Earlier this week Mark Driscoll wrote a post on his blog called Loving the Pastor's Wife. It bothered me. There. I said it. Usually when I'm reading a blog and it bothers me I move along. I haven't been able to move along with this one. Maybe it's because the topic is an important one to me. We all have "our things," right? Judging by how Driscoll's post kept me awake last night, I'd say this must be one of "my things."
I subscribe to Mark Driscoll's blog. There is no hidden angst here against Mark Driscoll. No one has to defend him. This isn't a personal attack. All you Driscoll fans can put down your fists. All you Driscoll haters can be warned...I won't side with you if you turn this into a Driscoll bash.
Side note: I just had an imaginary argument with Mark Driscoll. In my fake argument I started crying after he said nine words to me. For the record, I would never want to get into an argument with Mark Driscoll. I experienced intestinal trauma, started sweating profusely, and got all red and blotchy from simply imagining a nine-word, terse exchange with Driscoll.
So that's not what this post is about. Although I was a staff wife for 13 years at a good sized church, I wasn't a pastor's wife at a mind-blowing mega church. So maybe I'm trying to foolishly shove Driscoll's thoughts through my own personal paradigm. My own life's filter. I'll be the first to admit that doing something like that is always dangerous. Maybe I'd agree with Driscoll completely if I was a staff wife at a mega church. Or...on the other hand...maybe his post is being read by lots of people just like me whose husbands serve smaller churches than Mars Hill. I don't know.
Either way the post bothered me because I'm probably extra sensitive to the idea that some people in the body of Christ should be treated differently than everyone else. Maybe I'm hyper sensitive to this because I was a staff wife for 13 years. Maybe this sensitivity comes from now being called a "missionary." Staff wife. Missionary. Two "labels" that may cause other people to try and make me into something I'm not. Two labels that may cause myself to allow other people to make me into something I'm not.
You can read the article for yourself. It was tweeted 417 times, so chances are you already did read it.
Did I mention that I liked some of it? I did. However, I think one of Driscoll's main points of this post is to point out that a pastor's wife should be a Christian church member like everyone else. Those are his exact words, actually. Those words were so important they appear in the article in red, big fancy print. Then his post seems to give a whole lot of ways to treat the pastor's wife that make her exactly nothing like everyone else.
Being on staff at a church for 13 years I made lots of friends with other staff wives. A common complaint? "I'm lonely. No one wants to be my friend. I feel so alone. Everyone sees me as the pastor's wife before they see me as a person. People seem to have an agenda for getting to know me, or they don't even consider me human enough to try to get to know me."
That's the crux of my "issue" here. So please don't make my issues about things I don't have issues about. I know staff wives (I can't speak for pastor's wives....my husband was not a pastor) face lots of complex issues being the wife of someone who is leading a church. I totally get that. But it grieves me when I hear staff wives say they are hurting...have no friends...and feel alone. They don't feel like regular people. I was that person once. I did a lot of things poorly as a staff wife. I'm not claiming to know all the answers. I just know that I felt alone in a giant church for years, and I know women who feel that way right now.
I just want to throw this idea out there...
If you're following Driscoll's advice, maybe that sign in the parking lot that says, "Reserved for the Pastor's Wife" is one of the reasons why people don't see you as a regular person. Just sayin'.
I'm no expert. 13 years as a staff wife sounds like a long time, and at the same time a short time. People in a church can be demanding, needy, and often times rude jerks. They can expect too much. They can treat you like you don't exist. Somewhere along the line I learned a valuable lesson. How people see me is my own responsibility. The moment I quit allowing the people in my church to make me into something I was not...ah...freedom. I felt free. I tried to blame people in the church for putting stress on me to be something I didn't want to be but the truth was...at least part of the truth was...I allowed people to make me feel that way. I was insecure. I was immature. Part of the problem was me. Oh wait. A big part of the problem was me.
