10 Things I’ve Found ‘Hard’ about Being the Minister’s Husband

fearfulWhen I say ‘hard’, I don’t necessarily mean they keep me awake at night.
Just some of them have pushed my buttons at certain times. And maybe some have kept me up at night on occasions, like the other night when something started gnawing at the back of my mind and I got restless.

Also I know that life is hard for everybody, that nobody has an easy time of it. You could have 10 Things I’ve Found ‘Hard’ about being married to a farmer, or  teacher, or a nurse or not being married, or on and on.
So this is just my angle on some things that I’ve found in particular about being a minister’s husband.

1 You can’t just talk about stuff. Or it sometimes feels that way.
Like I couldn’t  go  into specific details of things here on the blog or in a Facebook post about something in particular that we might be struggling with. It might be a pastoral issue or it might be some story that breaks your heart but you can’t share. I mightn’t feel comfortable talking to people in church about it, which is hard as I’ve always thought that church is the place where you should be able to share things that are difficult. I won’t feel comfortable talking to people outside the church as they mightn’t get understand the intricacies of church.

2 Probably tied up with this is a sense of loneliness and isolation. You might feel like you’ve no support or that nobody understands what it’s like to be a minister’s husband in your particular situation.  Even finding something like thoughts about what it’s like to be minister’s husband online is tricky. I guess that loneliness and a sense of isolation is a universal thing we all feel.

3 You don’t necessarily know how to react if you feel that people are treating the minister unfairly.
If they are judging without knowing the whole picture.
Or if you feel they’re taking the mick a bit and looking for something they need then disappearing when they get it.
The judging thing often isn’t church people, it is a feeling that there is a large segment Irish society who don’t have any time for organised religion and are ready to run over people involved in organised religion, especially church leaders. Maybe it’s the subtle threat of persecution? Even when you hear people taking the mickey out of Christians you might feel your hackles go up. I’ve heard people down at the pub saying things about the religious that they never say about  other group in Irish society
It’s hard because your natural reaction is to protect and you might be  angry, but you might feel an extra pressure to keep a lid on it what with the whole loving your enemy thing and showing grace (because we’re all sinners).

4 You can have a sense of helplessness or powerless at things that can’t be controlled.
Or maybe a better way of putting it is you’re aware of the brokenness of the world?
A minister is a bit of point person for stuff and we often want to talk to minister’s when things are hard or we’re struggling. So maybe that rubs a bit of on me? I know people are really struggling out there. I’d be a bit of a glass half empty type by  nature so hearing some of the stories can sometimes make me sad and wonder how to make things better for people.You can feel a bit powerless in the face of something like a housing crisis or unemployment, sickness, family disputes etc.  I know the Sunday School answer is to pray or Jesus, and I should do it more. But sometimes (or even a lot ) or time it isn’t that easy.

5 Sometimes you feel guilty that you don’t do more to support or help. To me it’s a bit like if you married a musician and every Sunday they’re playing a gig that you feel you have to go to as support as it’s an important gig. The church service sometimes feels like a ‘gig’.
In other ‘jobs’ you wouldn’t feel a pressure to support them when they went to work. But in Presbyterian circles with the sermon and Sunday morning worship being such a big deal you know that doing a sermon is a big deal and want to be supportive.
But sometimes you might be dealing with things in your own life like feeling low or discouraged yourself and want to stay in bed, or you might just be feeling overwhelmed and want to hide in a corner. If you’re self employed and trying to make money you might feel the pressure to work when something is on though strictly speaking you could go along.

6 Tied in with this it can be hard to worship as an ‘ordinary worshipper’. Or at least that is my experience.
For example it’s hard for me to separate the minister and the wife. During the week there is give and take in conversation, you talk a bit, they talk a bit, back and forth. Then suddenly you’re in church and you’re not having a conversation, you’re being talked to for 20mins  in a sermon. Is it your wife or a minister (or both?) giving it. I find it a bit disorientating trying to work out what voice is talking to me sometimes.

