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