Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Secret Lives of Pastors' Wives-Fishbowl Living

Being a family in ministry has been compared to living in a fishbowl. Everyone is watching. Watching what you do and what you say. Watching to catch you making a mistake. Watching to see if you are human. Watching to see if you yell at your children or nag your husband or curse when you hit your thumb with a hammer (yes, yes, and no if you are keeping score).

I think the Bible is clear that people in ministry leadership positions are held to a higher standard.

James 3:1Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. 2We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check.

However, in those verses it seems that it is God who will be doing the judging and holding teachers to the higher standard. Also, it is the teachers who will be held to this high standard. (I think minister/pastor also fits here since they do typically teach). It is not the teacher's spouse or children or parents or cousins held to a high standard, but the teacher him/herself.Now if the spouse chooses (operative word) to assume a teaching role, then those verses certainly apply as well.

I know a lot of PWs feel like they live in a fishbowl. I do think that's reality for many of them as well. I guess to some extent it's a reality for us too. However, I have either been naive or blissfully unaware. I suppose that people have talked about my husband, me, and our children behind our backs. However, what I don't know doesn't effect me. I do know that at one point when we were going through a crisis with extended family people thought that Robert and I were having marital problems (we weren't). I only knew that because a friend told me that those were the rumors circulating. Wouldn't it have been nice if people had been concerned and asked us instead of just questioning to each other...or worse offering it as a "prayer request." That's Christian code for gossip.

I guess the biggest thing about living in a fishbowl is that I don't really care. It's not entirely honest of me to say that I don't care what others think of me because I do. I want people to like me. I want people to find me friendly, kind, witty, compassionate, loving, etc. However, first of all I am not always those things and certainly not all at the same time. Many times I am grumpy, selfish, and whiny. However, my mama didn't raise no fool. I know that not everyone will like me, or approve of me, and that some people in fact with dislike or even hate me. And I am fine with that...really. While I like approval and admiration, it really only matters to me that I have it first from God, then from my family. Of course friends factor in that as well, but since friendship is a choice I certainly hope that my friends do like me...or else they wouldn't be friends with me.

My "love language" is words of affirmation. I don't need gifts or big outward shows of love and affection, but a well placed "Atta Girl!" will do wonders for my self-esteem and endear me to you forever. Even though that is the case, I don't know whether it is age, wisdom...or maybe apathy, but if you don't like me or approve of me I just build a bridge and get over it. This is especially true of those people who are just naturally critical. I have more important things to worry about than how I can make everyone like me. Also, I really relate to this quote from one of my bestest friend's mom, "You would not worry about what people think of you, if you knew how seldom they do."

The whole fishbowl concept is rather moot now as church planters. We are just regular joes, part of the pack, and I certainly don't feel any fishbowlness in our current situation. Many of the people who attend our church have seen me with no make-up, morning hair, and sleep wrinkles from overnight events like Trivia or mission trips. They have spent time in our home and us in theirs. We have worked together, cooked together, etc. We just do life. Honestly, I find that students are more freaked out than church members about me living my regular life. Several have expressed shocked to see me in jeans or run into me at Target, like I live in "business casual" clothes and never leave the campus.

The only interesting thing about the fishbowl has been related to nosy neighbors. In Texas, we lived in a parsonage and some church members lived just two houses down. We'd run into them and several times they said things like, "We saw your lights on at 2:00 am. Hope everything is okay." (Translation: I'm nosy and dying to know what you were doing. Incidentally we had a baby who was just a couple of weeks old, so it was probably something really exciting like nursing, changing a diaper, or pacing the floor trying to get a screaming baby to sleep.). These were the same people who would call if we forgot to put our garbage out on trash day just to make sure we were alright. Um yeah, we just forgot it was Tuesday. You just can't make this stuff up.

No comments:

Post a Comment