Monday, October 14, 2013

The Life of A Seminary Wife: Part 1 - Struggles

When you decide as a family to attend seminary, you choose to sacrifice. The difficulties that accompany seminary may be because the wife came with a set of expectations that were unmet, or because her husband is stretched too thin. Nevertheless, all of us must admit that seminary is taxing for both student and spouse. 

To begin this series, I want to first look at the struggles that so many wives face when they come to seminary.

The Situation

Your husband is in class. You are either working full-time outside the home to support him, working inside the home by caring for your children, or a combination of the two. You hear the word "busy" more often that you can count. You may feel like you see your husband only at mealtime and bedtime. You are both working hard to utilize the time that God has ordained for you while in seminary, but sometimes working, taking classes, serving at the church, and caring for your family gets overwhelming. What results is tough questions about what you are doing here in the first place. 

Can you resonate with any (or all) of these? I can. When Chance and I first moved to Dallas, we jumped right into our church and began serving, while also participating in a ministry outside of the church. I started a full-time job at a financial management company, while Chance took a full load of summer classes. I hadn't known what to expect, but I figured it would take some time to adjust to our new schedules. 

In the midst of all that, I was trying to build new friendships and find time to invest in those relationships that I hoped would last a lifetime. This was all new. As I attempted to navigate the waters of seminary life, I realized that I could go through this whole experience feeling overwhelmed

The Struggles

"I'm just here for him!" If you are at seminary with your husband, it is [hopefully] because the Lord has specifically called him to be trained for ministry. However, God has called your husband and you to the ministry. One mistake that I believe many wives make is that they come to seminary for their husband, rather than with their husband. What I mean by this is that wives will say that they are just here while their husband gets his degree, yet they do not see the unique opportunity that they themselves have to get trained to be in ministry alongside their husband. 

At the opening event for DTS's seminary wives, I heard the advisor to SWIM (Seminary Wives In Ministry) say very pointedly that both you and your husband are getting that degree. That clicked for me. I began using the phrase "we are in seminary" rather than singling Chance out. This was due to her exhortation that my husband was not going to get through this experience without my support. 

Both Chance and I, as a married couple, have been called to a life of ministry. As his wife, I am to fully support my husband no matter what, as long as he is obeying the Lord and living according to God's Word. I am here with my husband. I am not against him. I am not just tagging along. I am really with him in seminary. 

Loneliness - At a place like seminary, the most ironic thing is that everyone is going through much the same experience as you are, yet oftentimes you can feel very alone. If I gathered 10 women in a room and asked them what their biggest struggle has been while at seminary, I would guess that 9 out of 10 of those ladies would confess to feeling isolated and/or lonely. 

Here you are in a place amongst other Christian women, all preparing alongside their husbands for ministry, and you feel like you can't connect or that you are weird for feeling alone. This is understandable because, as I mentioned previously, your husband is in a season where his time is stretched thin. He has a load of responsibilities that he is trying to balance. That means that he's probably not home every night of week, and you may not be able to go on date as often as you'd like. 

Wives can accept the fact that this is a temporary experience, and do their best to help their husbands balance their time wisely. Or they can become embittered and resentful. The latter is the worst option, because, as unrepentant bitterness fosters, your unity with God and your husband is jeopardized.

Unmet expectations - Lastly, many wives comes to seminary with a set of expectations. The expectation that we wives are going to build great community, as soon as they walk on campus, is common. Or wives expect that their husbands will gain crystal clear insight as to his future ministry within the first semester. 

For those of us who have been at seminary longer than a year, we can attest to the fact that things often don't pan out how we expected. Relationships can take a while to form,  rarely appearing out of thin air. Even amongst Christians, long-lasting friendships are built through time, intentionality, and selflessness. Accepting this up front will be of great value to you in the long run. 

Additionally, a husband who has sensed a calling to pastoral ministry may decide to pursue a further degree instead of going straight into the ministry once he graduates. Likewise, another man who was confident that God wanted him to go to overseas, may instead choose to become a shepherd to God's flock in the local church context. Whatever direction God chooses to take your husband, having set expectations (that you feel MUST come to pass) may damage your perspective on how God wants to use both of you to further his kingdom. 

These are simply three ways that I have observed (and experienced) struggles in my time here at seminary. Thankfully, God provides us with everything that we need for life and godliness in his Word. In the next post, I will relay some of the tremendous ways that God has used this period of time to grow me and cause me to see his grace in my life. 


  1. I can totally relate to ALL of these from our time in seminary! This was a good reminder of what a hard/trying/learning experience seminary was! I can thankfully say that about a year and a half out, most of these are just a memory. I'm so thankful for the friendships I developed at DTS. While they weren't necessarily quickly or instantaneously formed, they ended up being such a God-send and so close! God will certainly bless you for the things you sacrifice to be in seminary and it will all be totally worth it! Thanks for writing, friend :)

  2. I can relate to some of these things. I thought he graduated?