On the morning that I decided it was time to play the role of Pastor’s Wife, there was a torrential downpour. Flooding everywhere, rain pouring down in droves. We arrived late because I couldn’t see more than a foot in front of me while driving. We parked far away and at a mega-church, that means FAR away. Being late: strike one. I don’t have a raincoat or umbrella because it’s not the kind of thing I think of bringing. Ever. I take my 4 year olds hand and carry my 2 year old and we make a sprint (well, as fast as a 4 yr old can run) for the church doors. We get in and I just stop and stand there. People walk through the doors, lower their umbrellas and shake the water off their raincoats while offering me a smile. I take the girls to the bathroom where my 4 yr old starts crying because her tights are wet. I panic slightly knowing that this daughter of mine would rather be naked than have something – even water- on her clothes. No umbrella: Strike two. I put her under the hand dryer and tell her some story about Noah’s ark and convince her that it’s fun to be wet. I turn to look at my 2 year old who is saying over and over “ooh, oooh!” I look to where she is pointing and notice that she is missing her shoe. It had fallen off in our desperate sprint from the car to the church doors. I stare blankly at her wet shoeless tights.
A sweet older lady hands me a stack of paper towels and says “I’ve been there.” I take the towels, not even sure what to do with them until I look up and see my reflection in the mirror. My hair is soaked. It could not have been more wet if I jumped into a swimming pool at that moment. Black lines of mascara are weaving their way down my face making me look like a hung-over addict. Not quite the Pastors Wife image I was going for. I contemplate leaving but then get a text from Paul asking where I am.
I drop Mia off at her classroom. Summer screams from the moment she sees the nursery window. As I pry her fingers from my neck and hand her over, I apologize. I don’t even know what I’m apologizing for. That Summer’s crying has set off a chain reaction and now all 15 babies are joining her in unison? For dropping her off with only one shoe? For my own appearance? I don’t know so I just leave it at “Sorry” and walk away.
I walk into the room where I will be serving in the disability ministry. The Pastor’s Wife has arrived. I am acutely aware that I am the only one with wet hair and clothes and I think, how am I the only one in this mega-church that forgot their umbrella? Again, I apologize. For being late? For looking like a rat? For not being here for 6 months? For coming at all? I am directed to hang my dripping wet coat in the closet and I briefly contemplate stuffing my whole pregnant body in there and locking the door from the inside. Looking like an addict: Strike three.
But then something happens.
The children come – all of them with special needs of some kind. Parents say “thank you” profusely, as they drop off their child in the hands of trained volunteers. Kids run into the room and to their favorite spots – the reading corner, the ball pit, the therapy swing. We read together. We take turns on the sensory items. We sit around a table to learn a Bible story. We sing. And when the parents pick them up, they are so grateful for a ministry where their kids are loved and taught in the way they learn best. “Profoundly Holy.” That’s what one mom says. “I was watching through the window and I couldn’t believe my daughter sat there and listened to the whole story. That she participated in singing songs about Jesus. That moment, this ministry, is profoundly holy.”
And I realize it’s not about me. Nobody cared that I was soaking wet. Nobody cared what I looked like at all. More importantly, nobody cared that I was Paul’s wife. We were all there with a common goal – to care for and teach these kids. That’s what it was all about. That’s what I’d been missing this whole time. I got so wrapped up in what it meant to be a Pastors Wife – the fictional image I had created in my mind – that I forgot God will go to great lengths to remind me that this is not, in fact, about me.
As I drove home that day, with my tail between my legs, my grandma’s words echoed in my heart. She has always said that if God calls one spouse into ministry, he calls the other. I thought that meant I was called to the role of Pastors Wife if my husband’s title is Pastor. But that’s not what it means.
I am not a Pastors Wife, capital P capital W.
I’m jenni, lowercase j.
That’s the role I am called to be. To be me to my kids. Be me to my husband. To be scandalously, authentically me. I may have to still apologize for my appearance or the behavior of my kids (or vice versa, let’s be honest) but I am still called to be unapologetically ME. A ME that is forever changing, forever growing.
And so I come to church. Because, in the right church, you can just be you. And I come as the wife of a pastor. I come ready to learn. Ready to love. And I come weary. Not just from that morning’s chaos wrangling my children into whatever clean clothes I can find, but also from a lifetime of trying to fit into self-imposed roles. I’m thankful to shed the fictional role of Pastors Wife – I’d never fit that image anyways; I cook too little and like wine too much. But there are other layers of rules that I have created for myself (did you know that turn the other cheek doesn’t mean the ‘Christian thing’ to do is be the victim/martyr?! Man, did I interpret that message wrong).
Sometimes we have to break everything apart before we can attempt to put the pieces back together.
The day after the rained-out failed-attempt at being a Pastors Wife, Paul came home and told me he had stopped by the lost and found at church. He reached into his bag and handed me Summer’s other shoe.
I smiled thinking, so that’s how this is going to go.
One baby step, or shoe, at a time.