Gold Fish Bowl or Aquarium?

Last evening, I did a short talk and discussion with the Puritan Reformed Seminary student wives group on:

The Private Life of a Minister’s Wife as it it Relates to Expectations and Living in the Fish Bowl

Here is brief outline of that talk.

What springs to mind when you look at a goldfish bowl?

1. Isolation – lonely.

2. No purpose – going round in circles.

3. Watched by all.

4. No privacy.

What springs to mind when you look at an aquarium?

1. Bright, cheerful, and colorful.

2. Beautiful and attractive – many admirers.

3. Fellowship with other fish.

4. Purpose – busy, on the move, in and out of fake corals and interesting objects.

What can these look like in the life of a pastor’s wife?

Goldfish bowl
1. Friendless and lonely.

2. Constant, seemingly endless and pointless round of diapers, laundry, answering phone calls, entertaining.

3. Everyone knows what you are doing, how well or not you are doing it, where you are going, how your children behave in church, etc.

4. You or your family cannot do or go anywhere without being seen by a parishioner and at times, even being reminded that you were spotted here or there or everywhere. (Compare with the kid that pokes the glass just as the gold fish’s nose is right at it, sending the goldfish scurrying for seclusion.)

1. Bright and cheerful for fear others might think you are glum.

2. Perfect husband, perfect kids, and socially very capable.

3. Loads of friends, all of whom admire and look up to you .

4. Supreme multi-tasker with all your ducks in a row.

The aquarium is especially cultivated on Facebook.

If you have ever owned an aquarium, it is a source of great admiration by all, but wow it requires a lot of hard work to keep it looking that way.

Remember, if you wish to cultivate the perfect persona of a pastor’s wife, it too is very hard work.

But the question is,”What is reality and what are we called to?”

“Are we called to present aquarium perfection and seek admiration or are we called to serve God in the goldfish bowl?”

The truth is the aquarium is not reality and rarely honors the Lord. It is mostly about honoring ourselves. The next time you decide to post on Facebook, ask yourself, “Is this about promoting me, and mine, or promoting the Lord and seeking to encourage others.”

What pressures make us operate in the goldfish bowl with a goldfish bowl mentality?

1. Your expectations: Your own high unscriptural expectations of yourself, your husband, and your kids.

2. Others’ expectations: multiple church events, school events, charity events, expected   frequency of pastoral visits, sermon expectations, etc.

Only you and your husband can work out the timetable that best serves your family’s needs and honors God. Remember your children are your first church. No one else will be accountable to God for them; only you.

Help your husband, especially if new in the ministry to be himself, not Professor Perfect or whichever seminary professor he feels pressured to emulate.

3. Books and blogs: Thank the Lord for these wonderful resources. Make good use of them. But idolize no one and no one else’s methodology. This can be especially problematic with biographies, child rearing books, and other “How To” resources which detail everything you must do to achieve success as a mother and pastor’s wife. If you find yourself deeply discouraged in that department, take comfort; most of us are right there with you. The Bible is your ultimate source of encouragement and “How To.”


1. Spiritual: Cultivate your relationship with the Lord, read His Word daily. You need daily strength and encouragement. Regularity is more important than length. Everyone’s circumstances differ. If you are a young mother, struggling to get any quiet, think of ways you can grab little pockets of time. Don’t fret because you cannot spend long sessions in the Word, like your husband or female radio teachers.

2. Physical: Look after your body. It is the temple of the Holy Spirit. Healthy eating does not mean fads. Eat a balanced diet and don’t get caught up in the wave of obsessional do’s and don’ts of food.

Exercise daily. It will lift your mind and will benefit your body in multiple ways. Again, let’s not seek aquarium bodies. Walking is perfectly adequate, if done regularly. It is also a good opportunity to chat with your husband or to rescue you and your kids from cabin fever.

3. Emotional: You need time out or “me” time. This is neither contrary to Scripture nor selfish. It is vital and will help maintain your emotional health so that you are then better able to serve those around you. Take time to stop and reflect, go outside and study the beauty of God’s creation, visit a friend, read something you enjoy, listen to edifying music, pursue a healthy hobby, or whatever.

Remember, without that regular emotional rejuvenation, you will wither like a flower in the heat of the sun. Housework and laundry can wait. If you run your car down to an empty fuel tank, it will go nowhere. If you neglect to care for its engine, you may do permanent damage.

How can you smash the goldfish bowl mentality?

1. Divine Presence: Remind yourself daily that you are in God’s presence. He is always with you, whether you sense it or not. It is Him you serve; not human expectation.

2. Divine Purpose: You are not a goldfish! Your life has a purpose. You are made in God’s image and He cares for you, His child, in every tiny detail of your life. Every diaper change, every meal, everything you do; it is all significant to Him.

Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father…..Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows. (Matthew 10:29-31)

Posted by Shona.

7 thoughts on “Gold Fish Bowl or Aquarium?

  1. Pingback: Check out | HeadHeartHand Blog

    • Don’t we all, Gloria :) It appears so much more attractive, but we would lose out on the reality of knowing God’s help through the rough as well as the smooth.

  2. I’ve “been there.” We always tried to be real and open with our children (adopted) and live as a normal Christian family in the congregation(s) my husband served. I don’t think we or the congregation put any pressures on our children to be models – they weren’t, sometimes to our grief and embarrassment. They knew that we always loved them unconditionally and we prayed much for them to know and serve the Saviour my husband preaches. I don’t think we put any more expectations on them than other parents in the church would and neither did our congregation(s). The Lord did not call them to the ministry (I think all ministers hope/expect this), but we are so thankful to the Lord that they are now raising their own children similarly to the way we raised them – and we honestly think they do a better job than we did.

    • Thank you, Frederika. My own experience as a pastor’s kid were similar to your children’s. Your two points about unconditional love and prayer for us to know the Savior were the most important things. Children never forget that. I hope our generation can follow your example and show the love of Christ to our children as well as man of your generation did.

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