It's a hard, constant, fight to be a normal person. I think working hard to be yourself and to live the life you and your husband desire for your family is a fight worth fighting. I found that refusing to allow people to shape me...to simply be myself...be honest...and allow God to do the shaping was a place of sweet content and joy.
And guess what? I had friends. Good ones. Close ones. Crazy, crazy close ones.
This part is free...
Want a fool proof way to make sure that the single moms in your congregation or women with dead-beat husbands automatically dislike you?
Call yourself a single mom on Sundays like Driscoll suggests in his article. Any time a woman married to a godly, awesome husband and father calls herself a single mom it is incredibly offensive to a real-life single mom. For years and years and years I had to get one...two....three....four little boys ready for church by myself. There were times I resented it. Not because I should have. My husband was a great father and helped me tremendously Monday-Saturday. If he wasn't doing those things, he should not have had his butt up on that church stage. ONE day. One day of doing it on my own? One morning? I resented it some times, but mostly because I was immature and needed to grow up. This was not a church issues. No one needed to write a blog post or read one about how to help fix my problem. What I needed was for God to sit in my soul and remind me of how blessed I was.
What if getting your kids ready by yourself in the morning is a beautiful, gracious gift God has given pastor's wives and staff wives to identify with some of the most hurting people in their congregation? Single moms and married women whose husbands will have no part of church. What if God has given you the sweetest gift to be able to hurt for those women? What if getting your kids ready for church by yourself means you can walk up to a single mom in your church, hold her close and tell her that you only get your kids ready for church one morning a week by yourself and it about does you in. Tell her there are mornings you show up to church sweaty, mad, and wanting a divorce. Tell her there are mornings when you're a mean jerk to your kids because you slept too late on Sunday and were rushing around. Tell her how much you grieve for her that she has to do your Sunday every single day of her life. Tell her how much you love her. How proud you are of her. How much you admire her. And then if your husband doesn't sit next to you during the service, invite that woman to sit next to you.
There are many issues surrounding being a staff wife. My heart breaks for this one issue. How can a pastor's wife be a real person when the whole world is bent on making her a non-person? How can she stay human when it seems like the odds are against her?
It's a constant struggle. Finding our identity in Christ. Being honest about our failures. Being quick to share the ways we fail. Quick to repent. Being a regular ol' Christ follower who happens to be married to the man who is leading the church is a beautiful gift worth fighting for if you ask me.
Before we moved to Haiti I had a lot of time to think about saying good-bye to our lives as staff members at a church. I wrote my thoughts out before we left the United States. I'm going to repost them here today.
Moving to Haiti marks the end of a huge chapter of our lives. For 13 years we've been involved, in one way or another in leadership at a church. As with everything else, I've spent time this summer thinking over so many things...saying good-bye to church ministry is one of them.
I was thinking the other day about how different my life would have been over the past several years if something drastic had not happened a few years ago.
Ya see, a few years ago Aaron and I were both on staff at a very large church. That church started two new churches and when it did we went with one of the new churches. Aaron has been leading worship for New Life up until he left for Haiti.
While on staff at that larger church I had bought into this super weird lie (probably no one's fault but my own...not wanting to blame anyone, just saying this stupidity on my part happened while we were at the larger church). The reason may have been that I was young and immature. Who knows.
The lie went something like this:
You are in leadership, so that makes you very different. You can't really let people know you or be honest about your failures. Oh you can be honest about failures publicly, but only AFTER you are no longer dealing with those problems any longer or if those failures make you really seem super holy in some weird passive-aggressive way. If you have "victory" in an area of struggle...share that, but if not then keep your problems to yourself or only share them with other staff members.
I'm not exactly sure where that came from or more importantly why I believed it, but my word...how dumb. Maybe I am the only person who has ever dealt with this. Who knows. I will be the first to admit I can fall into "dysfunction" faster than most people.
