02 February 2010

A story

Let me tell you a story. Once upon a time I went to those pastor wife thingies, conferences or retreats or whatever they're called. I went to them at fancy conference centers in big important districts, and I went to them at churches and camps in a small backwards district. I went to the meetings at the pastor thingies that they held for wives in adjoining rooms. I went either because I wanted to be where my husband was, or because other people told me it was a good idea to spend time with other pastor wifes.

Putting aside the fact that the prevailing pieties at these things in any district were not varieties I could easily stomach, the events were unhelpful to me. Why? Because I don't mind being married to a pastor. While there are the occasional annoyances, and they occasionally become acute, it's just not difficult for me overall. As I've mentioned before, I actually like how it entangles our family in the life of the church. I don't need a retreat from pastoral wifery any more than I need a retreat from changing my socks.

So when the other wives start sharing their troubles, which is common and often becomes quite emotional, I can't relate. Then it's a short trip for my not relating to become despising them for their complaining and oversensitivity and selfishness and for crying out loud CRYING. (I should mention also that I've never borne the cross of being in a very messed up parish.) Why don't they just shut up and deal?

Easy for me to say. The things that torment them usually don't even bother me much. But it does me no good to hang around there, since it just tempts me to be impressed with myself for being such a great pastor's wife. Me, the strong! Me, the perspicacious! Me, the virtuous! Me, the wife all those poor slobs married to whiny crybaby basket cases wish they had! Too bad there's only one of glorious Me to go around. I also walk really well and can operate a mailbox!!

It's not exactly bearing their burdens for me to hold others' burdens illegitimate either because I don't find those burdens all that burdensome or because I bear my burdens differently. The last thing these sad people need is for me to hit them when they're already down with such helpful insights as, "What's your problem? That's how it goes so you might as well just handle it. Grow up and shut up."

The moral of the story: Hare Today, Goon Tomorrow. Wait, that's something else. The moral of the story is that I don't go to pastor wife thingies any more. The End.


Gauntlets said...

Yes, see, that's it. I like my life in the parsonage. I like that my pastor is my husband. I like that my husband has only good reasons to be away from us when he is. I like very much that an entire body of people welcomed me and my babies into their fold simply because my husband is their shepherd. It's a great gig, all told.

And crying embarrasses me. It especially embarrasses me when other people do it. I was brought up to feel this way about crying: if one must cry, he or she had better have a marvelous reason and had better take to a private room. I have come to understand that thinking this about crying makes me a bad person.

This is why I don't attend woman-centric social activities. Women cry, and I squirm. And then I feel sharply that I'm a weird, cold outcast. And then I feel tired.

And then I burn dinner. :D

MooreMama said...

Gauntlets, I <3 you. And Rebekah and probably Reb. Mary, too, but I haven't actually met them in person, so they may just be figments of someone's imagination. I wish you lived closer to me.

Tena said...

Oh, Rebekah, I'm so very happy you are back. :)

Anonymous said...

Whatever happened to noblesse oblige?

Rebekah said...

MM, I think I might be a figment of my own imagination.

Tena, when are YOU coming back? ;)

Anon, between the inconvenience of hauling babies to these events and the temptation to pride I attempted to illustrate (noblesse, ha!), I will lend these sisters my prayers from the comfort of my own home, and implore the patience, charity, and sympathy of others who find my weaknesses similarly confounding.

Dakotapam said...

I dig being married to the Rev. as well. I can't picture a different life. It works for us...and even in the hard times (and we've had them, especially in this past year) I can't see crying over the life God has given us. We don't even HAVE PW thingies here...and i guess that is OK.

Monique said...

I have never been to a PW, women's retreat. The timing has always been bad. I'm always either post partum and or nursing a baby. I thought it was ironic I was told it was "discouraged" for women to bring children or even nursing babies to these things.

You know, I really think the Lord protects women by keeping them at home with a house full of kids. When a woman is home with a ton of kids undefoot, she's just too darn busy to get too involved in church or to be hypersensitive and over analyze ever comment that's made about her or her husband. Whenever I've heard of PW's and church confrontations, I often think to myself, I bet the situatation would have never escalated to this had she a ton of kids to take care of at home.

And Rebekah, I second Tena's comment. I'm glad your back.

The Rev. BT Ball said...

I think I'm going to suggest to my district president that you, Frau Rebekah, be the next speaker at our district wives retreat (let the reader understand). I think that you would offer wholesome suggestions and encouragement to the dear suffering sisters.

Plus, you could have your husband come and take care of the children in the swimming pool with certain other husbands. Said husbands would also be drinking cocktails and making sport of each other's pastoral practice while the older children play lifeguard at the pool. Sounds like fun for all.

Anonymous said...

