Around seventeen years ago, a young girl barely out of her teens got up early on a Sunday morning and got dressed for church. She could see the steam rising from the street from those rare and quick summer Abilene storms, and it was already hot enough to fry her eggs on the sidewalk so she chose a modest sundress and sandals. She always got to church early because her husband was the music minister. She wandered around the blue carpeted building, dodging the wasps that always made a home inside the sanctuary, like they were searching for redemption for all the kids they had stung. She also dodged that one sweet old lady who insisted on asking questions about how marriage was going *wink wink*.
She went into the bathroom before the service started and while in the stall, a group of women came in. They were all in their seventies and eighties, maybe even older, she didn’t really know because to a barely 20-year-old, 40 seemed ancient. Either way, these were the ladies who knew everything about everyone. And if they didn’t know, they’d ask. And bless your heart if they didn’t approve of your answer. She listened quietly as they talked about how they hoped the piano would be softer this week, and how they understood that we needed to sing that newer music for the “young people”, but how they just knew Jesus REALLY loved the hymns best. Then she heard this bomb.
“Did you see Wes’ wife this morning? No minister worth his salt would let his wife wear open toed shoes to church!”
The twenty year old me went home that afternoon, cried, and promptly went out and bought old lady shoes to cover up my offensive and ungodly toes. The thirty-seven year old me wants to give her a hug and tell her to show up that next week with clown shoes on. We spent two years serving at that church, then three years at another, and monday marked ten years serving at Watermark Community Church.
When I went to Hardin-Simmons University back so many years ago, I decided that I was NOT interested in marrying anyone who might want to be a full-time minister. Or a part-time minister. Maybe not even a Baptist. An unfair opinion, but I thought that would be a world of being alone, being judged, having to perfect a fake smile, moving around frequently whenever the deacons decided they didn’t like you, being poor, and having my life slowly dissolve into a world of homeschooling my 17 children while learning to sew the floor length skirts I would be required to wear. But there was another reason I didn’t want to be a pastor’s wife.
I was terrified that I would disappoint.
I was a big faker. I mean, I had the right clothes and the bible with the flowery cloth cover and the full Point of Grace songbook memorized. But by myself in my car, I listened to Pearl Jam. I didn’t feel patient or kind and wanted nothing to do with being involved in college ministries. I didn’t have a “gentle and quiet spirit” and what’s more, I didn’t want one. It wasn’t that being a christian was boring, but serving in churches certainly seemed to be. It seemed like an odd sort of political career, where you show your best face to get elected, hope for good pay and benefits, enjoy some twisted form of celebrity, hope you don’t screw up too badly to get fired, and likely get fired anyway over something dumb.
It breaks my heart to know there are pastor’s wives reading this right now who are nodding their heads in sad recognition because this is their reality.
So it should say a lot about how cute and charming you are that you convinced me to marry you, knowing that you would be serving in churches. And not everything in being in full-time ministry lived up to those awful expectations, but some of it did. I’m glad we can both laugh at our first fight over you wanting me to use a certain book for the children’s choir and me sweetly telling you what you could do with that book. You gently reminded me that technically, you were “my boss” and I, full of grace and meekness, told you to shove it. It was a long time before we chose to work together again. I remember another fight, one that I still cannot laugh at, where you felt the oppressing weight of people’s whispers and expectations that your wife would serve as a teacher of youth, and I would have rather been eaten alive by sharks than teach teenagers. This ended in cruel whispered words in a church hallway, and a loss of trust for years. So I can admit, my love, that when we moved to Dallas, I halfway hoped you might find a new passion for being an accountant or something.
And then you began an internship at Watermark that turned into a full-time job. And we had babies. And our marriage imploded. And I braced myself for the impeachment and the stares. And it never came.
Ten years later, I am so honored to be not only your wife, but a wife of a man on staff at Watermark. There is nothing magical about Dallas or the building, but Jesus has changed you, me, us. And He’s used so many of the men and women on staff to do that. And I am so proud of the work that you do. You love authentically, not politically. And you teach me so much about Christ, by the way you and your leadership have allowed me to be…me. Pearl Jam, open toed shoes and all. I am not expected to be an appendage of you. My gentle and quiet spirit can also be funny and authoritative. And while I completely understand the seduction of image, I wish I could adequately express the relief that comes with the freedom of letting go of the image.
Ten years ago, I thought that there was a good chance that we would not stay married or I would be forever miserable in a fake happy marriage. Ten years ago, I would have said that I would be happier if you never wanted to work for a church again. And ten years later, we are not in a perfect church or a perfect marriage, but I am so blessed to be called yours and to be a member of this body.
You’re totally worth your salt, babe. Happy 10 years.
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