Interview with a Pastor’s Wife from Beijing – Desires and Hopes for a Good and Beautiful Life
Editor’s note: In honor of Women’s History Month, CP’s prayer initiative is focusing on our sisters in Christ. Featuring interviews with five different women, March’s content provides a special glimpse into the ways the gospel is impacting the hearts of China’s women.
This interview is with a young pastor’s wife from Beijing. She discusses the struggles that come with busy ministry; the gospel’s impact on her need for approval; and the difference between worldly and Christ-like beauty.
CP: Can you introduce yourself?
Pastor’s wife: I am from Beijing. I have two children. And I am a pastor’s wife.
CP: As a pastor’s wife, what pressures do you face?
Pastor’s wife: I think the greatest pressure of being a pastor’s wife is that nobody has taught me how to be a pastor’s wife. I became a pastor’s wife very suddenly, so I did not really know what the boundaries for my entire ministry were. So, I put a lot of pressure on myself. For example, I am already busy at home because I have two children. But when I see that there is a lot of ministry work at the church that is not being taken care of, I want to help my husband to do this work. So, I continually make my life busy, yet I cannot set up clear boundaries.
CP: How do you balance your time between taking care of your children and serving at church?
Pastor’s wife: I have never been able to balance them. It is difficult. Basically, if I have ministry to do, my husband will take care of the kids, or we will ask his aunt to help us because she is staying with us right now. Generally, I feel it is very hard to balance them.
CP: What has been the biggest sacrifice for you?
Pastor’s wife: If we serve at church for the whole of Sunday, and if we both have ministry responsibilities, then the biggest sacrifice is certainly our children—spending time with them. I think this is a big sacrifice. It is very painful for me.
CP: Have your children recognized that?
Pastor’s wife: Right now they are still quite young, so they cannot express themselves well. But they often ask, “When will you spend time with us?” Then my heart will break. For example, on Sunday evenings you feel that you have not spent any time with your kids the whole day. But by the evening you are exhausted, so you try to put them to bed early. But after they fall asleep, you feel heartbroken again.
CP: How do you balance your relationship with your husband? How has your ministry at the church influenced your relationship with your husband? You can share either good or bad influences.
Pastor’s wife: I think I have been deeply influenced by an idea. I forgot who taught it to us, but he said that there must be common interests between a couple before there can be mutual love. The two of us don’t have any common interests between us. If it counts, I would say serving the church is our common interest. So in serving the church, we both hold the same vision in our hearts, and we both enjoy doing it. I also think God has greatly blessed us through our ministries. We are drawn to each other like soldiers on the same battlefield.
CP: What do you mean by “common interest”?
Pastor’s wife: It refers to the things that you both enjoy doing.
CP: What ministry do you usually do at church?
Pastor’s wife: I’ve done different ministries at different stages. At the beginning, I was teaching Sunday school. Later, I helped with the worship service for a long period of time. I learned about worship after getting married, so I then began helping with worship.
CP: How do you think the gospel has changed you in your ministry? How have you grown or been helped?
Pastor’s wife: In the past, since I was fulfilling the role of a pastor’s wife, I used to strive to make myself strong, showing my good side to others. The greatest deliverance the gospel brought about in me was allowing me to show my true self to others. If I cannot do something well, then this is who I really am. I am just not good at it. I think of myself with sober judgment. Also, I can truly rest before God. I will try not to place too much ministry work upon myself. I will tell myself that my first responsibility is to take care of my children. If I miss out on some things, it is OK. Overall, it has been a process of relieving myself of burdens. I feel like I am more and more relaxed.
CP: In the very beginning, did you worry a lot about how other people saw you?
Pastor’s wife: Yes, I had high expectations for myself. I was also very sensitive to other people’s expectations of me. I thought people expected a lot from me. But as a matter of fact, they may not have expected anything of me.
CP: So do you think this is a big idol in your ministry? Or do you think there is something else that is a greater challenge?
