Wednesday, September 14, 2011

on becoming (or not becoming) a pastor's wife

It's 6:30 pm.
He said he would be home around now, or maybe a little later.
I clean up the plates from dinner, putting aside some food for him.
I text him: "Let me know when you're on your way home please."
He texts back: "Should be leaving soon, but I will let you know."

I go upstairs with the baby and get her ready for bed -- an hour-long ritual of library books and singing and a Bible story and prayer.  When she settles down, I stay with her and wonder if he's downstairs.  It's 7:30 and I haven't heard from him.

"Are you okay?"  I text.  "Did you leave yet?"
Nothing.  I wait 10 minutes.
"Where are you?  What's going on?"
Nothing.  I wait another 10 minutes.
I am starting to get worried.  I know he's out doing ministry work, and I know he is usually very good about communicating if he's going to be out late.
Finally a text back: "I'm okay.  I will be home soon."

Turns out he was having a very important conversation -- and when I heard about his dilemma in either staying or leaving, I understood why he had to stay.  And I understood why it was the rare occasion when he couldn't text back.  I got it.  But it didn't take away the hurt.

And when I was texting him and he wasn't texting back, I remembered this book review I read at her.menuetics.  In The Waiting Room (which I have yet to purchase or read), Eileen Button (a pastor's wife) refers to the church as "the other woman" in her relationship with her husband.  And last night was the first night I felt that way towards ministry.

Before, Elliott and I would go into work -- to do ministry -- together.  We were a team.  We are still a team today, but my part of the teamwork is mainly at home.  I don't begrudge him in the slightest -- it was my own choice after all -- and I really enjoy being home with my baby and taking care of household things.  But we are in a period of transition, and with this transition comes much growth and discovery and discernment.

One thing we have been discovering is Elliott's gifts leading towards becoming a pastor.  Through regular prayer and counsel, we have really seen God affirm this "call" on Elliott's life.  But last night, Elliott looked at me and asked, "Yes, we've seen affirmation in me becoming a pastor, but have you received affirmation in becoming a pastor's wife?"

The question stopped me dead in my tracks.  I felt my eyes swell with tears.  No, I hadn't received such affirmation.  I wasn't even looking for it.  I just assumed Elliott was gifted to become a pastor, and how could I stand in his way?  How could I stand in God's way?  I never thought to wonder if I would be suited for such a life.

I know being a pastor's wife is not the same as being a pastor, and my role in life is not "pastor's wife."  I will still be Rachel.  I will still be uniquely me, even if that unique me is not the typical pastor's-wifey type.  But even if I have a full time job (whether that be teacher or homemaker or somewhere in between), there are duties that a pastor's wife must fulfill.  Hospitality.  Service.  A being-there-ness.  I understand those duties, and I am not great at all of them.  I have a lot of room for growth.

But you know what?  Growth hurts.  Sharing hurts.
And when he asked me the question so pointedly, I wasn't sure.
My gut says, "No.  No more.  I want rest.  I want my husband."
But my gut's not always right.  Because sometimes my gut tells me to hide away and not cultivate deep relationships -- that it's safer to remain locked away from everyone besides my family.  My gut tells me to fear -- to fear achieving anything difficult, to fear perseverance, to fear even leaving my house at times.  My gut tells me to drink chai lattes every single day.

The bottom line:  I can't always trust my gut.

But last night I understood a little bit more what it would mean if Elliott became a pastor.
And it wasn't easy.
And I am left with two lingering questions:

For a pastor, is the church "the other woman?" 
And if it is, am I willing to share my husband if he becomes one?

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