Like many Lutheran pastors, my husband preached on Jesus appearing to the disciples in the upper room, and probably like most, he took part of that sermon to talk about Thomas's doubts. He took a slightly different approach to it, though, from what I've heard before.
Looking at the week between Jesus's appearances to the disciples. He talked about how Thomas must have had an incredibly crummy week living there with them after that. He probably wanted to believe them, but he just couldn't, and he was probably approached by all the other guys over and over again to try to get him to believe, to rejoice like they were, while he was grieving and in disbelief.
And Thomas's struggle isn't foreign to any of us. We all have struggled with our pain, our doubts, our misery; but one of the truly amazing thing was is that Thomas was still there in that room with all of them the next week when Jesus reappeared. He didn't leave. Maybe he was simply afraid of being recognized or arrested and had no where else to go, and these were his friends, his companions, all in the same boat together. For one reason or another, he was still there, in the midst of those with stronger faith than he. And because he was there, he was there to hear Christ's word's of comfort to him, he was there to feel the nail holes, the scar where the spear had pierced his side, and to embrace him and proclaim "My Lord and my God."
Often when people despair or doubt, they disappear from God's house. They stay home or go do something that helps them feel better. When they doubt God, they go away, so they are not even there to hear the words that would bring them comfort, the message of the Gospel that the Holy Spirit wants them to hear. These people, our neighbors and friends need our labored prayers, our compassion, and our encouragement. They need the same gentleness that Jesus showed Thomas.
And the Holy Spirit took all of this and smacked me in the head with the Gospel, and I literally wept at the beauty of it.
You see, I've always hated being a pastor's wife - for almost twelve years now, fifteen if you count seminary. I definitely don't fit the expectations that other people have for me, and I'm really not very good at saying "to heck with them." I've responded to these expectations with alternating reactions..from a shrug of the shoulders to tears to marked defiance. Usually a combination of them all.
I've come to church already exhausted from the anticipation of another day of pacing the narthex with my babies or keeping them entertained and quiet...or engaging in the battle of the wills that is toddlerhood...all alone. I've dealt with people telling the elders when they've had a problem with something I've written here, but never me. I've had people interpret something my son has said to be my own opinion, and I could go on and on....
But when I actually list the reasons why I don't like it, they never seem to have any substance to them, which frustrates me more, because they make my pain seem silly. I certainly know pastors' wives who have had it far worse than me. I have been blessed with the company of so many incredible Christians, a good house, a fairly comfortable living, an environment that has been a blessing to my family, and the knowledge that my husband takes joy in his calling--- except for the fact that he knows I struggle with it. I've spent an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out why God has put me here , when I clearly don't have what it takes. And as far as my husband goes, I've begged, threatened, and coerced -- and out of love for me, he probably would do something else if I pushed hard enough, but I also cannot deny that whatever I may think of my place in all of this, God has clearly made him to be a pastor. I can't see him doing anything else -- and I love him. So after my occasional tantrums, I back off and let the peace restore itself.
There are worse things I could tell you about. I can tell you about my crisis of faith that started before we were married and lasted through the first long five years, where I couldn't deny God's existence, but found myself denying His love. I can tell you about Saturday night blasphemies that tore at my husband's heart, only to find him on Sunday preaching to me, communing me...because somehow, he saw the struggle that was still there within me. I can also recount to you about smiling through his ordination even though I'd just found out I had an ectopic pregnancy only a few hours earlier. Incidences of gossip, lies, judgments, assumptions, and so many other things that are sometimes the life of the pastor's family and his flock at times, because Satan does attack -- and they did serve to tear down my faith further and left me lashing out at no one in pain and anger, so Jeff bore the brunt of them. Memories that my sweet husband says he doesn't remember...but despite belief in God's forgiveness and his, are still all too lucid to me.
The Holy Spirit took the death of our son, Noah to restore my faith. Somehow, instead of seeing his stillbirth as further proof that God was unloving, I desperately clung to the hope that God loved my son and was caring for him when I couldn't. I needed the gospel. I heard it through a woman I had never met telling me online "May the peace that passes all understanding keep you in Christ Jesus." Despite hearing those exact words from my husband's mouth every week at the end of his sermon, I had never contemplated in my heart what they meant. And these words that came from her keyboard and his lips did indeed bring peace.
Despite many years, a stronger faith, and a more peaceful heart, I still find this a role that fits me about as well as a size four bikini and it leaves me feeling just as exposed. I often praise God that he has made me a Christian, for making me Jeff's wife, but never for sticking me in the role of pastor's wife.
But today I realized something that was mindblowing for me. It all of a sudden became clear that while my husband was talking about how we all can relate to Thomas, that I really have been Thomas, maybe worse than Thomas. I all of a sudden realized that God didn't make me a pastor's wife because I am somehow stronger, or at least supposed to be stronger; but exactly the opposite. He made me a pastor's wife because I am weak, terribly weak, and He put me here to protect me, to shelter me...from myself.
The bald reality is that if I hadn't been a pastor's wife, if my husband hadn't married me or had given into my pleas, threats, etc. to find something else to do with his life, I would not have been sitting in the pew through those painful years of agony and doubt. I would've used Sundays to sleep in and ignore the fact that God's Word even existed. I would've tried to prove that God was not loving by not being there to hear His love...probably not even to experience it through the incredible love that my husband showed through all of that. I would've proudly, scornfully walked away.
Even though I didn't want to be there hearing the gospel, I was. And when I needed to hear it, God had put me in a situation where at least I was duty-bound to be there - as terribly angry and resentful as I was. Otherwise, I'm scared to think of what I would be right now. God, in His infinite wisdom knew this and held on to me through even this aspect of my existence that I at best tolerate, and at worst -- disdain - and am constantly repenting.
I cannot even begin to describe the awe I feel at this.
So for the first time in my life, I say thank you, God. Thank you for making me a pastor's wife.