Pastor’s wife: I think seeking approval has been a big idol in my ministry, feeling like I need the approval of other people. One way the gospel has greatly changed me is by bringing me again and again back to God to help me see my value and meaning. In reality, God has already given me value. I do not have to achieve perfection through my own efforts. I am a very detail-oriented person, so when I do things, I have to plan them out again and again, then evaluate them again and again. Let me give you an example. I used to spend a whole week just to prepare for one worship service. Then I would still spend all Saturday evening continually changing the order of the worship service. I would calculate how many seconds the music should play and when it should begin. I would be so detailed that I would make myself stay up until very late. And then the next morning, I had to be very energetic and excited throughout the whole morning. By noon I would be exhausted. I think being in control and seeking approval are my biggest idols in my heart and ministry. They are tied together.
CP: What do contemporary Chinese women idolize?
Pastor’s wife: Speaking of Chinese women’s idols, there are actually quite a few of them, but ultimately what they really desire is a good and beautiful life. For example, they look forward to wonderful romantic relationships, good careers, and physical beauty, and to me all of these ultimately point toward the goal of having a wonderful life. Yet in truth, this kind of life no longer exists in this broken world. So, everyone is just stuck going in circles searching for it.
CP: What does it mean for you to look forward to having a good and beautiful life? Have you experienced these desires?
Pastor’s wife: Yes. I have not stopped desiring these ever since the beginning! However, a great change took place at one point. I used to work toward realizing my hopes through trusting in my own efforts; I kept looking forward to their fulfillment only to be disappointed every time. Whether regarding romantic relationships or in acquiring material possessions that improve your quality of life, these hopes were eventually all dashed. But during this time the greatest change was that I became born again, and I started to grow in Christ. So, I say this, your desires and hopes for a good and beautiful life now have actually been reshaped by the gospel. You now truly know what is really good and beautiful; you also know what direction you should take, which are the things that are worth pursuing, and which desires you need to put a cap on. Now you have much more clarity.
CP: Young women are often taught to care for their physical appearance. How should the gospel impact how a woman thinks about her physical beauty?
Pastor’s wife: Chinese church culture tends toward being conservative. When I was growing up, wearing dresses and high heels were considered to be worldly. The main thing is that there was always a strong sense of shame when we were taught about this, so we did not consider wearing dresses or high heels beautiful. We didn’t learn the perspective of society until we stepped into the world. The image of a girl wearing a long dress and looking tall and slender in high heels is a beautiful one to others. So, when you enter the real world your views are significantly challenged. The result of this challenge is a desire for approval. You will wish to dress like that. But then, when you return to the church you feel the influence of legalism and feel guilty.
In my opinion, the key issue is not about whether one wears dresses or heels. It is about how a woman understands beauty. Does she believe that God has given her a beautiful image when he created her? And does she believe that we are a group a women whom God personally created, that we have many fine and beautiful ideas, and that the wisdom we possess is from God?
Of course, we cannot replace God with ideas or any created thing. I went from loving to wear makeup, dresses, and high heels before I became a believer to dressing plainly, wearing pants, and no makeup at all after I joined the church, to now, having been renewed by the gospel of grace, feeling free and secure to dress up a little. I am not preoccupied with it; it is not that I cannot be seen without looking nice. It is like your conscience has experienced deep healing and peace.
CP: Have you had a female role model in your life, Christian or non-Christian, someone whom you especially respect and admire?
Pastor’s wife: If Christian, there is one, but I do not know her name. Once I was in Xiamen, participating in an encouragement ministry [seminar]. There was a pastor’s wife from another country who made an impression on me. She had short hair and did not speak much. Sitting there she was an image of tenderness and quiet beauty. Her beauty and peacefulness exuded from within. That left a deep impression on me at the time. I felt that she manifested a woman’s beauty so thoroughly and completely.
CP: Do you wish to possess a similar kind of calmness and beauty?
Pastor’s wife: I think that God has made each and every one of us different. In terms of outward appearance, I am no longer petite or pretty. Still, I really desire that my speech and my inner life would be characterized more by gentleness and beauty. Whether it is with regard to my child or my ministry responsibility, I feel that being gentle and firm – that is, a life marked by meekness and strength – reflects Christ’s glory. This is what I really desire because the picture of Christ in my life is that he is gloriously beautiful and gentle, yet he is also absolutely strong in his resolve to submit to God and carry out what God has given him [to do].