Dear Pastor's Wife

Dear Pastor’s Wife: The Dance of the Fire Ants

Dear Pastor’s Wife,

Well, you are due for another letter, and I have something burning in me to share (pun intended.) So we meet here, again, with computer and keys- but imagining beautiful paper and handwritten ink.


It happened in this one particular flower garden in my yard. {It seems to happen here often.} I began some fall trimming and raking and clearing. Pruned down a few stray magnolia branches growing out of a stump which appears to be dead, but isn’t and won’t be for hundreds of years to come. Walked around to the other side of the stump to finish the job…working steadily….and then-  the fire on my feet.

I looked down to see my feet absolutely covered in fire ants. I jumped out of the garden, shaking off my flip flops and leaping around while dragging my feet upside down to wipe off the ants. Side to side, this way and that…moving to a different section of grass now…flailing like a crazy person to be rid of these biting, stinging creatures we never had in Canada. {The dance is quite a sight to behold, in fact.}

Everywhere there is soft ground, there are fire ants. And yes, they’ve been sprayed, but they come right back. Literally every time I try to work in this garden, I end up doing the dance of the fire ants. Apparently it’s just par for gardening in the south. More than once I’ve walked away from the garden, leaving my shoes and tools and all.

You’ve done the dance, too. Maybe not with fire ants, but with people. Within your ministry. I know this to be true because I typically get most of my emails from pastors’ wives just after they’ve done the dance- or while they’re still doing it.

You’ve gotten burned yet again in this place where your husband is called pastor. Betrayed even when you were tiptoeing around, minding your own business. Stung yet again by the biting words of the people you love and serve.

And so you’re at this crossroads….again. Do you step back into the garden, or stay in the safety of the grass?  If you go back, you’ll surely be burned, bitten, stung again.

Can someone please just give you permission to not go back into the garden? It just….hurts in there. EVERY time.


As much as I wish ministry wasn’t fraught with so much pain, it doesn’t give us license to not go back into the garden- not if we are true servants.

No, we must do the dance of the fire ants, and then get back into the garden. Keep tending the hearts of those in our care. Keep caring. Keep serving.

Just as fire ants are par for gardening in the south of USA, getting burned and stung is par for ministry.

Truly, if we left it here, we’d be pretty hopeless.

But we can’t leave it there, because Jesus didn’t leave it there. He suffered every sting and burn and bite that we have suffered, are suffering, and will suffer. He suffered much, much more. So He’s the perfect One to come alongside and understand.


The Word was stung by the words of sinners.

The Bread was wasted and not given thanks for by ungrateful people who didn’t understand.

The Meek was bitten by prideful men.

Jehovah Roi (the God Who sees) was not properly observed, was not truly seen for Who He was.

The Lover was despised.

The  One Who turned no one away, who said “Whosoever will may come” – was rejected.

The mouth, hands, and body that gave others life- were struck by those very ones.

The Lamb was slain.

“He was despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief…..He was oppressed, and afflicted…” Isaiah 53:3,7

Maybe sometimes we think of God as always happy? And yes, He was and is, of course, eternally joy. But He has known and does know deep sorrow- long and crushing. Times the whole world. And, lest we forget- it was because of our sin.

This pain and sorrow is at the heart of the Gospel. Our good news was borne out of His hard road. Our hope was and is borne out of His grief. Our rescue came through the shedding of His blood.

If you need to understand, to really understand that He knows and understands, study the Gospel accounts of the days leading up to the crucifixion. I’ve done this while preparing to suffer in ministry, and it has profoundly lifted me up above my circumstances in a way that nothing else could.

Entering into the suffering of Christ causes you to know that you know that you know that He understands.

And it brings a fresh realization that– you don’t have to walk back into that garden by yourself. He takes you by the hand and leads you back- together.

And who knows?! He may even do the dance of the fire ants with you. Take heart, friend. You are not alone.

Never have been. Never will be.


A Kindred Spirit

4 thoughts on “Dear Pastor’s Wife: The Dance of the Fire Ants

  1. There is a very young lady that is in the ministry with her husband, and I hope she reads this before it’s to late. The ministry isn’t easy, it’s actually terribly hard all to often. Thanks for Shari g this with so many today, i truly enjoyed it.

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