When the Pastor Baptizes His Wife

By Jess Kurz

I had been a pastor’s wife for seven years before I realized I wasn’t a Christian.

I was not raised in a godly home. Church attendance was not something we did. But when I was 12, my family attended church for Easter. Afterward, I remember my mom asking my sister and me if we liked our time at church and if we wanted to return. We both said “yes.”

That summer I attended a Christian camp. I remember hearing how Christ died on the cross for sinners. I remember being told that if I prayed a certain prayer, I would go to heaven and not hell when I died. So, of course, I said the prayer.

Nothing changed.

I had been a pastor’s wife for seven years before I realized I wasn’t a Christian.
There was no godly conviction when I sinned, and I still delighted in sin. I feared I did the prayer thing wrong, which must mean I needed to do it again. I was baptized at 14 because I was told I should be.

For years, my life spiraled in a pattern of sin, followed by horror (“I’m going to hell now”), then prayer for salvation again. I always felt hopeless. I severely doubted God’s love for me and did not love Him or other people. But, believing I was a Christian, I graduated from college; married a young man, Joel, who was studying for the ministry; had babies; and, in July 2008, moved with him when he wanted to start a church in Baltimore.

Our transition was exciting, at first. The excitement, however, wore off with the challenges of being married to a church planter. I found myself thrust into a world of pastor’s-wife expectations and felt a lot of pressure to move way out of my comfort zone, to live on mission, to visit the park to try to meet with moms, to share the Gospel with some random person Joel would ask me to visit. It was all so utterly frustrating and daunting because I had no clue what to say to these women.

How does someone who feels no hope in Christ try to fake that she has hope in Christ?

How do you even admit these feelings to your husband, who has an immense desire to start a church in Baltimore?

How does someone who feels no hope in Christ try to fake that she has hope in Christ?
I couldn’t fake it, but I also couldn’t admit this to Joel. So I returned to one of my favorite sins: escapism. In 2009, I started telling myself lies. “Joel loves this church and others more than he loves meHe wouldn’t care in the least if he wasn’t married to meHe hates me, and I stink at being a pastor’s wife.”

The stress was too much. I started drinking to numb the pain. I would drink so much and stay out so late that I don’t know how I made it home in one piece. I finally came up with a plan to do whatever I could to make Joel so miserable that he would finally tell me to leave. I followed through with my plan, but he wouldn’t tell me to leave. I gave myself over to severe sins he didn’t know about. I honestly hated my husband. I hated his church.

It was July 2010 when I told him I wanted to leave. He begged me to join him for a marriage retreat and to take marriage counseling with him. I reluctantly agreed. He knew he couldn’t continue serving as a pastor and said he’d try to find a church-planting replacement. With all I had done, and all I was still doing that he didn’t know about, I knew I wasn’t converted. I knew I wasn’t a Christian.

I remember asking Joel one day if he would be OK if I wasn’t a Christian. He told me that he would still love me, but he wouldn’t be OK with it. “I would preach the Gospel to you every day if I have to,” he said, and he did.

‘I would preach the gospel to you every day if I have to,’ he said, and he did.
For a solid six months, he patiently preached the Gospel to me while trying to work himself out of a job. He assured me that God forgives all sin through Christ, and that anyone who turns to Him finds the hope of forgiveness. For six months, I refused to believe and refused to find any hope in our marriage or his faith.

In Jan. 2011, something changed. I now know what it was: I was converted. The Holy Spirit of God convicted me of my sins, assured me that Christ bore their penalty on the cross, and rose again from the dead. I repented of my rebellion and trusted in Jesus Christ.

It happened in a moment, but I can’t tell you exactly when that moment was. All I know is that Joel took me out to a restaurant, and I confessed my sins to him. As I did, I confessed those sins to God. I not only felt grace and love from Joel, I felt grace and love from God. I felt a weight lifted. I felt as if I had hit rock bottom, but God had broken through my wicked and dark heart – and He rescued me.

I was saved under the faithful preaching of my husband. The hopelessness I’d always felt was gone. I had an insatiable desire to be in the Word. Even better, it made sense to me. I had a new desire to serve others, share Christ with others, and serve the church. These were just some of the beautiful proofs from the Spirit that God had saved me.

I was saved under the faithful preaching of my husband
I wrestled with my story for years. I remained astonished. “Was I really not converted during those early years?” It took me some time to realize that I was saved in 2011, which is why I was baptized in 2019 by my husband, who’d displayed God’s grace through his own life.

Praise God for His amazing grace.

Jess Kurz is married to Joel Kurz, the founder of The Garden Church in Baltimore.

Cover photo: Joel and Jess Kurz (submitted)

The Gospel Coalition originally published a version of this article.