7 I think some people assume that you’re going to agree with them about certain issues based on that fact that you’re married to female minister. Maybe you’re seen as being more open minded, cool and less of a ‘tight boy’, or more of a liberal if you want to put it that way. Sometimes it’s feel like people might make assumptions that you agree with stuff that you mightn’t necessarily agree, or you might be on their side on certain issues.

8 I think it would be easier to be married to a female minister in other denominations than my own. I’m not looking to be invited to lunches and meet-ups, just more a general attitude than having a minister spouse who is a man is a normal thing. I’m not looking recognition for myself but just a church that seems to recognise it’s normal.

9 I don’t know how to phrase this but I guess that you could sometimes covet what other churches seem to have, because if you had just a little of what other churches had it might make the life of your minister and church easier?
For example, you might think of some small town in Northern Ireland that might have a pile of Presbyterian churches nearby, all with decent toilets and a hall and you might get annoyed that you’re sitting in a major city of Ireland with the Sunday school meeting in mouldy, damp rusty storage container. The reason is that stuff like maintenance or upkeep of the building can add stress to the minister, which might stress to the life of the spouse.

10 This hasn’t been a problem so much out west, but in the past I’ve felt judged by default by people who believe that women shouldn’t be church leaders and that men and women should have certain roles. I assume that if someone believes that it isn’t God’s will that a woman should be a minister then they’d also assume that the husband is in the wrong as well, because he hasn’t been doing the whole head of the household thing or something. As I said, not a problem here but there have been times when I’ve felt like that before.

on being a minister’s husband in a certain denomination

I have been pondering the issue of women in church leadership a lot for the last few weeks.

If you don’t know me you might be thinking ‘OK, that’s a pretty weird thing to be thinking about’ :but it’s not for me. Because unusually  I’ve found myself attending a church where the minister is a woman.

And even more unusually I happen to be married to her.

I’m not talking about her though (well I am I suppose….but not really). I’m talking about things from my perspective.

In a way my perspective is even less common than that of female minister in PCI, it’s that of a husband of PCI minister. I’m a freak!

This pondering started when I unknowingly switched on coverage from the General Assembly at the start of the month. Bad decision!
I was at home by myself as ___ was up at the Assembly for the week. 2 trains journeys up, a long way to go. There was a round of applause at a certain point of debate that seemed to coincide with a male minister saying that he didn’t think biblically that women should be ordained. (People have told me that the applause might have been for other stuff but the way I perceived it was that the applause for ‘no women’ was much louder that for a few speakers before hand who were thinking about how more women could be encouraged to become ministers.)

I heard that some people had been heckling when a women minister was speaking.
I’ve heard some people worrying that someday they might want to take a vote on the issue. (I’m not sure if that’s people worrying over nothing but even so, why would they be worried enough to think that?)

So when I hear the principle of the denominational training college on national radio a few days later saying that ideally he would probably prefer to not be training women for the task of leading a church I’m not really sure how to react as a Christian and as a husband of women minister. Because somehow with the mystery of marriage there is a ‘two-become-one’ sort of thing going on. Or at least that’s what I think is going on. I’m not really sure sometimes. I’ve no blueprint for this stuff!

My more balanced friends emphasis the need to allow people their conscience,
to show grace,
to treat it as a secondary issue and not get hung up over it,
to not question if that is the ideal position for someone in charge of running the training college to hold.

It feels like they want to put the ball in my court to deal with my issues, my anger or lack of grace, almost as it’s my fault that this is becoming an issue, that I don’t really understand the good news by getting annoyed or that I shouldn’t be moaning about it all the time. According to some my soul is even at risk for getting so worked up over a secondary issue .

I know we’re to forgive people and treat them with grace and love. We’re brothers and sisters in the Lord. But at what point do you go ‘Hold on, I don’t think you’re treating other people fairly… ‘ And how loudly do you shout about it?

When I listened to the radio interview I could hear nervousness in the voice and appreciate the bravery and honesty. I also deeply value my freedom and conscience so agree we shouldn’t be forcing people to go against their conscience.

