Monday, July 15, 2013

Confessions of a Pastor's Wife, Part Two

3. It can be lonely. I'm not necessarily saying that I am lonely, but that it can be. Loneliness is a strange monster at this stage of life, because most days I don't even get to go to the restroom without a two-year-old audience.  But, as we've probably all experienced, it's quite possible to feel alone in the middle of a crowd.

I remember when my family became friends with another family when I was a teenager; the father of that family happened to be a pastor at a very large church. My parents sometimes felt a little sheepish inviting them over because surely we must be competing with invitations over to other people's houses for meals and parties all the time. They were a fun family, and appeared to be very well connected and social at church. They probably just wanted some time to themselves. My parents mentioned this to the family one time, and they said "Are you kidding? We never get invitations!" Perhaps everyone thought the same thing, but in reality nobody was including them in social gatherings. Being in a very visible position at church means that most people know who you are, but it doesn't necessarily mean that you are known.

It also doesn't mean that you know everyone. I miss the days of pictorial directories, when you could study people's faces and names and look like a pro when you remembered their names in person. Also, the directory makes for a good piece of communal hilarity about a decade after it is printed. I have to remind myself that nobody knows everyone else, but sometimes it gives me stress dreams. Not quite as bad as the frequently recurring dream that I'm in high school and I've forgotten my locker combination, but close. You'd think that after fifteen years, I would stop having dreams about high school locker combos, but no. The crazy thing is that I actually still remember most of my locker combinations from grade seven onward, so you would think that my unconscious brain would cut me some slack. 7-21-7. 0-2-28. 5-16-31. 14-21-8.

According to my slight adrenaline rush upon seeing this photo, I do believe that these were the exact locks my school used.
image source

4. Another reason that it can be lonely is because of some unfortunate advice floating around out there. When  I ventured into life as a pastor's spouse, I received congratulations, condolences, some good ribbing, and advice. The most unsettling piece of advice that I received was to be guarded. Several people who were either ministry spouses themselves, or had close friends who were, advised me not to forge close friendships with people inside the church. Be friendly, form casual friendships, but don't count your closest friends in life from within the church. When your spouse is the pastor, you will inevitably hear criticism of him, his ministries, and the church, and it will certainly be less wounding to hear those things from acquaintances than your closest friends. If and when the time comes to move on to another church, at least you aren't leaving your closest friends behind. If you are vulnerable with people in the church, they could use it against you someday. While I certainly see the value of having close friends outside the church to give you perspective and sanctuary, I have to believe that the risk and vulnerability of having close friends within the church is worth it. The church community is not a country club full of acquaintances, or, at least, that's not what it is intended to be. We are family, walking together in this messy and beautiful journey of life. When we left our previous church after five years, it was terribly difficult to leave our friends, and for that I am glad. It's never as easy to stay in touch with friends after you move to another city, and I still grieve the loss of regular contact with dear friends. How sad would be to leave a church family after five years and not feel as though you are amputating a limb? I'll take that pain over the ache of loneliness any day.

5. Sundays are wonderful. They are also a gong show. Since we are a one-car family, and we arrive super-early because of my husband's duties, we've usually been there for four or more hours by the time the service is done. Since T is still super clingy, I'm in the toddler nursery with him for about 97% percent of the time. He actually pushed the baby gate right out the door frame the last time I tried to leave him in the nursery. When other kids might be getting a bit antsy by the end of the church service and Sunday School, my kids are done. Done. It feels like a lost cause by then to retain any semblance of control over my offspring, so I let them eat cookies from the welcome centre, and whatever other snacks I've haphazardly stuffed into my purse, and release them like wild animals into the gymnasium while we make our lengthy exit. It's a proven fact that every time you think you are ready to head to the car, you are actually going to be there for another twenty minutes. The conundrum is that I love connecting with people and that is the prime time for doing so, but...the children. The cookie-and-granola-bar-lunch, missed-nap, over-stimulated children.

6. Overall I feel lucky have a front row seat (figuratively, remember I live in the toddler nursery at church) to what church is: sharing life with people, building community, and sharing about the freedom and love of God. In the end, I love that guy I married ten years ago so much that I'm happy to be his wife no matter what his profession is.

Our young hands. We were probably mocking the cheesiness of this photo as we were taking it.
Well, pretty much any profession. I'm glad he's not a career criminal, or the Prime Minister.

Fellow ministry spouses, did I miss anything?

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