Guest post by Lori Bradeen of City Life Church
When I was young, I remember how odd it felt to run into a teacher away from the school environment. Somehow I thought they only belonged at school. The image of them having a normal life like the rest of the world never occurred to me. They were teachers, and that was the only way my brain wanted to see them. A teacher friend of mine recently told me that she caught some of her kindergartener students giggling over the fact that they saw her, their teacher, eating lunch. They thought it was funny that teachers actually eat. So, I see the phenomenon is still alive and well today.
I experience this same phenomenon when while in a casual conversation, people find out I am a pastor’s wife. There is an invisible shift in the atmosphere of any given conversation once people learn I am “in ministry.” A work acquaintance of mine used to send me funny emails, until that is, the day he discovered I was a pastor’s wife. Perhaps he is worried that I will take offense at something he sends. I miss the unhindered candor that once existed when he still thought I was normal, like him.
Some of the myths people believe about me as a pastor’s wife include: my house is always clean, my attitude is always divine, my kids are perfect, and my marriage is always bliss.
So, in keeping with Kim’s current series, The Real Housewives of God’s Kingdom, I thought I would spend this guest blog post sharing with you, my reality.
I will admit that as a Christian I have always wanted to live my life in a way that would honor Jesus. But, that conviction happened the day I made him Lord of my life, not the day I became a pastor’s wife. I think most Christians feel the same conviction whether or not they are in full time ministry.
Let’s start with my house. I have invisible Zones. Zone 1 is what you see when you walk though the front door (like if you happen to stop by unannounced). Zone 2 is the rest of the house. Zone 3 is garage. Zone 4 is yard and garden. There was a time, 5+ years ago, when I was a stay at home mom that all 4 zones could be found show ready much of the time. Actually, that’s not quite true, maybe 50% of the time. However, now, working full time, that just isn’t my reality. A clean house for me today means Zone 1 is clean. The rest of it ebbs somewhere between decent and disastrous. Myth one, busted.
My attitude. Some people think if you are a pastor’s wife you ought to always have a positive faith filled attitude. I admit, I do feel a sense of responsibility to speak faith, courage and hope in people’s lives. I do want to see them have faith to believe God is bigger than their circumstances. But sometimes, I find myself in the middle of my own pity party or even just a stinky attitude. Today while in the checkout line, the checker called for a second checker. I was relieved because I was in a hurry. The second checker came up, ignored me and took someone who wasn’t even in line yet. The nerve. I was irritated. Myth 2, busted. (I could render many more bad attitude examples but this guest post has a word limit). When I start fretting over my first world problems, which I do, I have a remedy that works every time. It’s cheaper than a therapy-shopping trip, and healthier than over indulging in chocolate. I will share this secret with you: My remedy has been to keep the “Book of Martyrs” next to my bathtub, (my favorite place.) I just read a few accounts of how real people have been persecuted and even executed for their Christian faith over the years and miraculously my perspective and attitude are humbly adjusted. I will admit, sometimes I keep chocolate there too.
My kids. I will never forget the time when we were on a leadership retreat with our pastor friends and our young boys (all pastor’s kids) were playing together. Four little rough playing boys under 10, quickly turned competitive and became full on fighting complete with “I’ll kick your ass!” coming from one of our little angels. I remember the college age babysitter saying to us with disgust, “I thought your kids were supposed to be Christians!” Myth 3, definitely busted. Our kids are all young adults today and, it’s fun to remind them of that story because now they are all close friends who follow Jesus. Perfection has never been the goal. I don’t expect my kids to make it through life without recognizing their own need for the grace of God. In fact, that is why I feel so blessed, because the fruit of their lives demonstrate to me that they too have been touched by the amazing grace of God. But it is a journey and every child of a Christian parent must meet Jesus for him/herself, otherwise all they have is empty religion.
My marriage. I suppose that it is fair to expect a pastor and his wife to have a solid marriage. Of all the above assumptions, this, I suppose is the most reasonable. And yet, I am not sure even Christians agree on what a good marriage actually looks like. Over the years I have had women share their disappointment as they compared their marriage to what they imagined mine to be like. While exposing my marriages faults has never felt wise, in such moments, neither does allowing people to believe that real Christian marriage is somehow a life long scene from a chick flick romance.
Solid does not mean absence of conflict. Solid does not mean we enjoy the same movies or that we gush over each other on Facebook. Solid means we base our marriage on something that is SOLID.
And so the Solid in our marriage comes from our commitment to walking out our faith in Christ together. That is a good thing because in my marriage, conflict is pretty normal. We are two very different people, passionate about what we believe God has called us to build. The meshing of ideas and wisdom is work and sometime the sparks fly. The good thing about conflict is that it demonstrates that we are both engaged. I worry when couples check out, and stop communicating, not when they have conflict in communication. I admit there is an art to conflict that leads to greater unity rather than dissention. After 25 years, we’ve learned a few things along the way. So I guess I’ll throw in one of my tips on marital conflict: Own your ugly. You read it right. We are learning to “own our ugly.” It’s another way of saying, “stop pretending to be more righteous than you really are. “ It’s actually very freeing to just be yourself, ugly and all, own it and deal with it honestly in the midst of conflict. Sometimes what would normally turn into a fight can become a source of humor if we are willing to own our ugly, laugh at it and let our spouse laugh along too.
Learning to capitalize on the beauty of little opportunities can be the difference between a solid marriage and one where the grass looks greener elsewhere. For instance, my husband and I rarely enjoy the same kind of movie so when I sit though his war movie or he sits though my educational documentary, it is an intentional act of love. Such things ought not to be overlooked. It is these intentional moments of kindness that keep our marriage mojo alive.
I share these snippets of my life with you not because I think my life is overly interesting, quite the contrary. I want you to know that YOUR LIFE is noteworthy. Your relationships, your struggles, your victories and even your failures all have redeeming value that can bring hope to someone. Lessons of love, forgiveness, courage, strength, and compassion are only as far away as your willingness to look from another perspective. Look at your life through the lens of God’s amazing grace. I promise, the view is beautiful.
If you’d care to hear more about our journey, my husband recently shared his own testimony and you can watch it at this link under “Van’s Testimony” It is a great story of a normal man with normal struggles who gets ahold of an extraordinary God that changes him and calls him to a life of ministry.