I did not go to seminary to marry a pastor. In fact, I was pretty scared of the possibility of some sincere, Bible-loving, M.Div. student sweeping me off my feet and whisking me away to some church plant in the wilds of New Hampshire. I'd seen enough of the messiness of church life to know that I just never wanted to be a pastor's wife and I never wanted to have to raise pastor's kids.
I was right to be afraid. Eleven years after graduating from WSC, I find myself here: married to a church planter (who did indeed sweep me off my feet sometime towards the end of my first year), raising our four children, hunkered down waiting for the onslaught of another New England winter and/or the next ministry crisis, whichever comes first. My life has turned out exactly as I feared.
I was also wrong to be afraid. Because while marriage and mothering both require more daily dying to self than I had the sense to expect, ministry has brought more joy and blessing and privilege into our lives than heartache, though we have had those seasons, too. Alongside my husband, I have the chance to watch a local body of Christ add hands and feet and ears where there were none before. I have opportunities to talk and pray with people as marriages come together and as marriages fall apart. Our children get the chance to see how God's love does cover over the multitude of sins that we in the church commit against each other, like a thick layer of magic shell over a fractious bowl of ice cream.
Sometimes, though, I wonder if my husband's life would be easier if I did not have formal theological training. It would certainly spare both of us the awkwardness, especially in the early years, of not knowing how much I should speak up during Bible study or Sunday school for fear of being perceived as challenging him, especially if I do happen to know more about a particular matter of interpretation. After WSC, my husband did further graduate work in church history. I did mine in Old Testament—the Psalms. Which one do you think comes up more often in a Bible study?
But more often, I am glad and we are glad to have done so much of our theological training together. Yes, I can be an occasional sounding board for him on matters of biblical interpretation or theological nuance, but more importantly, I think he trusts me because of it. He trusts me to be able to rightly divide God's word as I teach it to our children and help them apply it to their lives. And to be able to give biblical counsel to women in our church when they seek it, whether formally or informally (more often the latter). He possibly even trusts me to give biblical counsel to him, even unsolicited, which can be a pretty rare and precious commodity for a church planter.
In our circles, we like to say that in the church, there is no special office of pastor's wife. That is true and boy, am I glad. But in my pastor-husband's life, there is a special office of wife. And my seminary training helps me to fill that office in a unique way, for which I am grateful.
Elizabeth Kao Holmlund (M.A.B.S. 2002) is married to Dave Holmlund, an OPC church planter, and mother to Zechariah (7), Ezra (6), Evangeline (3), and Benjamin (1). They live in the wilds of New Hampshire.