No matter where it came from, that train of thought led to lots of unhealthy ways of thinking and behaviors. It led me to believe that I could not have any close friends, because that didn't look good. It might make others in the church jealous. It made me think I was not a real person. It made me want to take breaks from the people at church because they were a job to me instead of dear friends. It made me want to go on vacation from the people in our church body because I wanted to get away from our job...our vocation. The church was a career, not my family. No one knew the real me. I thought I had to seek out close friendships among other staff wives or among minister's wives from other churches.
I'm seriously rolling my eyes just remembering this craziness.
Thankfully, through a series of fortunate events, God began to heal me and reteach me. Total freedom ensued.
I was struck by the Jesus of the Bible...the Jesus that was so loved by his closest disciples that they were willing to die horrible deaths to defend what they had seen and learned from Him. Jesus redefined family. He said anyone who does the will of His father was like his mother...his sister...his brother. His disciples loved him...as a person...a friend...not as a public figure. They saw him weep. They saw Him get angry. They loved being with Him. They did not live in fear of Jesus. They were themselves with Jesus, almost to the point of embarrassment.
Slowly I began to ache for real, genuine relationships where I could be myself. Where people could see how I was struggling...present tense struggling, not past tense struggled.
People in the church became my family. We grew in close relationships with others. Instead of wanting to hide away on our "day off" or turn our phones off, when people from church called, we answered because those people weren't people anymore. They were our friends. We didn't want time away from them. We went on vacations together. We hung out constantly. Yes, we still reached out and met new people...and I pray we were just as genuine with them as anyone else. But most importantly we no longer felt guilty about having close friends who knew us, loved us..all of us...the good, the bad and the downright shameful and embarrassing parts of us.
When I'd catch wind that people were jealous of a relationship I had with someone else, it didn't even bother me anymore. It still doesn't. I refused to allow anyone to put me in that yucky, prideful place I had allowed myself to be in years earlier. That place was gross and unhealthy. It was also unhealthy for everyone else around me. No one and no snide remark was going to push me back into that nasty spot where I thought I had to be...the girl with the frozen smile, waving, being friendly, knowing no one and no one really knowing me.
If your pastor's wife has a close friend, please don't be upset that she does. If your worship leader's wife has a bff, good for her. They are people too. Just like you. They aren't any cooler than anyone else. I promise.
They are just as needy, just as sinful, just as human as every other woman in your church. A pastor's wife or a worship leader's wife or an elder's wife or any other staff wife isn't a female Jesus. She's a person. She's human. She can't invest in every single person that passes through the church foyer. It's impossible. It's silly for her to think she can and it's just as silly for people to expect her to do that.
If your pastor's wife looks like she's sitting on a parade float, for the love...grab her, sit her down and tell her you're going to be her friend. Kidnap her and don't let her go until you convince her that there's nothing really special about her. Nothing that makes her have to live her life far away from the love of people and close friends. No title is worth that.
I hope you know me well enough to know that I'm not advocating for cliques or holy huddles. Jesus despised exclusive groups that practiced favoritism. However, I do think staff wives can go too far and be so afraid of cliques that they have no true friends...no real connections with others. They can be alone in a giant sea of people. Leadership becomes synonymous with isolation. Somehow Jesus pulled off leadership and still had close community.
All that to say....
We've learned in over 13 years of ministry and 14 years of marriage that relationships are most important. Although it hurts desperately, I am most thankful for the way God has literally woven our souls together with so many precious people in our lives. We feel the sting as we're saying good-bye, but only because we've already invested deeply into these relationships. A few years ago, we could have left this town and people would have been a little sad...but all they would be grieving would be the loss of our position. Not the loss of us as people. People they know. People they love. People who have known and loved them. Praise God for His rich mercy for teaching us how to love and how to be loved. Real. Honest. Genuine. Love.
If the Lord ever puts us back into church ministry, I will never ever go back to being the lady on the float. No way. People want to be her, but people don't love her and from way up there on that decorated float, it's awfully hard for her to love other people.