We almost collided with each other in the ladies bathroom entrance. I was headed out, and my friend Alisha was headed in. Happy to run into each other, we started to talk. We continued our conversation as we left the church building, joined by Alisha’s friend, Jonathan. We hugged, said goodbye, and headed in different directions.
As she was walking away, Alisha said something to Jonathan that I overheard:
“I just LOVE her.”
“Today is going to require a lot of makeup,” I thought as I sat at my makeup mirror. A husband and wife at my church, people I had considered friends, had rejected me. They were leaders in my church and I both respected and trusted them. This was not just a minor bruise…I cried for 5 days. I even woke my husband up one morning, sobbing.
These beloved friends had deeply wounded my heart. In short, my heart hurt.
And on this Sunday morning I was going to see them for the first time since it happened. I was so broken that I wanted to stay home, but why delay the inevitable. So I put on a flashy shirt, lots of lip gloss, and a fake smile to mask my quivering heart.
“If you tell Lisa something, are you sure that she will not tell others?” the pastor asked his wife. They were dealing with a tricky church situation that could turn into a huge mess. Gossip needed to be minimized so that the situation could be dealt with privately. “Oh yes, Lisa is a vault.” This pastor’s wife trusted me with her secrets. I was her friend. She knew that I would pray for her and not gossip about her.
I can’t imagine what it is like to be a pastor’s wife. Your husband has a job in full-time ministry and is putting in more than a 40 hour workweek. Yet somehow the wife must also meet the many expectations of the church. She should lead the ladies ministry, graciously entertain church members at home, never show anger or weakness, and serve tirelessly. I’ve heard that is a lonely position, as the wife has few trusted friends in whom to confide when she is struggling.
Shame had kept me silent. Few people knew the intense battle I had been having with panic attacks. Not even my pastor was privy to the emotional upheaval that existed in my mind. My doctor knew because he was prescribing the medications that were helping me to function. But fear of judgment had kept me from telling people how bad it really was.
The smallest thing caused me to feel panic. I was scared to take a shower. I was scared to wash my hair (the picture below was not staged). I was scared to fix my breakfast and let the dog go out and fill up my Tervis with ice. Why? Because in previous days, when I had done those things, my body panicked and my pulse raced and my chest felt like I was having a heart attack.
I have an addiction. And it’s not to chocolate, or Netflix, or to coffee, but it’s to old ladies. You know, those little old ladies that carry humongous purses and who wear strong perfume and whose homes smell funny. They walk very slowly in their Alfred Dunner outfits and they buy their shoes from the SAS store. I love them.
I grew up watching my mother love old ladies. Honestly, as a teenager, I thought it was a waste of time. She would take me to their homes and I would be bored to tears. Her first old lady was sweet Gwendolyn – she lived alone in the bad part of town and she was strongly independent. The next old lady was Catherine, who was a genteel Southern lady who loved to make crafts. And then there was Sybil, an avid gardener whose daylilies continue to grow in my yard.
I sat there crying in a large parking lot. Cars buzzed around me and in my embarrassment I prayed that they would not park beside me and see my tears. My soul was in great anguish and I was praying fervently, “God, what should I do now?” The answer could make or break a friendship.
I was in a text message battle with one of my pastors.
Earlier this year something happened that rocked my world. It caught me off guard and totally shook my confidence. It made me confused, it challenged my identity, and it left me feeling insecure. It made me furious and it also made me cry. Buckets. And, although I hate to admit it, at one point I was even despairing of my life. With one click a tidal wave of emotional drama was unleashed in my life:
I was unFriended on Facebook.
You see her every Sunday. She comes rushing in, perhaps a little late, and finds her seat near the front row of the church. Her arms are weighed down with stuff: her purse, her Bible and perhaps a diaper bag. She plops her belongings down on the floor and takes a seat, and looks around to smile at everyone. You imagine how wonderful her life must be, to be the wife of the pastor. You make eye contact with her, smile, and nod your head.
Then perhaps your mind wanders a bit. Why wasn’t she at the last women’s outreach? Why is her kid running wild through the sanctuary? Why didn’t she reply to your last email? Isn’t her skirt a little too short for a Sunday morning? Why did she have dinner in a pub and post the picture on Facebook? It’s easy to find a lot of ways to tear her down. She is a pastor’s wife, after all, and you hold her to a very high standard.
Friends, she’s a woman, just like you, with insecurities, worries, wounds and fears. Like you, she has a dishes to wash, bills to pay, kids to shuttle, and calls to return. She also carries the burden of the church along with her husband. She often has dinner alone. This woman needs help and support, not judgment and isolation. You can be the source of help and support. Yes, you.
This is a guest post by someone who has known me since I was 18 years old…Kimberly Potter, a friend from college and a CelebratingWeakness.com reader. Her story is heart-wrenching but also full of hope. It is a privilege to share Kimberly’s guest post with you today.
The journey for me to become pregnant was long, involved, and costly on many levels. However, when my husband and I learned I was pregnant, it was all worth it. While over the moon happy about finally becoming a mother, we went in for the 18 week ultrasound to learn we were expecting a son. Only moments after seeing his little feet and hands for the first time and hearing his heartbeat, the doctor informed us it was highly likely our son would have a rare genetic disorder we had never heard of, tuberous sclerosis (TS). TS can impact people differently, ranging from minor skin adhesions to significant developmental delays and seizures.
We prayed for our then unnamed son, prayed that he would not have the condition, prayed he would be spared, prayed he would be healed. I believed God could do all of this. I also cried out to God. Really? After all of this? Why?
I don’t have a job. I left my full time job as a nuclear engineer almost 20 years ago. At that time, I became a stay-at-home mom, and then, a homeschooling mom. Now that my last child has graduated from high school, I find that I am jobless. There is no need in my family for a stay-at-home mom, because children are no longer at home. There is no need for a homeschooling mom, because both my children have graduated from high school and are in college.
I find that this transition from stay-at-home, homeschooling mom to an jobless, empty nester is a challenge. I’m not ready for it, but it is upon me, and I can’t run from it. It has chased me down. So I must accept it. Help me Jesus.
I have been dreaming with God about what my dream job would be. I don’t want to be an engineer again, ever. Surprisingly, I don’t want to be a famous blogger and speak at TED Talks. I don’t want to open a eclectic shop and sell my happy note cards and creative garden art. When I did some soul searching and dug deep down, I discovered what I am truly passionate about doing. The answer surprised me.
What I really want to do is mentor. Full time.