Have you ever felt invisible?
My phone rang. I answered it. At the sound of my voice the caller erupted into a flood of tears. She wailed, ‘I am invisible. Why do I bother?’
That morning her church had celebrated their 10th birthday. The atmosphere in the packed to overflowing auditorium was charged with excitement and partying. As the programme unfolded this pastor’s wife listened to testimony after testimony, all of which expounded the virtues and achievements of her husband. She watched a history video presentation of their church accompanied by an abundance of photographs. Again, all of her husband.
Her enthusiasm began to fade. Her heart sinking deeper into disappointment as she realised she was nowhere to be seen. She was invisible.
Regaining control of her emotions, the question came, ‘Doesn’t anyone see my effort, my sacrifice? Am I just the woman behind the man? The woman behind the scenes who no one sees. Invisible?’
A pastor’s wife can at times feel invisible for many reasons. Some of these might be her own personal insecurity. Or standing in the shadow of her husband either by choice or by church culture. Or plain and simple people’s thoughtlessness.
3 Additional real-life examples of feeling invisible:
…One pastor’s wife recounted to me how that on their 1st Sunday back after holidays the meeting leader enthusiastically welcomed her husband back but neglected to mention her, who was sitting right beside him.
…I often accompany my husband when he is the guest speaker in a church. Regularly people gather around him to talk to the man of God and I am left standing off to the side by myself. Alone. Ignored. Invisible.
…Another pastor’s wife came to the decision to stop having people in their home for a meal because time after time she was left feeling like the invisible waiter. She prepared the meal, organised the children, served the meal, cleared the table, made the coffee. Meanwhile all conversation was focused on and directed to her husband. Her conclusion was that if they lacked manners to include her, then they weren’t welcome in her home.
Pinterest has a quote which says of the pastor’s wife, ‘Nobody notices what I do until I don’t do it.’
Feeling invisible is a very real and tangible experience for a pastor’s wife. So, when it happens to you don’t think you are different or weird or full of pride for desiring to occasionally be acknowledged or appreciated. The feeling of invisibleness isn’t something you plan. It’s like the bird who appears out of nowhere and drops poop on your car. It happens, you clean it off, you move on.
Wise solutions for the examples of invisibility mentioned
…The church birthday celebration – Forgive and spend time with God so He can heal your hurt. Next, think through the programme to identify how and why your invisibleness occurred.
When pastor’s wives share with me the disappointment which has engulfed them during a church celebration event, I have found the common factor that emerges is that they have not been involved in the planning of the celebration.
Pastor couples tend to leave the programme planning to elders, voluntary team or staff who have limited knowledge of the couple’s individual contribution to the longevity of the church. It is beneficial for at least one of the pastor couple to have hands on involvement in the planning phase.
…Meeting leader’s oversight – Bring it to the attention of your husband, or whoever trains your platform people, to address the issue. Or you may prefer to personally talk with the meeting leader. The meeting leader should respectfully apologise.
If you choose to let situations like this pass as a non-issue it will contribute to developing a church culture of the pastor’s wife being ignored or invisible.
…Guest speaker’s wife – I have come to accept that being invisible comes part and parcel with accompanying my husband. Thankfully it doesn’t happen in every church but when it does I discretely walk away and have trained myself to initiate conversation with someone, anyone.
…People invited for a meal – This pastor’s wife talked openly with her husband about how she felt and together they agreed upon a solution. During the flow of conversation he was mindful to include his wife. At times she would gently kick him under the table to remind him. Also, at the completion of the main course he would clear the plates to the kitchen leaving the guest to talk with his wife.
3 ways to deal with invisibility
…Take a deep breath and hide your hurt expression behind your public mask. If you don’t the outcome may be that you will burst into tears on the spot.
…Forgive. Forgive the person or person’s insensitivity, thoughtlessness, negligence, oversight, rudeness or whatever the situation may be. Forgiveness is a God initiative to keep your soul free and uncluttered. It also ensures the continuous flow of forgiveness from God to you for the times you have possibly behaved in a comparable manner.
…Cement within the fact that God sees and is fully aware of who you are, what you do, the sacrifices you make for Him and His church. Jesus said with confidence that your Father who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. Matt 6:4. Your time for reward will come.
4 ways to increase your visibility
…Church website – Have you looked at your church website recently? In this age of technology your website has become your church’s new front door. Almost everyone who is thinking of visiting your church will first view your website. Is your picture there alongside your husband and/or are you mentioned in his bio?
…Positioned by your husband – Your husband can greatly assist in raising your visibility by positioning you to the elders/board and also the congregation.
Regardless of your life season, level of involvement, or whether a platform woman or not; you are a pastor couple together. He can highlight your together call of God for ministry and your together commitment to the church. Expound how he values you, is happy for you to be you, and wouldn’t pastor without you by his side.
…Pastor couple care – Our ministry, Grow a Healthy Church, consults with churches. Included in the consult is a section specific for the care of the pastor couple.
Included with the recommendations made at the completion of a consult is one which encourages the elders/board to meet with the pastor couple at least once a year to talk through a list of suggested questions. These questions relate to the pastor couple’s physical and emotional health, what they love most about their church, and what they find most challenging. One of the outcomes for doing is that it raises the elders/board’s awareness of the pastor’s wife and increases her visibility to them.
…Personal action – Is there an action you personally need to take or conversation you need to have to bring about a shift in your feeling invisible? It may be time to take a step forward rather than a step back?
What is God speaking to you? I am interested if you would like to share it with me. Please feel free to leave me a comment.