Anon, between the inconvenience of hauling babies to these events and the temptation to pride I attempted to illustrate (noblesse, ha!), I will lend these sisters my prayers from the comfort of my own home, and implore the patience, charity, and sympathy of others who find my weaknesses similarly confounding.

No, I INSIST you take instruction on your vocation from anonymous internet geeks!

Just two respectful points: A maybe the pride isn't misplaced, maybe you have something to teach? and B what would ever get done if everyone said, I'll stay home and just say prayers...?

Rebekah said...

Rev BTB, HA!

Anon, not sure I'm tracking. Knowing, however, that there are many people more qualified to teach and more able to leave their houses in order to do so, I'm not too worried. I'm also far more nerd than geek.

JenniferH said...

If you were teaching, I'd be sure to go. Of course, I go anyway as much for the chuckles as the encouragement. Oh, and the opportunity to cut my own food for two days while enjoying it hot.

lisa said...

I attempt to understand why so many pastors' wives attend said thingies but, to me, it always seems to be just a veiled excuse to get away from home. It's my job as mother and wife is to be home and cut all that food, clean all those clothes, and try my darndest to be supportive and encouraging when my man comes through the door. Is it easy (or fun?) 100% of the time? No. Am I successful 100% of the time? No. But I'm certainly not going to waste my time wishing I was somewhere else or with other people in "similar" circumstances because then I'd be wasting all that energy on wishing instead of investing it on my own. Besides that, apart from the fact that we'd all pastors wives, there really isn't a ton we have in common besides having kids and we all know how different each family does things. Many times it's like comparing apples to oranges.

Long story short. I don't go to pastors' wives thingies either. I never have, never will, & I have no regrets. I'm not going to be that person that goes just to get away from the kids, eat a hot meal, and talk to grown ups. If I want to hang out with pastors, I'll make a reservation at Hotel Abuelos for the kids & jet off for a night or two with the only pastor I really want to hang out with anyway.

Not to say that getting away now and then isn't important or necessary to be emotionally healthy. I do think we all benefit from a night out or a vacation without kids. Ok, so maybe the vacation is a few decades away...

Rebekah said...

>>If I want to hang out with pastors, I'll make a reservation at Hotel Abuelos for the kids & jet off for a night or two with the only pastor I really want to hang out with anyway.

Hear hear!

Cheryl said...

If I might be so bold, one pastor's wife thingy I would highly recommend is the second installment of Rev. Senkbeil's 3-part Doxology retreat. Pastors return with their wives, and Dr. Beverly Jahnke does some great sessions (for the couple together as well as the wives alone) that are lots of fun and not at all weepy, mawkish or self-indulgent. I didn't see one wet eye in the bunch. It's more about upholding the marriage than anything.

By the way, Rebekha, I'm glad you weren't at my house yesterday. You would have been terribly embarrassed. :-)

Cheryl, not a pastor's wife, but sorta kind like one in some ways (I'm a cantor's wife)

Rebekah said...

I have heard a lot of good things about Doxology--maybe someday.

MOREOVER: Cheryl, unsurprisingly, is onto my subtext. Turns out I've been embarrassing the heck out of myself since January 6. I am so grateful to the loving people who have been dealing with me kindly and patiently rather than pointing out what I already know: this is how it goes, it's hard, deal with it, why not just do your job without the whining.

Pam said...

Being that I've been AWOL for so long, I hesitate... and yet...

What I'm hearing so far is all the same stuff I had told myself for so many years. I wouldn't say it now, however.

All I will attempt to point out is in reference to Rebekah's paranthetical comment in her post:

"(I should mention also that I've never borne the cross of being in a very messed up parish.)"

Speaking as one who has been in that sitch, and more than once at that, it is not just a matter of "this is how it is, shut up and deal with it" although I will also mention that I have seen those in pretty decent parish situations who DO complain the way you describe. To these I respond with a similar sentiment as you described, Rebekah.

But may I also point out that similarly if y'all haven't been out of sem that long, please don't judge too quickly... and if y'all have healthy marriages, I IMPLORE you to recognize as I now have that many, many times over the parish "stuff" seems so much worse to wives (and the pastors too, sometimes) because they themselves and their marital/familial relationships are unhealthy to begin with.

There is so much more going on in so many clergy marriages than I ever realized. And for these dear sisters, among which I include myself, such retreats may well be one of the Lord's provisions for the much needed support. You have your husbands on which to lean for support-- imagine how different life might look to you if you didn't have that, or worse if he was the biggest drain on your emotional and physical energy. Add, as you say, a "ton of kids" at home who also need you, and then tell me where that battery is supposed to get recharged?? Might also make one have to reconsider the avowed status, simply for reasons of self-preservation.

Something to think about.

Rebekah said...

Pam--that is exactly my point. Sad people are, in fact, sad. Their sadness should not be met with sneers, superiority, and words which wear them down further.