleasing result. Ten minutes later I had my second result. “There,” I turned the screen in his direction, “that’s better.” I’m not even sure what the second result was, but he read the first two sentences and said, “No, the first one was the real you.”
So here’s the thing. The first result, the Commander result, had one sentence I still remember. People with my personality profile, which by the way make up a whopping 3% of the population and include people like Gordon Ramsey and Margaret Thatcher, might be represented with the phrase, “I’m sorry, you must die.” This line stood out to my dear husband who laughed out loud and remarked… “Yes! That is totally you. You need a t-shirt with I’m sorry, you must die across the front.” Apparently his personality profile did not include intuition because I was becoming more anxious by the minute, and he was laughing.
My thoughts were going something like this. My husband, who I love dearly, will soon be a pastor. I will soon be a pastor’s wife. What pastor’s wife would live by the mantra, “I’m sorry, you must die?” This is not good. Not good. I need to change.
I tried again.
“Don’t you think my second result could be a personality I’m growing to become?” I offered. “Maybe my initial result is like the immature me, and I’m learning to become more sensitive to others’ feelings and to keep my opinions to myself.”
He closed his book, and realized that I was genuinely concerned about my Commander results. Thankfully, even with my poor (non-existent) articulation of my feelings, he interpreted beautifully (a strength of his personality, not mine). He looked me straight in the eyes and said, “Listen. That second personality profile is not who I married. I married a strong-willed, crazy smart, determined, brave, leader. That is who you are, and that is who I love.”
Relief washed over me. We went on with our evening, but for the next days, weeks and even years, this conversation continued to roll around in my head and heart. I would have to learn to love this me- the real me.
I didn’t have many experiences to bolster the idea that women with dominant personality types are valued in the church. The valued archetype seemed to be demur, regal, effortlessly hospitable, and somehow able to transform a dingy fellowship hall into a banquet room with rosettes made out of crepe paper while simultaneously baking the perfect dessert, carried in by well-mannered, coiffed and clad children. Obviously this is an exaggerated and false characterization of the spouses of pastors. But somehow, I was still trying to force myself into that mold.
In reality, I have a career that I love. Eric and I chose (and still choose) to balance our time at home with the kids. We share the household (parenting, carpooling, calendaring, bill-paying, cooking, and cleaning) responsibilities nearly 50/50. We respect and value one another immensely. In one season, I sacrificed a job to be at home, and in another season he made a sacrificial and risky move to support my career.
My internal narrative used to be, “I’m not a typical pastor’s wife. I have to learn to be okay with that. My husband loves me.” But recently, I feel it changing. I’m beginning to realize that there is no “typical” pastor’s spouse. Every single ministry spouse handles the joys and challenges differently. I still think about how unhappy, despondent, and frustrated I could have become had Eric and I not had this little conversation 10 years ago. He wasn’t expecting anything from me as the pastor’s spouse, and I was assuming that he was. I was placing unnecessary expectations upon myself. I’m still learning not to do this- mostly as it relates to parenting currently… but that’s another blog post entirely.
The point here friend, is that the thing you and I have in common is that we both love and desire to support our spouses who are vocationally involved in ministry. Every one of us is uniquely equipped, by our Creator, to do this differently. There is no majority with which to conform. There are only sisters, brothers, daughters and sons of God with whom we can connect and grow.
If you look in the mirror, and you think to yourself, “I’m not like the rest of them. I’m _____.” You are right. You’re not like “the rest of them,” because there is no “the rest of them.” There are co-pastors, church planters, male spouses of pastors, financial supporters, career-oriented spouses and more. Love God first, and love others. Generously love your spouse, and sacrifice to support him or her. Follow the desires God lays upon your heart, and live into becoming the beautifully unique person he has created in you. The body of Christ needs each one of us- the executives and the defenders; the logicians and the entertainers, and even the commanders.
Originally from New Brunswick, Canada, Erin Crisp met and married her husband Eric in Marion, Indiana where they now live. Erin is the Director of Instructional Design at IWU, Eric is the Discipleship Pastor at College Wesleyan Church, and they have three sons, Elijah (14), Micah (12) and Isaiah (11). A former English teacher, Erin enjoys writing and has published pieces with the Annesley Writer’s Forum, Asbury Theological Seminary, The Wesleyan Church, and Seedbed.