By Carrie Brown McWhorter
The Alabama Baptist
The life of a pastor’s wife is filled with struggles and joys, and few understand the life better than Kay Warren.
“Starting with my birth and continuing for six decades, ministry has defined my existence,” writes Warren in her newest book, “Sacred Privilege: Your Life and Ministry as a Pastor’s Wife.”
Warren, who co-founded Saddleback Church, Lake Forest, California, with her husband, Rick Warren, is not only a pastor’s wife but also a pastor’s daughter, mother and aunt. The “sacred privilege” of serving the Lord alongside a pastor is great but so are the challenges. And, Kay Warren says, those challenges “have to be lived to be appreciated.”
Kay Warren made headlines in 2017 when she joined the #metoo movement and shared openly about being molested as a child by the son of an employee at the church where her father was pastor. She calls the abuse her “first secret” but it would not be her last.
In the opening pages of “Sacred Privilege,” Warren remembers her teenage self as “a Christian young woman who sincerely wanted to live a pure and holy life for Jesus.” But the trauma of abuse combined with exposure to pornography at a neighbor’s house drove her deeper into a cycle of temptation and shame that would continue into adulthood.
Toxic way of life
“It is impossible to overestimate the effect of discovering pornographic magazines in a neighbor’s home when I was babysitting, partially because we didn’t talk about sex in our conservative home, plus the expectations to be perfect, not to stumble in any way … it all came together in a very toxic way that left me divided, two different people: there was the good girl who loved Jesus and wanted to be a missionary, and the girl who was a complete and utter embarrassment to Jesus. … There was a fear of being disqualified from serving Jesus or even being a Christian,” Warren said in an interview with the news website Christian Today.
Far from perfect
The effect of the cycle was perhaps nowhere more evident than in her marriage to Rick, according to Kay. Though they were perceived as a “perfect couple,” in truth their marriage was far from perfect. It took years for their marriage to find solid footing. One of the myths Warren hopes to shatter with “Sacred Privilege” is that being a pastor’s wife means being perfect.
“If you wait for perfection, you’ll miss too many moments,” she writes.
Warren has become a strong advocate for better treatment of mental illness and has spoken openly about her own depression and their son Matthew’s mental illness prior to his death. Rebuilding their lives after Matthew’s suicide was perhaps Kay and Rick’s greatest challenge, but their resilience has inspired thousands of other parents facing a similar loss.
Kay says only confidence in God’s redemptive plan has kept her feet firmly planted and she hopes to encourage women, especially those who serve the local church as a pastor’s wife, that there is hope in the brokenness.
“God is good and can be trusted with all the circumstances of your life and ministry,” Warren writes. “This is what will carry you through until the day Jesus comes for you.”