I’ve shared bits and pieces of our story, but never too much for fear that someone reading would see me on Sunday… but after seven years of diving full into ministry with my husband, some parts of me have grown thicker skin (well kind of).
I wasn’t all too keen on the idea of coming into ministry, especially since I still wasn’t sure how I felt about church after some deep church hurt only a few years before. And no, not the kind that results in difference of doctrine or someone said something I didn’t like…much deeper than that. So when my husband had a dream, and then knew that God was calling him back to where the source of my pain was, I questioned him and most definitely God. If God cares so much, then why? If God wants me to still like church, then what the hell is this? To be quite frank, it was extremely tough for me. Torn between what God was speaking to Mike and the anxieties that I knew would come with being a part of ministry once again had me in a roller coaster of emotions…not to mention I was very pregnant.
In trying to process, adjust, fit in, find my way (yes all of those things and in many moments simultaneously) in hindsight I missed so much. Ministry is a very interesting teaching tool that can reveal far more than it may intend to. For me when I was first introduced into ministry it was through the lens of trying to serve and stay connected to the idea of something “whole.” Being a 13/14 year old girl I was enamored with the idea of pastors and men who shepherd others to help them. And later found the harsh reality that some didn’t really have a healthy relationship with the church they served or admittedly with God. Not having reconciled those vast differences caused tensions and barriers that made our first year in ministry HARD.
I’m so thankful that I can look at where I was and see significant growth, and in that hope to write these words so that the pastor’s wife who may read this will be able to feel a sense of it’s not just me. Because let me tell you…it’s not just you.
I knew I was different, and I didn’t like it.
The week prior to us being announced at our church, I had shaved my hair off. Between post partum hair loss and dealing with PPD, my hair was the first to go. Already feeling insecure, I knew that we were the only minorities on staff and most certainly the youngest. Being different didn’t feel empowering, in fact I wanted to fit in. I stressed about the fact that I worked full-time outside of my home, that in events with other churches I was the only brown woman with natural hair, and that I didn’t see my role as simply sitting next to my spouse with my mouth shut. So my first year I suppressed a lot of myself. Not to mention in the moments I addressed or spoke up it wasn’t received how I had expected it to be, and that was even harder to process than anything.
I worried…about everything AND everyone.
Newsflash, everyone talks. But I was completely consumed by the fact that people talked about us. Good, bad, indifferent it bothered me to my core. I was worried that a staff person commented on how easily my husband got sick and missed too many things (mind you all parents with small children stay sickly, it’s like a rite of passage or something). Mind you he worked excessively our first year trying to prove himself, I barely saw him. Or worried that our senior staff didn’t think we met the standard of working hard enough (did I mention he worked all.the.time), drawing in more numbers of kids, whatever it was. I was worried that I didn’t show my face enough, showed it too much, and everything in between. I worried so so much that I got sick many times, fought with Mike over things that weren’t worth it, and allowed myself to not enjoy the journey.
I was desperate for friendship.
I wanted to connect with anyone and everyone that was a woman in ministry. Were my intentions poor, not necessarily, but they were really misguided. I tried to befriend women that really had no intention of befriending me, and I couldn’t see the signs. I felt I was missing out as I saw women hug, laugh, and have the appearance of deep relationships when I went to women’s events. Because I was already uncomfortable in my own skin in this new role, I wanted a woman in ministry a “friend” to validate that for me. Not only was it unhealthy, but it leads to my fourth mistake.
I overshared our story.
Well, I overshared the negative parts of our story. I was a straight up Negative Nancy our first year of ministry. Was some of my negativity fair, ABSOLUTELY…but it overshadowed the good that was taking place in the midst of the crap. I told anyone that would listen how we didn’t have this, we were mislead with that, and how it wasn’t working out how I thought. My expectations of conflicts being resolved and us all adhering to Biblical standards (while blasting my thug life playlist on the way to my day job) were not matching reality and I word vomited on a slew of people. Did our story need to be shared? Yes, but in my lack of maturity and wisdom it wasn’t the time or place for much of my sharing.
I blamed my husband…a lot.
This one I’ve had to come back to over the years. As I first wrote these words down I noted that God gave Mike a dream about him entering to ministry. Can I be honest, I clung heavily onto that. The fact that God told him to and not us. So everything that sucked or went wrong I reminded God and my husband that this was because of him. It sparked lots of yelling matches between us, extremely hurtful words that I wish I didn’t say, and serious bitterness that almost cost us our marriage a few times. I blamed Mike and didn’t acknowledge that we both had agreed to this pursuit. I knew far more than him what it would cost us, and I knew I needed to not leave him behind…but I did. Behind closed doors I shutdown and hid when things got really tough. I didn’t listen when Mike wanted to vent and I wasn’t a safe place when he needed it most.
We survived though, and more than survived we’ve thrived… it’s been a long road. Especially in this season, I’ve begun to thrive. I stopped many things by year four/five of ministry. Realizing that it wasn’t beneficial to keep oversharing, or trying to be someone I wasn’t, and even this talking to the other pastor’s wives that had no intention of really being genuine was not getting me ANYWHERE…well not the places that I wanted to be.
Doesn’t mean that some areas don’t sting such as wanting to “fit in” or have genuine pastor’s wife friends, but I’ve found my stride in who God wants me to be. Most importantly I stopped sacrificing my marriage for what was expected of us in ministry (this is a whole other post). I don’t always get it right. Yet I hope you’re encouraged in whatever season you are, you’re not alone.