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I Should Know Better: On Faking It, Cynism, and Putting People on Pedestals

This is the story of the internal conflict between two different painful church experiences I’ve had. On the one hand, I remembered vividly how difficult it was to live out my flawed life in front of a group of people with high expectations of me. On the other, I had peeked behind the curtain so to speak, and knew first hand how flawed the people are who lead in church. I expected pastors and elders to be flawed and human because I had been married to one and knew too much of what goes on behind the scenes. But my expectations were a combination of bitter cynicism and bitter disappointment. See, I still want (and expect) leaders to be compassionate, humble, honest, and trustworthy. But because they are flawed, they always disappoint (just like I do). I am caught in a vicious cycle of hope, disappointment, and cynicism, and find it very difficult to respect authorities in general. I’m sharing this post on a friend’s blog as a reminder to me. I hope it encourages you, too.

 

My husband used to be what they call a “bivocational elder” – he helped lead a small church in addition to his full-time job and responsibilities at home. Because he co-led with three others, one of whom was the full-time pastor, I didn’t see myself as a pastor’s wife, nor did I expect to find myself on a pastor’s wife pedestal. But I did.

While it’s common knowledge how tough it is to be a pastor’s kid, no one talks about how tough it is to be a pastor’s wife. No-one told me that pastor’s wives are handed masks when they walk in the door.

masksAt the time, I was young, naive, and had much to learn (I am still one of those, you can guess which one). I make a lot of mistakes, I learn from them, and then I make more mistakes. I think most people live this way. Except as a sort-of pastor’s wife, I was very visible while making all those mistakes, and for some reason, I realized they expected me to be an exception to that rule. I decided that if they expected perfection, I would just have to fake it. The mask was part of the job, so I put it on.

At first, it was comforting. Masks are insidious like that. They promise armor for the soul. I could cloak my whirling doubts and fears, questions, weaknesses, immaturity, and pain at being misjudged behind a plastic smile. I just had to say “We’re fine; God is good; Our daughter is a miracle just the way she is” (our oldest had severe physical challenges and chronic health issues), appear at all the events, smile, and maintain proper submissive-wife posture. If I did all of that, no one should criticize.

But inside, behind the armor, I was shriveling up like a slug in salt. I wasn’t fine, God didn’t appear to be good because of all that had happened, and when our daughter (and therefore I as well) didn’t sleep through the night for months at a time, she didn’t seem nearly so miraculous. But admitting my struggles didn’t appear to be an option.

Read the rest on Rachel’s blog, where I’m guest-posting today.

Updated from my archives. Comments are off here, but I’d love to chat in the comments of Rachel’s blog.

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