Finding Belonging When You Just Want to Be One of the Girls

Out of Place – Pamela’s Story

Sundays are my favorite day of the week. I wake early to get in some prayer time before I arrive at the church building at 7:30 am for worship sound check. My hubby, the pastor, likes to get to the building by 6:30 am so he can pray before he preaches two messages. I’ve driven with the kids or myself for two decades now. 

As the pastor’s wife, I’m ever-watchful looking for cues of people in need.  Who needs encouragement today?  Who’s having a difficult morning?  Where are the visitors? I want them to feel comfortable.

I grin from the first row of chairs while my hubby preaches. He says my sitting here is a comfort to him.  I adore having a front-row seat to all of God’s goodness on a Sunday morning. I relish the abundant praise, the laughter amongst friends, and looking for new guests.  I have to be careful to watch my facial expressions, because it throws my pastor off when I wrinkle my brow, questioning what he was meaning to communicate.  I love my church and adore this role of serving alongside my husband for the last twenty years.

One of the girls

We venture out to the foyer, after service,  to greet our regulars and spend a few moments connecting with our new guests and then I catch a group of women out of the corner of my eye.  They’re standing close as friends do.  They’re laughing and making plans for lunch, coffee, or time together as families. I look longingly at their connectedness. I see the ease in their faces and the joy of friendship.  Do I walk up and interrupt the conversation?  Why do I feel like the little girl on the playground waiting to be invited to play? 

I hold a unique role in the church as the pastor’s wife.  I’m sought out for advice, prayer, guidance, and support. It’s truly a joy to care for people and pray for them. It’s a blessing and an honor to serve this role except that it can limit how you see me. Sometimes I just want to be one of the girls.  I want to talk about lipstick, vacation plans, the struggles with the kids, or what you’re cooking for dinner. 

Life in the “fishbowl” is hard when you can see me and I can see you, yet there’s a piece of glass between us. I wish it weren’t there. This barrier blocks my sense of belonging. See, I am a Pastor’s wife, but it’s just part of who I am. I am so much more than this one role. I have other interests that don’t involve the church at all.

I prefer you to see me as one of you, instead of different from you.  We’re so much more alike than you realize.  I have the same insecurities, family trouble, marriage conflict as you. Some days I don’t feel like going to church either.

Sometimes I’m afraid, I doubt God, and I get impatient waiting for prayers to be answered. I feel disappointed, angry, and confused. I’m so like you.  I wish you’d see my pastor’s wife title as just a “ hat I wear” and not my identity.  It’s just one role I play in life, but if it keeps the distance between us, I’d rather you not see me this way. 

One of God’s children

We all have a need to belong but life in ministry is often lonely.  Not because we chose it, but because of perceived barriers.  Do you not invite us close, because you don’t want us to see your mess? Is it because our large family overwhelms you? Maybe you’re afraid you’ll be judged?  I promise we won’t judge you because we are dealing with our own messy humanity.

It boils down to this one truth. “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” 1 John 3:1a (ESV)  We belong because we are children of God, not because we do everything right or have all the answers. We belong because we are all the same. We are all equals at the foot of the cross. There are no titles or roles except that we are His and He is ours.  We belong to God.

If you’ve ever felt like you don’t belong, this series is for you! Every Monday, we’ll hear from someone who has also struggled to belong. Be sure to subscribe below to get The Scoop so you never miss a post! As a thank you, you’ll receive access to belonging-themed scripture cards and adult coloring pages in the free for you library!

Thanks! I can't wait to connect with you!

Meet Pamela Henkelman

Pamela is an enthusiastic encourager with a passion to speak, write, and coach.  She believes all of life flows from our intimacy with God. She helps women build a deep bond with God and understand their identity in Christ, as beloved. 

Pamela’s favorite way to connect with her readers is through her monthly Be[Loved] Notes newsletter and her weekly blogs.  If you’d like to receive some love in your inbox, hop on over to her website, and sign up for the good stuff.  She also has a Library of Free Resources for her email friends, including her new guide, “Five Attributes Needed For A Close Connection With God.”

Pamela lives in Illinois and is married to her Pastor. They have five adult children and two grandsons and celebrated 33 years of marriage in October. For fun she enjoys cooking, laughter and meaningful conversation. You can find her on Instagram.

*Feature Photo by Simon Maage on Unsplash

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Sarah K. Butterfield is an author, speaker, and ministry leader who has a heart for empowering women to grow in their faith and be intentional with their time. She and her husband and two boys live in San Diego, where she writes about pursuing a deeper relationship with God in the midst of motherhood.

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