An Elder’s Wife: Part II

Here on the other side of my husband’s life-long ordination to the office of elder in the Presbyterian Church of America the coffee actually seems to stay warm in my mug longer than it used to. I’m not saying that the Lord is now blessing his service with warmer than normal coffee. That probably isn’t in line with reformed theology. I’m just saying it’s a strange coincidence and He works in mysterious ways. That’s all.

If anything, Jason’s new leadership role looks to me more like the Order of the Phoenix where he shuffles off to a few super secret meetings and comes home with enchanted lips not telling me a darn thing. Not that I try to get things out of him. But, say if I did, we already discussed that it’s best for him to not share anything with me that I don’t need to know. Elders and pastors at churches tend to work with people who are involved in sensitive situations that need to be handled with, well, sensitivity and discretion: struggling marriages, infertility, diseases, loss of jobs, death, really a multitude of life’s curve balls. And I’m glad that Jason is there to walk with people when they’re at their most low and sometimes their most high. He’s such a gracious, loving, understanding, and gentle person. I’m glad to see him serve our church in that way. As long as he doesn’t tell me about it.

Honestly, it is a struggle for me to know that he is involved so intimately with so many important decisions and people’s lives in a way that I would love to be. I could very easily pressure and manipulate him to indulge my curiosity and desire to have some sort of power through knowledge in our church. But what would I do with that information anyways? Salivate all over it? Give my friends knowing looks and side glances when a whisper of conversation comes up that I know something about and they don’t? Oh, how important that would make me feel to be in some sort of imagined inner circle. That I would know information about people and decisions that others don’t. I’ll tell ya. That’s dangerous for a church. And I don’t want it. I mean, I do. But I don’t. So, I’ve told Jason to keep things that are need-to-know to himself. So far it’s been much more difficult than I thought it would be.  But, hey, the hot coffee is a perk.

The last thing I guess that I’d like to verbally vomit here and then regret later is how much I forgot, but am rediscovering, that I don’t naturally fit into white American middle class Christian culture. I haven’t really felt it this strongly in a long time. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I drink, cuss, agitate, and skirt the line between meek and coarse. That lovely and gentle elder or pastor’s wife who humbly couches her tone even when disciplining her children, probably even during the most hot sex with her spouse, just isn’t me. (What? Too far?) I’m not saying that those are the women at our church. I actually love our church because there isn’t this expectation for me to conform to imagined constructions of femininity. At least that hasn’t been my experience. But, you know. It’s still there. When Jason was interviewing for the position as elder, I had a frank conversation with the session about my voice; about what and how I talk in public spaces like this one here and they assured me that I didn’t need to feel any pressure to censure myself because of my husband’s new role. I really am thankful for them.

But, guys, I’m often so brash with people.  I have opinions. Opinions that are strange and offensive and I’m not afraid to share them and confront people when I disagree. And people don’t really like that. Especially Christians. And especially since I’m a woman doing it. Have you all ever watched the sitcom Roseanne? Well, that’s the women in my family. They’re all a bit raunchy, a lot witty, very loud, moody, problematic, rough around the edges, and opinionated. From my great grandmothers, maternally and paternally, all the way down to me. Every one of us. I didn’t know a woman who policed her tone or held back her opinion. And that did often cause harm and hurt in our family. There was and is plenty of abuse and damage because of it. But it also is a big part of what has liberated me. There was love and kindness in their rough wit and harsh tone. And it’s those qualities that have gotten me on the wrong side of people’s opinions about me, especially men and Christian women. I’ve gotten in more than my share of spats with people who don’t like my personality or who are offended by my tone, opinions, and way that I talk to others. And, I don’t know, I guess it makes me nervous that these expectations about what my personality should be will be much heavier with my husband being an elder. I don’t want to be antagonistic. I want and pray for humility and to love people. To be gentle and kind. To acknowledge and accept when I’m wrong. Repent and ask for forgiveness. And I’m often embarrassed and ashamed of my personality, especially since I choose to be so public online.  But being exceptionally nice, over the top kind, super sweet with cherries and whipped cream on top just isn’t my gig, nor is it a biblical calling.

Those are just a few of the things that have come up in conversation with me and Jason over these last few weeks. Things that have been on my mind. I’m also trying to be careful to distinguish between what is reality and what is my perception. I want to be wary of projecting my insecurities onto the actions of others. Meaning, I don’t want to assume that other’s think and feel certain ways that they don’t. And I also want to be mindful of why I’m sharing my experience of having a husband that is an elder at our church. I think it’s important to deconstruct our leaders, their roles, and the roles of their families. We should always be confronted with our expectations and beliefs about others and to rethink them. So, that’s what I’m doing for myself and offering it to you. Take it how you want. It’s not like I’m going to stop talking or anything.


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