Saturday, July 24, 2010

Is There Good Paranoia for a Pastor's Wife?

My last post, about negotiating relationships with church members, sparked some particularly interesting comments. Here are some highlights:

"We don't want to be completely paranoid, but we do have to remember that the congregation is full of sinners." (Susan)

"I learned as a pastor's kid that the people who were the nicest to us when we moved there were going to be the first ones to betray us later on. As a pastor's wife, I now live a life of distrust, fear, anxiety and paranoia. But then I ask, if everyone really IS out to get the pastor and his family, is it paranoia? The reality is, Satan is after the one who distributes God's means of grace--the pastor. His family is fair game too. Our problem is, how do we deal with this reality without going nuts?" (Kathrine)

"We've been here almost 7 months, and we haven't had anyone accuse us of anything we haven't done, spread lies to try and undermine [my husband's] authority in the church - heck, even try to be underhanded with each other! There are some really good churches out there - I'm praying you have found yours. I know finding ours has gone a long way in healing my kicked and beaten up heart." (MamaOnABudget)

Clearly, a lot of pw's find this tricky territory. I can relate to the paranoia Kathrine describes. That's precisely how I felt in the midst of the conflict at our last church. We had been so deeply hurt and the feeling that my husband was under constant threat put me on guard with everyone in the church. In retrospect, I can see that it was a very small group of people that had any grief with us. Let's say there were 500 people in the church -- 10 were angry with my husband, 100 were very supportive of him, and the other 400 had no idea what was going on in the church office.

Like Kathrine, I felt like those 10 people were "out to get" us. Now it doesn't seem quite that way. In fact, I believe now that they felt threatened by us. Somehow we posed a threat to something they considered essential about the church. They weren't out to get us; they were trying to protect themselves.

Susan is wise to point out that the church is full of sinners - including us and our husbands. I'm praying to be part of a church where we all freely acknowledge our sinfulness. That's one thing that was clearly absent in the leadership of our last church.

MamaOnABudget, how blessed I would be to live among a group of Christians who trust each other and their pastor! Perhaps we will. It has lately occurred to me that the goal of life is not to escape suffering. I want to escape it, and I will exert tremendous energy to avoid pain, but I am beginning to understand that when I cannot see past the misery God is still trustworthy.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Same PW, New Setting

We've spent the last few weeks packing and I've been tossing out cards and small gifts we received from people at our old congregation who have since stopped speaking to us. I am reminded of what our arrival was like - the families who most enthusiastically welcomed us, who were most concerned with our comfort and well-being. To a one, they are now absent.

Those cards and gifts were not for US, they were for the family they expected us to be. I did not betray them; they were betrayed by their own expectations. Because I do not express my Christian faith they way they think I *should* they choose not to maintain a relationship with me. That hurt deeply at first but now it warrants a shoulder shrug. Their loss.

It's a troubling pattern to consider as we prepare to greet a new congregation as our home and family. I am tempted to stand back and keep everyone at arm's length until I can get the lay of the land. What are your expectations? Do you want to know me, or do you want me to be someone you already think you know?

Some people say it's good to trust people until you have a reason not to. That may be wise; it is definitely risky. For me this is one of the biggest challenges of being married to the pastor.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Targeted Encouragement

I was at Target today and a lovely woman from our old church recognized me. She asked after my health, knowing I'd had surgery but not sure why. I gave her the brief update - I have cancer, surgery went well, the prognosis is good, I will have chemo. I don't like telling people I have cancer because it is always startling for the hearer. She was alarmed and concerned and kind.

Then I told her that we're moving soon because Husband took a call. This lady must be more than 80 years old and it was so fun to see her face light up as she bounced a little and clapped with joy. She told me how much she misses Husband, "and I'm not the only one!"

God sends the most unexpected spokespeople to encourage me.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Anxiety Fatigue

We're deep in the midst of moving activity and my anxiety is spreading like the toy cars and dinosaurs my kids leave on the floor. There are so many unresolved pieces and there is no way to settle them quickly. A big one is that I will need several months of chemotherapy and it needs to start right around the time we are moving. That should be settled this week after I meet with my new oncologist, but in the meantime it's keeping me agitated.

I'm not sure what to do about all this. Moving requires a lot of energy and is necessarily unsettling. Focusing on God's steadfastness gives me confidence that the floor is not falling out beneath me entirely. I am not in despair. Faith in Christ does not resolve every contingency of this life, though.

I've been thinking of the Israelites wandering the desert and relying on God's daily provision of manna. I've always heard that episode described in terms of the miracle of God's provision and how Israel learned to depend on God every day. A miracle it certainly was. I'd guess it was also frustrating and anxiety-inducing.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Why Me?

I'm having an upside-down "why me?" spiritual/existential dilemma.

Plenty of things are going differently than I'd like. I feel, in fact, like I've been living for quite a while in the field where the sewage line dumps. It smells nasty and walking anywhere is slow going. But this is also where the most gorgeous, rare flowers grow. They are phenomenal. Brilliant colors, delicate petals, some tall & stunning, others more demure. Why am I blessed to be among these lovely things?

Lots of people close to me seem overwhelmed by the number of things that have gone badly for us in the last couple of years. Some expect me to be bitter and angry. I understand what they mean and why they'd expect that. It's hard to explain all the amazing loveliness that has come with it -- the love, gifts, generosity, prayers -- from every corner of my life. Everyone goes through miserable stuff sometimes, but I'm not confident that everyone gets the kind or quantity of support I am now receiving. I sometimes feel guilty about it.