01 March 2011

Get you a pastor

OK, here's something I'm going to get full-on preachy about. Every human needs a pastor. Theology professors need pastors. Sextons need pastors. Pastors' kids need pastors. Pastors' in-laws need pastors. Pastors' widowed mothers need pastors. Pastors' maiden uncles need pastors. Pastors need pastors. Popes--they who believe, teach, and confess themselves to be the Vicars of Christ on earth by divine right!--need and have pastors. See where I'm going with this?

That's right, the pastor's wife needs a pastor. For all the boo-hooing spent on this pseudo-conundrum, I am mystified that the totally obvious provision our Lord normingly and our Confessions normedly make for it is endlessly overlooked. Which is to say, "And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." What? No special asterisk here for that extra-special person, the pastor's wife? As usual, Bob Dylan said it best: "Everybody must get loosed*" (*or bound).

I have not set out to say here that the pastor's wife's husband cannot be her pastor. Most of the time it is he who brings her God's Word of Law and Gospel, baptizes her children, and feeds her from our Lord's Altar. That's fairly straightforward most of the time. The place the pastor/husband thing is most likely to get tricky is the confessional. After all, against whom does the pastor's wife sin most? Whose sins are the second closest to the pastor, and therefore the second easiest and hardest for the pastor to judge?

Even yet I will not say that her husband cannot be her Father Confessor, for the complications I have cited are merely practical. He can be. Sometimes he should be or has to be. Sometimes she asks him to be. But often, he doesn't have to be, and often, this benefits both man and wife. Furthermore, the pastor needs a pastor, and here's where things really start coming together: the pastor and his wife and their kids can have the same pastor. They can go to confession as a family. Although it is still private, it is a pilgrimage of discipline they can make together, a blessed humility they can share, a divine comfort in which they can be united. And when the pastor's family needs someone to meet them at the hospital, to pray for them in their distress, they know whom to call: their dear pastor. Not just the guy at the next closest church or Dad's buddy or the circuit counselor no one else in the family knows. They can call a man who is Father to all of them.

If this doesn't sound right; if a Father Confessor isn't what the pastor's wife is looking for, then she's not looking for a pastor. She's looking for a therapist or a friend or a cheerleader. Any of those may be something she needs, and she would do well to secure them. But she definitely needs an ear to swallow her sins up in death and a voice to breath forgiveness and life into her, whether or not she feels she needs it or is comfortable with it. She definitely needs to make confession and hear her sins absolved, whether or not she perceives that confession will help her with her perceived problems. For her true problem is always sin, and the true cure is always Holy Absolution.

So, pastors' wives, get a pastor. Make sure your kids have a pastor. Your husband also needs a pastor.

15 comments:

Emommy said...

Excellent and so true. I just heard this reiterated by a pastor speaking at a (confessional!) pastors' wives retreat--we do need confession and absolution, and we (our husbands and children and ourselves) can benefit from the physical laying on of hands on our heads and hearing Christ's words of forgiveness.

Melrose said...

I have never thought about it like this before! Should be so obvious, but somehow it wasn't. So thanks for being obvious to those who are not quite there :)

greatgaunts said...

Yes, CONFESSION. I may have lived under a small rock for most of my early life (and probably a large, shady rock since then) but how was I married and mommed before I knew Lutherans did this?

Duh.

Elizabeth said...

I feel like you wrote this blog just for me! I always felt gypped as a pastor's kid, because I never felt like I could use my dad as my "Father Confessor". It would have felt awkward, and besides, I knew all the human things he did that drove me crazy. I realize now how badly I needed a pastor. And while I'm blessed with a wonderful husband whom I love and admire, there are definitely those times I wish for a pastor. Point well taken - we're going to talk about that tonight and get going on that. :) Thanks!

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

My father graduated from the Seminary when I was finishing 8th grade. One of the oddest things about High School was the idea that he was no longer just my dad - he was my pastor as well... which is a fun and wonderful combination to drop onto a now-high school aged male. Thankfully, my dad understood that - and for many things I dealt with a neighboring pastor who showed great care to me. And this also happened to be the man who took care of my dad as well - it just wasn't necessarily directly, explicitly planned that way.

(ACK! The word verification is "repent"!!!!)

Rebekah said...

Confession has two parts: being something Lutherans do, and something Lutherans don't know they do.

I'm also a PK, but I grew up in a multi-pastor parish, so I was used to one of the other pastors being our pastor. Of course, this only works if the pastors get along . . . .

Megan said...

I think if we asked any pastor in the area to be a Father confessor they would look at us like we had just sprouted wings and a tail. And while I know Lutherans do confession and I think it's a wonderful amazing gift, I have actually never done it. But then I am one who also never goes to the doctor when I'm sick because I don't want to 'bother' him. Sigh. At least I'm consistent?

Daniel Baker said...

I am not a pastor's kid, but I share Megan's concern about finding a pastor willing to perform this necessary task - I suspect even my own Pastor would cringe at such a request. It's just not done in these parts.

Rebekah said...

Megan and Daniel, I talked about that here:

http://concordiansisters.blogspot.com/2008/10/jesus-lutherans-doth-receive.html

I know it is a real problem with a lot of complications built into it. :(

lisa said...

Finally found it.

"And while he thinks that, we do not have to contend with the explicit repentance of a definite, fully recognised, sin, but only with his vague, though uneasy, feeling that he hasn’t been doing very well lately. This dim uneasiness needs careful handling. If it gets too strong it may wake him up and spoil the whole game. On the other hand, if you suppress it entirely – which, by the by, the Enemy will probably not allow you to do – we lose an element in the situation which can be turned to good account. If such a feeling is allowed to live, but not allowed to become irresistible and flower into real repentance, it has one invaluable tendency. It increases the patient’s reluctance to think about the Enemy.”

Screwtape Letters

Rebekah said...

That is one of the truest books ever written.

Daniel Baker said...

Thank you for the link to the old post, Rebekah. I've been lurking around (and through the archives of) this and other LCMS blogs for the past couple of months now. It's been an eye-opening experience, to say the least - particularly coming from the WELS corner of the "Lutheran" world. It's encouraging to see so many people (online at least) in the LCMS sticking to their confessional guns. You guys are hardly the less-conservative synod, from my point of view at any rate.

Rebekah said...

You bet, Daniel. I think viewing the manifestations of American Lutheranism as points on some kind of spectrum of confessionalism is misleading. It's more like every body is a planet in a Lutheran solar system. Some of them have creepy moons or inexplicable rings. I think the ELCA would have to be the Oort Cloud.

jenny said...

I cannot agree more. I was very late in coming to this realization, but I'm so glad I did. Now I encourage my friends to do the same. Thank you for your post which reaches so many!

SAHM I Am said...

Amen!