While we were there, I found a few strategies to help me cope with the situation. Mostly I wanted to never go to or think about that church, but I felt that I had a few obligations as the pastor's wife:
- Attend worship most weeks.
- Bring my children to Sunday school. (This one had more to do with stability for my children than obligations to the church.)
- Speak kindly always. Speak of church politics as little as possible.
Coping Strategy #1: Worship Elsewhere. I went to our church on Sunday mornings because I believe it can be confusing and discouraging for the congregation if the pastor's wife never attends. I barely considered it "worship" in the true sense. I didn't hear the senior pastor's sermons as messages from God but as reminders of his duplicity. Every hymn and prayer was clouded by my stress and anxiety.
I visited other churches as I was able, usually on a weeknight. It was such a relief to sit in the pew and feel like I had some privacy with God. Even in a happy church I feel self-conscious about being the woman everyone can identify.
Eventually I built a relationship with a nearby church (I'll call it "Bridge Church") where I attended a weekday Bible study and made a few friends. During the months after my husband had left our last church and before he took the call to our current church, we attended Bridge Church. In retrospect, I would say that was an important part of my re-learning how to feel safe at church. I think most of our friends at Bridge Church knew something had gone terribly wrong for us. I never felt judged, no one ever pried into details. We were welcomed, hugged, made to feel loved and valued.
The pastor at Bridge Church advised me to "do nothing." He told me we needed time to heal and to receive love and care with no obligations. He was right about that and it was a precious gift.