But as a husband who upped sticks and moved from a place he enjoyed so that his wife could train for ministry in a place he mightn’t have chosen for himself it’s hard not to question if it’s an ideal position for someone who is principle to hold. Perhaps I’ve an insight into how much of cold house it might have been for a women minister in PCI and would question if it’s going to make other gifted women feel like they would be treated fairly in the college or would encourage them to want to study there?

If we were living in Dublin now and thinking about moving to Belfast so that ____ could train for 4 or 5 years and heard that interview I’d still appreciate the honesty, recognise the need for people to have their conscience but my primary thought would be:-

‘The principle of the college has just told us that he personally doesn’t agree with what we thought God was calling __ to do. It’s hard enough moving from a community that values us to new place without being unsure if people actually want you there. I’m not sure we belong in this denomination, it feels like they’re saying you’re sloppy seconds’

That’s what I’d think anyway.

In part I’m annoyed because I nearly see it as a gospel issue, not some secondary issue.

Because although it doesn’t have anything to do with whether you’re saved or not surely it might have something to do with whether other people are saved or not?

It might discourage a gifted women enough to stop her thinking she could use her gifts to reach people for Jesus . If you’re a Christian and you’re hindering or discouraging people from using their God given gifts for the sake of some ‘secondary issue’ maybe it’s becoming more than a secondary issue? You don’t have to be out with placards, you can be friendly and polite but still be saying.that ‘I don’t want to encourage this person to be a church leader as much as I could as I think it’s unbiblical and a gospel issue’.

If you want to reach Ireland with the good news of Jesus you need men and women using their gifts. And sometimes I wonder if PCI is happy to become a place that says ‘We don’t really want women using their gifts in this particular church leading way’. Which annoys me because people are putting good news road blocks in the way.

Especially maybe the people who are telling me this is a secondary issue. If you really think it’s a secondary issue why not do more to encourage women who might be gifted but not feel encouraged?  

 

a little whine for my stomachs sake

‘Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities.’ 

 It has struck me how often we have disobeyed the clear teaching of God’s Word by avoiding wine and drinking the water Paul tells Timothy to avoid.
There is nowhere that says that this command is just for a certain time and place  so we should stop drinking water and get  the Shiraz in  instead.
If all Scripture is God breathed and useful  we wouldn’t want to be thinking that certain verses somehow don’t apply  to us today. And if Paul tells Timothy that he doesn’t allow women to have authority over men and this hasn’t changed why should should we deny this command to stop drinking water and drink a little wine in the same letter?

Now, where’s my corkscrew?

CS…aye right.

I wasn’t expecting C.S. Lewis to have an opinion on woman priests when I randomly grabbed a book of the bookshelf for some bedtime reading but there you go, he did and old C.S Lewis. wasn’t in favour of them back in 1948.

This was an unexpected turn of events as I’ve always been used to  Lewis quotes being used on other people in sermons and talks, in blog posts and books. I’ve never really appreciated his writing that much but always appreciated a well placed quote or soundbyte used on someone else at a the right moment.
But now he has gone and made it all personal or something like that with me being married to ‘a priestess’

‘To us a priest is primarily a representative, a double representative, who represents us to God and God to us. Our very eyes teach us this in church. Sometimes the priest turns his back on us and faces the East – he speaks to God for us: sometimes he faces us and speaks to us for God. We have no objection to a woman doing the first: the whole difficulty is about the second.’

I’m not really going to loose sleep over this.
Well actually maybe I am, because here I am typing this at 2.26am loosing sleep over this. I’m not sure if it’s his saying that a woman can’t represent God or his idea of what a priest is or should be that has me loosing sleep.
Are priests, ministers and pastors special people who’s job it is to represent God?
That maybe unsettles me more that the women shouldn’t be priests line.Because it seems to play into the notion that ministers should be special people and all the pressure that brings as well.That whole congregation is watching you and looking to you for inspiration. It plays into the notion that the most important person in a church is the minister and that the priesthood of all believers is just a catchphrase. It also might play into the idea that the minister represents God more than other people represent God as he (or she these days) is the expert.

Right, got that out of my system. Time for sleep.