Thursday, July 31, 2014

I'm the wife.

So it's official.  I mean official official.  Discover Family Church is to be.  We have our location, our funding, our people--all the things that make a church plant...plant.  So....I guess that means that I'm officially a pastor's wife? I literally giggled to myself as I typed those words. It's absurd.  But it's the truth.

I'm not the stereotypical pastor's wife. Stereotypes, while society seems to resist them, are based on elements of truth.  But we just love to point out how we're NOT whatever we really are.  We're not just another sheep in the herd, right?  Well, like it or not, you and I fit into categories and we are judged accordingly. And I am now in "the wife" category and I will be duly judged.

It was made very clear to me as Johnny and I interviewed with churches last year that the non-stereotypical pastor's wife isn't really what most places out there are looking for.  I have a career AND I'm a mom.  I have interests, friends, hobbies AND I'm a wife.  I enjoy lots of different non-church places and activities AND I enjoy my church.  Most places didn't like that I really had those things before the big AND.  They didn't want anything, anyone, or anywhere to interfere with my pastor's wife duties and expectations, which varied depending on church and geographical region.

As we moved through that phase of our lives, the whole thing kind of took a toll on my self-esteem.  How could we accomplish what we thought we were meant to accomplish if we were rejected because of me?  I could try to make some changes......I could quit my job, pop out 6 more kids, homeschool them while posting 57 times a day on Facebook about how wonderful and perfect my life/husband/kid is, post Instagrams of the delicious gourmet meals I'm cooking every night for dinner, and devote all my free time to making casseroles for the "shut-ins" (LOL shut-ins, remember that term?  HORRIBLE!), all while having perfect hair, nails, clothes, and shoes. Oh yeah, and don't forget those picture perfect baby showers.

So obviously these are exaggerations.  And I don't mean to belittle anything a traditional pastor's wife does. If she does all of these things and is truly happy doing them, great.  I mean to say that what you think of your pastor's wife and who your pastor's wife really is are likely very, very different.  And I think a lot of churches (not all, but many) put pressure on these women to be and do so much more than they should.  I can't imagine I'm the only person in history who has felt a little out of place in this role. Come on, you know it's a lot of pressure.  People are watching.  You watch your pastor's wife, right?  I've watched all of mine for my entire life-- What is she wearing? Are her kids behaving? Why is she sitting there?  Why isn't she at church today?   Is her husband crazy?  Is she crazy? Are her kids crazy?  Has she gained some weight?  Did her hair color change?  Does she really think she can sing?

I was so fortunate that in our ARC 3.0 training back in April that this very issue was addressed. I was able to listen to some wives tell their stories, give their advice, and let us baby church-planting wives's okay to be yourself. Don't try to live up to lofty expectations, because you'll fail.  You'll fail your people, your family, and yourself.  They also gave us some practical steps to take regarding the balance between church life and non-church life.  Yes!  You can have a non-church life and be a pastor's wife!  I felt SUCH a weight off of me after that session.  I don't have to be the pastor's wife pictured in other people's heads.  It's okay to be me.  Hm.  Kind of hope for all pastors' wives sake that this attitude is contagious.

I'm also so lucky that I had some great examples to refer to when I was in this little personal crisis.  I started thinking of one in particular because she and I share the same occupation.  Her name is Jenny Edgemon and she was the wife of the youth pastor at our church when I was in high school.  I thought of Jenny and how she was a working mom, a successful career woman, a loving and supportive wife, and a connected and involved presence in our church.  20 years ago.  Wait a minute.  Maybe I can do this. Then I thought of my mother-in-law, Betty Kelley.  Mom.  Grandma (or as she calls herself, Ya-Ya...she picked it folks).  Student. Hard worker.  Recently promoted at her job.  Successful.  She's going to be in charge of our nursery and preschool at DFC.  I have her wisdom...years and years of it... right there.

So maybe I can do this.  I'm not perfect--not even close.  I'm socially anxious.  I argue with my husband. My son enjoys sprinkling baby powder on furniture and floors.  He also screams and sometimes spits. My house is messy. My hair is messy.  My clothes are mostly boring.  I can cook but usually don't.  I occasionally have road rage....ok, more than occasionally but I'm working on it.  I get discouraged.  I make mistakes.  I mess up.  I am far from what you'd picture as a pastor's wife.  But I don't think I want to be doing anything else. Why? Because God put me right here.  I have watched this church miraculously form before our eyes one little piece at a time. I'm invested, heart and soul.  And as tentative as I am about this new role I am a million times more excited for the days ahead.  The friendships, the community, and the difference we make in each others' lives.  What an honor to be right in the middle of something so amazing.

So the truth is, I am a pastor's wife.  And I humbly and willfully am taking it, stereotypes and all.