The Preacher's Wife

When people find out I’m a preacher’s wife, they usually say one of two things. Either it’s a deep breath and then “Well, God bless you.” Or, maybe more frequently, “I could never do that.” And I understand the sentiment: Your life must be terribly hard.

But I’ll be honest, it’s not too bad. More often than not, being the preacher’s wife is a monumental blessing.

I think I feel this way for two reasons:

1. I’m not just any preacher’s wife; I’m my favorite preacher’s wife.

2. I’ve always aspired to the job, motivated by the example of one who did it admirably.

From childhood, I’ve wanted to be my Aunt Lou. She was an unusual role model for a child as she was already in her mid to late sixties when I was born, but even in her “retirement years” she was a stunning, strong, graceful, icon of a woman. A force.

My grandfather, her brother, talks about her beauty. He cries and smiles all at once, the memory overwhelming—like she couldn’t possibly have been that pretty. My mom remembers seeing a young Elizabeth Taylor on TV and saying “Look! That’s Aunt Lou.” To which my great grandmother responded, “No, honey. That woman’s not nearly as lovely as your Aunt Lou.”

Even in her early seventies, when her husband, my Uncle Buford, preached at our congregation in Pinellas Park, FL—even then she turned heads.

I remember her clothes. Perfectly put together, never gaudy and never frumpy.  I remember the sound of her jewelry as she walked with Buford down the middle aisle to the back of the church after the invitation song.

Mostly, though, I remember the way she could inspire an audience, a group, a class. Everything she said made you want to listen for what she might say next.

And the way she loved God. The way she beamed when she talked about Him.

I never heard my Aunt Lou insult my Uncle Buford, not one joking jibe, even though he sometimes deserved it. As strong as she was, I always thought she was submissive and supportive.

She genuinely seemed to love being the preacher’s wife. I don’t know if she did, but I know I love it partly because she showed me a woman could.

One night during a sermon Uncle Buford told a joke at her expense—innocent enough, I guess, but he was patronizing her. I looked her way and saw her get up quietly and walk to the back of the auditorium, head held high, calm and smiling.

She didn’t make a scene, but she certainly communicated a message. I don’t remember any more jokes after that.

I thought that night, “I guess it’s okay for the preacher’s wife to be spunky.” Thanks to her I have never been anything less than spunky.

Aunt Lou probably should have been prideful—being brilliant and magnetic and gorgeous—but I don’t ever remember even a trace of pride. You looked up to her, but she never looked down on you. She served every person humbly and attentively.

I remember most clearly the years she spent taking care of her own mother, sacrificing everything for love.

My Aunt Lou died today. It’s been years since we were close—we were very close—but the memories of the way she wore her role have always been on my mind. I often try to remember the way Aunt Lou handled a conflict or even the outfits she wore to speak at Ladies’ Days.

I don’t know if I ever had the chance to tell Aunt Lou how important she’s been—to thank her for teaching me to step into my place with strength, humility, and grace.

A lot of who I am—perhaps my being completely myself in a role that often dulls the colors of good, vibrant women—is because of her, because she lived colorfully and because she was the preacher’s wife.