Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Right Place and the Right Time

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.

--Psalm 139.

25 comments:

Ewe said...

Thank you. I needed to "hear" this post today. This is the month of voter's meetings and with a tri-parish there are 3.

Ethan, Zach, and Emma's Mom said...

That is something EVERY Pastor's wife needs to hear. I thank you, too. Wonderful, wonderful post!

Red said...

That was beautiful and it must have been one heck of a sermon. Was it recorded and will it be available online?

Gee, I thought our sermon this a.m. was great - made me think - but your husband's sounded like it was even better.

Though, I don't TRULY know how you feel, I can empathize. It cannot be easy, even if you were the perfect woman. I had a little tear in my eye even (and i'm hard-hearted) by the end of your post.

The Rebellious Pastor's Wife said...

Red,

I'll have to check if it will be posted, but I don't think they are currently posting the service (we were posting the whole service). But I can get a copy of it and email it to you, if you'd like. What I wrote about was only a small part of the sermon.

CAS said...

Can you post it here, perchance? I would love to read that sermon as well! :)

As for the struggles of being a pastor's wife, I think I am about to embark on that journey myself, as it looks more and more like Tim will be off of CRM soon. Believe it or not, I might be asking you for advice about how to handle it soon enough!

The Rebellious Pastor's Wife said...

I can't post the sermon in print...my husband doesn't write them down. I will try to figure out a way to get it posted.

Kim?

Scott Diekmann said...

If you weren't a Pastor's wife Lora, none of us would be reading your blog, and we'd all be the worse for it. God bless.

AmusedMomma said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
DogMom said...

"I can't post the sermon in print...my husband doesn't write them down. I will try to figure out a way to get it posted.

Kim?"

::snickering::

As soon as I saw the requests for post, I thought, "hmm...I bet that I'm gonna get asked to help with that one..."
Sure nuff...

I'll check with Troy and poke around online and see if the new Sermon Uploader is up and working. If not, hopefully we can make the old one behave long enough to get at least the SERMON part of the service online.

DogMom said...

And...thanks for posting this. I was thinking about the people that just "give up" because I know how that feels to rely on Christ's promises, and Ask, Seek, Knock persistently only to seemingly hear nothing in return - or worse yet, hear "you know that "something better" that you're told you get - well guess what, it's really SOMETHING WORSE."

And that I totally understand why they leave, because...maybe God's love is abstract. "God loved the world", okay, that's wonderful and includes me, but that was a BIG SAVE. I've accepted Christ is my Savior, but obviously God isn't interested in loving me Day-to-day, so why bother coming back to church? It's filled with people he obviously DOES love day-to-day, and cares for them, he probably just doesn't have time for me.

When maybe...just maybe...it's not that at all. Maybe the SOMETHING WORSE really is something better after all. I don't know how, or why. But maybe it is.

Elaine said...

Dear RPW--You don't know me--I am friend of Cheryl of A Round Unvarnish'd Tale--but I just wanted to tell you how simply beautiful, moving and profound this post is. God bless and keep you! Elaine

Deedle said...

Thanks RPW! Great post! I'm sure I'll need to read it again in the years to come after the Call Service tomorrow night. :-)

I, too, would like to hear the sermon. :-)

Heidi

The Rebellious Pastor's Wife said...

Deedle,

We'll be there tomorrow night to see!! Praying for you. I can probably just bring you a CD then and you can listen when everything calms down :-)

Susieqtpie said...

Your post was very heart wrenching! I felt as though you were talking about me. You slammed down the law and lifted me back up with the gospel. You could only do this because of your experience and Our Heavenly Father who has guided you and shelter you. I too am afraid of what I would have been without my pastor husband! Thanks be to God we are not in control! Thanks be to God that He sent His Son to die for our sins. Christ Has Risen!

Red said...

If you can get it into mp3 form, sure, email it to me :) My email is on my profile.

The Rebellious Pastor's Wife said...

yeah, converting it is no problem

Kim, if you have other things to do, and I am SURE you do, I can figure out something.

Joy said...

I just told my husband Saturday night, "I shouldn't dread going to church, but I really do." It's hard with the kids. It's hard with the parishioners. News flash, folks: Leaving the sanctuary to nurse the baby would mean packing up all the kids, because my helpmeet is in the pulpit (in case you didn't notice because you were too busy turned around trying to see my breast).

[*sigh* shake it off, shake it off...]

Like you (until recently), I've thanked God for many things, but never for being a pastor's wife. Maybe I'll get there someday. :-)

Thomas is too often demonized. He only wanted the same proof that had been granted all the others.

Gina said...

Wow. That so made me tear up! I need to pass this on! Thank you for your honesty! :) I just totally fell in love with you! ;)(Not in a nasty way of course!)I have been a wife and youth pastor's wife for almost 5 years now. Two of which were the worst of my life because I was going through counseling for childhood sexual abuse....we also had three babies, bought a house, are remodeling the house, lost my step-dad, etc etc etc. My husband has been the greatest gift God has given me (except salvation!) and he has been wonderful. But people are HARD and teen girls can be MEAN! lol. I really appreciate your article! Thanks again! God bless!

Becca said...

Thank you for your post and for your web site. I am a new pastor's wife (I enjoyed the seminary years but we are now on his first church as of last November). After moving across the country with our two kids, dog, and cat - I have been in need of a little support for this bizarre role of pastors wife! I googled pastor's wife and found your site - it was exactly what I needed to hear! Thank you so much. Blessings!

A Weak Missionary Wife said...

As an MK/PK, I told God "Never will I become and missionary, and never will I marry a Pastor." Now here I am my husband and four kids and I'm both. I tell people that it's God's irony and exactly the way He works. Who does He always use in the Bible for his work? The losers and the ones that make the most mistakes. Why? So that HE gets the glory. That is my only consolation. I continually fight my rebellious attitude and weak nature, continually feel his forgiveness, and thank Him for somehow using me despite who I am. That's when His power is greatest, when he uses broken and terrible tools. It's HIS Work.
-WMW

The Rebellious Pastor's Wife said...

Amen. I completely hear you!

I've had my long list of nevers, including I would never be a pastor's wife. I told my husband "I'll follow you to the jungles of Africa, but I will never live in L.A." (1st call, Pasadena, CA)

Cheryl said...

Thanks for sharing this very personal story, Rebellious. I can relate to it. I have often wondered not only whether I would be Lutheran (I doubt I would) but whether I would be in church at all (maybe/maybe not) if I weren't married to a church worker (in my case not a pastor, but a cantor). I'd like to think I would, but I can't say for sure. It might be that I would still be Catholic and going to church because I "had" to. At any rate, I think you speak for more people than you know, and your story wonderfully illustrates that cliche--a quite accurate one--that "God works in mysterious ways."

P.S. to Elaine--RPW has been to visit me a few times . . . I will have to let you know when she's in the neighborhood again so you can meet her in person!

Melody said...

Wow, this is a great post. I look forward to reading more of your stuff. I'm a pastor's wife as well and don't feel like I fit the mold either but there's great freedom in just being yourself while learning. Thanks for your authenticity!

Red Bridges Home said...

I am behind on reading my subscriptions and just now saw this post. This is awesome. Thank you so much for having the courage, and authenticity to write this. Beautifully written - and like you, the thought that Thomas stayed through the doubts, hurts, and fears had never occurred to me. That is something to really ponder.

Blessings,
Deana

livingunderchrist said...

Thank YOU! I can so relate. Just had my crisis of belief. Now hearing the preaching. I know someone out there understands.