So, I just got back from a pastor's renewal retreat in Cannon Beach. I know. It sounds "pastor-y", and it was. I kind of had a little panic attack the first night. First of all, we had about a 9 hour drive (from Wenatchee), so we walked in late to the speaker. And it was crowded. So we climbed over this one guy to find seats. I was wearing my Michelin Tire Man coat, but it was too crowded to take it off without elbowing everyone around me in the face, so I kept it on and became very claustrophobic. So, I started panicking! I got all hot and squirmy in my seat, and totally resisted the urge to bolt out of there! That's what happens to me at conferences like that! What's my deal? Talking with any of these people one on one is perfectly fine and comfy! And I knew a lot of them...and they are all awesome people! But, you put a bunch of pastors in a group and it stresses me out. Anywho, that doesn't have anything to do with anything. Except that the time away allowed me the space to make a couple of realizations.
First of all, the speaker was Ruth Haley Barton. She is the author of "Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership". Now, this might come as a surprise to many of you, but I haven't read the book. Probably because the title is "Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership"...and I don't know really what that means, and I'm not really in leadership. However, she was inspiring (and a little intimidating)! But, she had us take this test to draw attention to the state of our souls that asked questions like: Do you find yourself hiding from people that you run into in the grocery store?...Do you find yourself using escapist behaviors like mindless television? Do you find that you are easily irritated? And we had to check off Always, Often, Sometimes, Rarely, Never. I have to say...most of my answers (out of about 20) were in the "always" to "often" range! So, as we sat there and analyzed my little test, my first realization of the week was: MY SOUL IS SCREWED!! Now, I'm not sure what to do about this yet (as I was barfing the next day when she gave us the "what to do about your screwed up soul" talk)...but I plan on looking into and working on the health of my soul...I guess its a starting point to just know, right? Rather than to go on wondering why you're so worn down, yelling at bad drivers and my children, hiding from people in grocery stores then coming home to veg out to Spongebob Squarepants! So...more to come on that journey!
The second realization came on the 9 hour drive to the beach. I was talking to Micah and I realized (and verbalized) I don't know who I am up here in Seattle. I'm just DOING some stuff, some of it intentionally, but mostly just doing...And, it's a weird place to be. But, not only that, I also find myself fighting against people's expectations of who they think I should be. Here's some examples:
"Are you going to the women's Bible Study?"
"There's a great Sunday School class for you and Micah to go to..."
"Why isn't your child in Sunday School? Does he want to go to Sunday School? Would you like me to show you where his Sunday School is?"
"Do you go to B.S.F (Bible Study Fellowship)?"
The answer to all these is NO!! I am not interested in women's bible studies or MOMS groups...I hate BSF...I am not interested in Sunday school and if my children aren't either, I don't blame them and won't make them go! But so far, I have been afraid to say so. And instead, I'm glad I have an excuse not to attend! I'm even hesitant to help with worship because I think it furthers the "box" that people put me in as a pastors wife. The fact is, for some reason, God has chosen to use my openness, my honesty, my humor, my openness of my unlimited number of shortcomings and even my contempt of "church-y" things to draw people in to a relationship with Jesus.
Please understand, I DO think that there is a place for women's bible studies and I've seen MOMS groups change entire families. (I'm not too sure about BSF or Sunday school though as I think it is a way to "hoarde" or "quarantine" mature Christians and keep them from engaging with people who might be far from God). I'm just pretty sure that is not what God has called ME to. And believe me, I've tried and even led them. I believe that God is graciously using my shortcoming and the crazy way He's put me together to show those who might not know the grace of Jesus that He not only loves and accepts the extremely imperfect, He uses them to break down barriers, to blow away expectations and prejudices, and to further His Kingdom.