MeginLeaWrites
Published in

MeginLeaWrites

Confessions of a Not-so-Good Pastor’s Wife: Ministry is Hard.

To take up space. To remain. To exist. It is hard. It is hard, sometimes, to stay, amidst discouragement and invalidation. To thrive, and to remember the encouraging, despite the down cast countenances, disappointed judgments, doubts, questioned motives, and continued misunderstanding of our actions, it is hard. And I struggle, some days I struggle, a lot.

Disclaimer: I do not write to put anyone on blast. I write because I feel unseen, and to remain, to struggle, I need to feel I have a voice and am seen. I write because there are those who encourage me, but there are many who discourage me. Do I have your permission to feel? And to have a story as well? Amidst a struggling imperfect people who are God’s children. I don’t claim to have it all right or to be perfect. But can we both look at ourselves in the mirror? I truly believe I am willing to look at myself in the mirror and dissect my sin, my faults. Will others join me? I have appreciated apologies through the years, sincere apologies from wonderful friends. I feel a desire to name them as to praise them for their humility and growth. I also feel I have offered many heart felt apologies, through tears, over my failures. But there are countless who I feel do not know how to offer true apologies or empathize with people whose experiences are not like their own… we must go higher if we want to live as the body of Christ and reconcile. We cannot merely forget the past and not speak about it. We must speak about the past, have hard conversations, and work through it. It’s not easy, but it is godly. Emotions do not die; they get buried alive, and they prevent us from living in the present until they are heard and validated, and we have a chance all to apologize and own our mistakes…and yes, all parties involved have made mistakes. I’m not blind to mine, I do not think. But some others, are they blind to theirs? I wonder. I am not sure… So in speaking, I feel like a bad pastor’s wife, but perhaps in remaining silent, I am actually one… perhaps in speaking, I am a better pastor’s wife than I realize. I do not know.

Confessions of a pastor’s wife: I’m not a good pastor’s wife. I cannot keep my mouth shut. I cannot suffer in silence, for sake of keeping the peace, and not offending people by holding up a mirror to their offenses and the things they say. The things I have been told, have had to stomach, all while hearing “please don’t take it personally; it’s not personal; it’s not about you,’’ except it IS about me, about us, and it is exhausting. I get it. You need to speak, and people shouldn’t be prevented from speaking their truths. So I’ve paid a counselor $100 every two weeks for years to stomach it all, and I’ve survived, and I’ve grown, but none of it has been easy.

On the replant, and needing more help, and needing to collaborate with another church: “Is it really just too hard because you want to have a baby? You and your other teammate? And so that’s why you can’t get the replant off the ground? I’m just saying. It seems like that is why things haven’t worked out, because you want to have kids now and you can’t give enough time. That’s fine, but just admit it. Maybe someone else should do that job.” — a friend. Actually more than one friend, each saying they meant well, and didn’t just speak for themselves… “people wonder,” they say, but they can’t so who… so how many ‘’people,’’ I am left to wonder? Maybe a lot? Except others say they support us, so I don’t know. I don’t know what to believe… so I talk to my counselor, and she helps me understand, these people speak out of their own brokennes; it is not a reflection of me. So I will accept it, but I will grieve it, because it hurts, and I thought we were friends. And I’ve wanted to see you, and I wish you could see me.

And yes, I try not to take it personally, except it is personal, and like I said, we are friends, right? Or so I thought. But friends support each other, want each other to thrive, but it seems like you just want me to grow your church, and in the way you best see fit… And maybe someone else should take on my VOLUNTARY role then, “Perhaps you, my friend? Do you want to help?” I ask. “Oh wait, I’ve asked you before to join us, countless times, and you’ve said no. You would rather not join us. You have your reasons. I don’t listen to you enough probably. I’m too hard to work with… but don’t take it personally, but you would rather stand to the side and let us know how we could do a better job. Try this, and then this, and then this… (most of which we have tried) That is much easier.”- me. being honest, and then accused, and rightly so, of being judgmental and not taking rebuke…, but I didn’t start the judgmental conversation, and I think I am taking rebuke, but can you? Can you take any? Am I allowed to rebuke you? Not if I want to be a good pastor’s wife.

