Belonging

I’ve mentioned before that I’m a youth pastor’s wife.  Today I just want to write a little bit about our church and what that’s like for me.

We belong to an awesome church.  And I say “we belong to” instead of “we are members of” this church because they make me feel like we belong.  I know that sometimes people in ministry feel like they lead a community but aren’t really IN it.  One of the best things about our church is that they let us be in it with them.

And that means they let us be human.  And imperfect.  And a bad dresser sometimes.  (And thank goodness for the latter, because I don’t think that fashion is my spiritual gift and sometimes the best I can look is “not a total embarrassment.”  You feel me?)

I do think about my role and how my speech, my actions, my appearance, and my involvement reflect on me and especially on my husband.  But that’s because a) I don’t ever want to be a deterrent to my husband’s ministry, and b) because I should care about those things anyway.

It’s NOT because people in our church make me feel like I have to “prove” something or meet a certain standard or fit into a mold.

And that’s a gift.

I never wanted to be married to anyone in ministry.  To me, being a ministry wife was asking for attention, a pedestal, and a life of sacrifice, and I’m introverted, not that great, and like financial security.  But I loved David and unfortunately after we had been dating for over a year, he began to feel called to ministry.  It was a real inconvenience.

A few months later, I decided to try chaperoning a youth retreat with him.  I had some great conversations with the girls in my cabin and I was just beginning to think “this whole youth ministry thing might not be so bad” when I watched the youth director’s wife breastfeed her baby around the kids and then jump off a zipline.  And I almost broke up with David because I just could not see myself doing stuff like that.

But he kept telling me “you can write your own job description. And that could read ‘I HAVE MY OWN LIFE.’  I won’t take a job at a church that has expectations for you.  It’s my job, not yours.”

When David first took this job, I spent his whole first year being unhelpful at church.  I didn’t get volunteer in any official capacity because I didn’t want to set a precedent that this was a “2 for 1” deal or that I would “always” volunteer.  I wanted to give him space to create a program and get his bearings without my ideas or criticism or influence, where he had freedom to make mistakes and choose to tell me about them or not.  And he wanted me to set a precedent that I had my own life and interests (graduate school was very consuming, so I appreciated this!) That first year, I hosted things at our house, joined a women’s Bible study, and was a youth trip driver once or twice, and that was about it.

A year or later, I decided to stop being a mooch.  I started helping slowly and through trial and error have found and keep finding the fits that work best for me and my personality and gifts (my most recent possible fit: I’m now a member of the new hospitality committee, AKA the “improving the coffee” committee.  There may be other goals, but that’s my agenda and I intend to push it through work democratically in our committee to achieve our shared vision.)

After that time, I feel like I have a little bit of an understanding of my place in our church and my ministry:

I work with some of the high school girls in one on one and small group relationships.  I open my home to youth who need a place to hang out, an event, a meal, whatever.  I tutor a guy who came through our youth program and is now in college.  I sometimes lead youth trips and I always meet youth for coffee or fro-yo when they have things to talk about and need someone to listen.  I’m part of a healthy marriage relationship that the youth pay attention to.  I talk to the youth group moms when they need a listening ear or insight into teenagers.  I eat twice and sometimes thrice-weekly dinners alone and spend long weeks alone so that other people’s kids can hear about Jesus.  I get my husband out the door on Sundays and have nice meals waiting for him at the end of long workdays and I give him feedback on sermons before he gives them to the congregation.  And apart from the youth/spouse stuff, I mother my child and participate in a women’s Bible study and try to be vulnerable with my story, my issues, and my heart so that others feel freedom to do the same.  And now the coffee.  

And through this process, I’ve found that my heart is pulled towards my husband’s ministry after all.  I’ve realized that it’s a privilege that youth want to hang out with us and that we can create some of their most cherished memories and be with them during some of the moments that determine their future direction and character.  Plus they’re fun.

Anyway, on Sunday I was standing in worship surrounded by the people that I love.  I saw moms holding babies, teenagers who are doing their best to offer their tender forming hearts to God, an older brother drumming on his younger brother’s head, families who had hired me to babysit their children when I needed income, college students who have babysat MY child, men holding their coffee and singing loud, and a woman from the housing project we work with clapping and swaying to the music next to a woman who doesn’t live there and I just thought: THIS IS THE KINGDOM OF GOD.

And I belong.  And I don’t have to wear a fancy dress or stop drinking wine or know everyone’s name or play the piano or do anything but be myself.  I’m no different than anyone else…I’m accepted as I am.  Like He accepts us.

And I’m so grateful.

(Also, challenged.  I’m so blessed to feel like I belong.  Do I make others feel that way too? Something to check in with myself about from time to time.)

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