Let me begin by introducing myself. I am a mother, a grandmother, a pastor’s wife, and the Executive Pastor of the church my husband has pastored for the past 24 years. I have been married to my husband for almost 32 years. To say that this journey has been easy would be far from the truth. But it has certainly caused me to grow in ways I never imagined.
Twenty-four years ago, when my husband was called to the church we serve, I was not ready. My readiness had less to do with my ability in the role of a pastor’s wife, and more to do with me not wanting to be the traditional pastor’s wife. I remember clearly telling my husband, “I am not going to fit the mold!” Truthfully, I was determined not to fit the mold, whatever that mold was. My point was that I had to be me. I did not want to be anybody else other than myself. I did not want to look like anyone else. I did not want act or behave like anyone else. I just wanted to be me. Part of that was me trying to figure out who I was, but the other part was, I didn’t want to contribute to continuing the “tradition” of what a first lady was expected to be, look, and or act like. Now, I have to admit, I did wear the big hats and sit on the end seat of the second row with my children, but there was something within me that continued to drive me away from being like the rest. Not that being like the rest was a bad thing. I just wanted to be me, and not be expected to be what someone else thought I should be.
So, my first priority was my family. I wanted to be the best wife and mother I could be. The church was not my first priority. The blessing for me was that my husband was 100% supportive. He did not insist that I lead or become a part of the women’s ministry. He did not require me to get involved with planning events and programs. He gave me permission to check the people out, while they were checking me out. I was very quite then. I did not talk much, but as one of my daughters recently stated, “I had a plethora of thoughts!” And one of those thoughts was that I would not be forced to do anything that I was not cut out to do. For example, because I was so quite and shy, I did not have remarks during services. Even though there was always someone who wanted the first lady to have remarks, I had nothing to say. I know, you may be thinking, “How rebellious!” Well, I was thinking, “Why do I need to say anything? I’m going to pass out if I stand in front of those people!” I just wanted to be me. Of course, as time moved on, there were those who suggested, recommended, encouraged, etc. that I do something in the ministry. It was a long time before I did.
I was raising two girls, and I decided to go back to school. So, I became a fulltime student. I attended most church events, but not all. After a while, it was understood that I would do what I could when I could or when I wanted to. I didn’t follow my parent’s tradition by taking my kids to every service with their books and homework, and staying up late having to get up early. I was breaking the mold. My family was first! I was nice and cordial, but doing it my way. I will say, however, in the process of doing it my way, I knew that God had something for me to do. But even that was going to have to come clearly from God, and not the saints!
Rushing ahead, by the time I graduated with my Bachelor’s Degree, I realized the calling on my life. I acknowledged that call to my husband. His response was, “I knew all along, but I was waiting for you.” Soon after I was licensed a minister, and not long after that I was ordained. Even in all of that, I was determined that I would not allow individuals to dictate to me how I would live out my life as a wife, mother, and now minister. I enrolled in school again, after a time, for a Master of Divinity Degree. This was a long and tedious road. While travelling this road, my husband had several bouts with cancer and we experienced the emotional rollercoaster of a teenage pregnancy. Again, my main focus was my household. Long story short, I received my degree, I took care of my husband, and I have a beautiful granddaughter that bares my name. But I did it my way!
Today, I serve as the Executive Pastor of our church, along side my husband. I have been blessed by being invited to minister at other churches and Conferences. I have witnessed many styles of ministry. The wave of the 21st century for churches is the Pastor – CoPastor phenomenon and it seems to be working well for most. But even in that, I have a need to do what works for me. I have determined that it is the quality of a good preacher, or pastor, or first lady that I want to emulate. I want to be the best wife, mother, grandmother and preacher I can be, but that does not mean that I have to fit a frame that has been created for me. My advice to the woman who is in either of the roles mentioned is to take the good qualities you see in others and apply them to who you are. If you try to become someone else, who will be you? Only you can be you! Do you!
Sabrina J. Ellis, D.Min.