Every now and then I have women ask me if I still blog. It's at those moments when I wish I could say "Yep, sure do", but am left admitting that while my book reviews are still regular, my personal reflections have been few. In fact, I just looked and it has been an entire year since my last non-book related post! I feel like this is something God has called me to do, so why the absence? Two reasons come to mind. The first is one you might expect:
Yes, these boys keep me busy. Trying to juggle sports schedules, homework, music lessons, and their social lives make my head spin. Add to that substitute teaching during the school year and my times of peace and quiet are dwindling. BUT I can't just use this as an excuse. God does provide me with pockets of time that I could use to write if I chose to.
Now for the confession: This past year as a Pastor's Wife has been a struggle. Much of that has not been something that I felt I could or would want to put in print. In my mind a Pastor's Wife should be positive and encouraging, and quite honestly my pessimism has been getting the better of me. I strive to be authentic, so when I don't have something positive to say, sometimes it's best to just keep my lips (or in this case, my fingers) silent. This past month I have again felt a stirring to write because God has been starting to reveal to me some wisdom that has been forged in the fire. But I'm getting ahead of myself...let me first define the struggle.
When most people first start attending church, it's exciting (or at least it should be - why else would you want to return?) There are new people to meet, ministries to explore, things to learn. You anticipate each weekend wondering what will happen next. Will the band play that song you love? In what creative way will the pastor teach the lesson? What new opportunities will there be to connect with others, to serve, or to grow spiritually?
Then you get in a little deeper. Maybe you start to volunteer in a few ministries. You commit your time, talent, and treasure to the cause. At this level, you get a better understanding of how the church ministries function and learn that those leaders you put up on a pedestal are really just human, just like you. You make the choice to "get in the game" and feel good about the role you are playing in the church body. Sometimes you can commit too much and get burnt out, but you always have the option to step back a little if needed.
And then can come the next level of church staff. There is no doubt that my husband has been gifted for and called to his position. He LOVES what he does and never complains. I, on the other hand, am taking longer to adapt. Being a pastor is a 24-hour a day job. It may be flexible as far as when he is physically "in the office", but with technology like computers and cell phones, he is always on call. There is always work to be done. So how do I protect the time we need as a family, without selfishly taking him away from his ministry? It's a delicate balance. I struggle with resentment towards the job, which is then followed by guilt for feeling that way. When I hear about a new initiative at church, my first thought typically goes to how much time it's going to require of my husband....time that will be taken away from our family. And then I think of the needs of others, and again feel selfish and guilty. I love the people - they are like family. I want my husband and I to be a blessing to them. I want others to see Christ in us. How can we ever find balance? What do I do with all these conflicting feelings? The church is now a workplace, and it's becoming harder for me to see beyond the programming and the tasks ahead and allow myself to just be and experience. The struggle is real.
Now that you've seen a glimpse of this tension, let me share with you that God has been teaching me some things through this. He's been asking me some tough questions about why I go to church. Do I go because of what I get out of it, or for what I can give? Do I go because of a feeling that I get, or because of a commitment I've made? Do we serve because it is convenient, or because Jesus asked us to?
I think that many times when people lose their feelings of excitement and anticipation about church, we assume the answer must be to switch churches. Surely there is another church that will "feed" us better, or offer better programs, or contain less hypocrites, or would have more staff to share the workload. We let our feelings dictate our decisions. But would it really be different anywhere else in the long run?
My big revelation came when God showed me this parallel between church commitment and marriages. When you first get married, it's new and exciting. Then the deeper you get, your eyes are opened to new realities. Feelings may come and go. The problem we are seeing is that many couples are now letting their feelings determine their level of commitment instead of the other way around! Their problems are not solved by switching spouses. If you want the blessing of a long-lasting marriage, feelings cannot be given the reigns. The same is true of churches. I believe there is a real blessing in store for those who remain a part of a church body through ups and downs - one that can only be realized after years of commitment.
I may not feel as I used to, and that's ok because feelings change. What doesn't change is God's truth and His purpose for our lives. I may feel inadequate and unprepared for this role, but in time I believe there will be a great blessing after having stayed the course. Even now, I feel a great connection and pride being able to say we've been at our church since opening day. The memories we've made and the people we've met have been priceless. I enjoy watching my husband thrive as he is doing what makes his spirit come alive. I am thankful that he gets to bless so many people with his gifts. ( I just wish I could clone him!) As our family struggles to find balance, I ask for your grace and prayers. I may not be the woman overflowing with optimism, but I am willing to be real. I know I can come to Jesus, and hopefully to you, just as I am.
Are you in a place in your marriage or your church where your feelings aren't in line with where you want them to be? Unless there is abuse or non-biblical teaching, I encourage you to also stick it out. Continue to love and serve right where you are, believing that God has a blessing in store for those who are faithful.