On my husband’s job performance: “I’m not sure I see you as my pastor. I just can’t, but it’s not personal, but things you have done have just made it hard,” -a well-meaning friend, whom I love, and whose opinion probably means more to me than it should…and my husband actually takes less offense, because compartmentalizes well, but I do not. And it FEELS personal, and I’m not sure how not to take it personal… that we’ve committed to be here, taken this position, transplanted our whole life and stuck it out, chose NOT to move away, to where no one knows us and has no pre-concieved notions, and maybe could give us the benefit of the doubt better, that we don’t want people to leave, that we love people, that we don’t want to KILL the church or think everyone sucks, and where we aren’t judged based on the past or on incomplete stories or one-sided accounts of events, and assumptions that we should have known better, and should have been able to speak up against those who held power over us, amidst all this discouragement, and amidst trying to keep ourselves and our church afloat; it’s hard not to take it personal… that by virtue of who we are, or by virtue of the fact that we’ve made decisions that we believe to be following God in order to PRESERVE the life and legacy of this incredible congregation that needs to have some cultural changes and fix some of our issues, when faced with not many good options and the fact that our senior pastor was leaving and taking people with him, albeit I know these decisions were controversial and that you deserve the right to disagree with them, but for these reasons, it is hard to see my husband as pastor, easier to see a stranger that you do not know and with whom you have no history, no history to disagree with, but who you’d prefer to accept, and your voice in on record, for all who could hear to hear, that you disapprove… and that he’s not good enough, and it’s not personal… except I don’t know how not to be discouraged by that. Tell me how not to be discouraged by that? For me, it is impossible. But the smarter part of me tells me I should keep quiet, except I can’t, which makes me a not so great of a pastor’s wife, like I said. Or maybe it just makes me an honest human who is honest about her hurt and pain lest she become bitter and end up walking into a board meeting one day and losing her temper… because I have known pastor’s wives who have done that, and that doesn’t work out so well for them either. But people have short memories, and now they say they don’t even remember those things, and how they were silenced when they had opinions. We give you space to have opinions, and to say you don’t like us, but then that makes us those you can’t see as your leaders, or at least those who aren’t good enough to gain your respect… and that hurts, and I don’t know what to do with it… so I take it to Jesus… and to my counselor, and to friends who have all had to move away because they couldn’t stick it out, all the judgments and misunderstandings, AND I DON’T BLAME THEM… but now you say we probably should just give up because even those friends left… do you realize, they left because of the dissenting and discouraging voices… NOT because of us… they left because it was taking so long… because we were trying to give so much room to work with all the dissenting and hurting people… all the people who had passion and wanted to do the hard work had to leave for churches that were already DOING the hard works of social justice and loving the unloving and being multi-cultural, and trying to reach out even to the disenfranchised Chinese or homeless or black people… they left to go to places well established and doing these ministries because it was too hard to stay here and be the CHANGE they wanted to see. We stayed, to try to be the change, and yet we often get blamed that they left… if we had done better, they would have stayed… That feels unfair…. to blame us… yet we get blamed, sometimes to our face, and sometimes through passive-aggressive comments… and it’s hard, not to take it personal. It is hard. Never to be enough.

And I’m encouraged, “You should have faith, that God will provide,” and I agree, even though we’ve had to make changes to our insurance 2 or 3 times in the past 3 years, trying to make it cost less for us to be insured because it’s hard to support us, and even though I cringe at the yearly budget disclosures because comments are bound to come up in group meetings or after on the side, salaries questioned, requests for more transparency about what the pastor actually DOES, and how he spends his time, requests for us to find cheaper options to ensure our health. I appreciate that church pays us, provides insurance; I really do, “but could you find one that costs less? Other pastors don’t cost as much? And is this salary really on par with what pastor’s in NYC make? And can you give account for how you spend your time more? And why people have left the church then? Because we want to pay you, but gosh it is hard. We want to give our money to the church, but please let me know exactly how it’s being used then because I’m not sure I can trust the leaders really are utilizing it well…, but it’s not personal. Please don’t take it personal.” — countless people, through the years.

Except it is personal, because it costs a lot, as you should know, to live in NYC, and I don’t work because I want to VOLUNTEER my time for the church and raise my kids, and make sure I can watch them so my husband can be on-call literally 24–7. And we don’t have savings. We live month to month, and we only live here because of our parents. And my name isn’t even on any documents….I literally own nothing- no car, no apartment. Nothing is in my name. (Which terrifies my sister… what if Jesse died? Would you really be taken care of Megin? Yes, Buffie. Jesse’s parents treat me as one of their own, but it still baffles her that I am here, in this apartment, and nothing is in my name… it’s like I don’t even exist, and just recently, I was even reminded I shouldn’t sign my husbands checks. I literally don’t really have authority. I just sit here and trust I’ll be taken care of. And that’s my choice. I could go get a job else where… except how would that fly, because my background is IN theology, IN church ministry. So I’d have to work for another church… and how would that go over… how great of a pastor’s wife would I be then, giving my time to grow ministries for OTHER churches…)?? I have nothing to show for living here and giving my all here… and that’s okay. I signed up for this life, but it is personal, to question the salary, to show displeasure that my husband must be paid so much, and are there really funds to support so many pastors? Does our church really need that many? Could not one do it all? Maybe not Jesse; maybe one with a better, more outgoing personality. Maybe Jesse just isn’t fit for this job… but please don’t take that personally; we love you. We just wonder… except apparently one person can’t do it all, even with a better personality, because other pastor’s that you’ve compared my husband to and said were more fit to plant churches in New York City ULTIMATELY left New York City and moved away… but we’ve stayed… But yes, it seems fair, maybe you should be allowed to look for someone else. If you prefer that, actually bring it up, and see if others really agree with you. I give you permission, but also know, I don’t see many pastors knocking at the door to lead you all. Because it’s pretty hard, to lead a people, when some people constantly want to point out all the ways we are failing or should do it better. But it is not personal, except is is. Because I get we are imperfect, and it’s not easy to support us, but do you understand that you are imperfect as well? And it’s not easy to serve you? But we love you, and are trying our very best, and most of the time, not speaking of our pain… most of the time, not writing it all out…

Or vacation time- let’s get into that. My husband gets 20 vacation days a year, but do you realize how many of those we actually took last year? Pretty much none of them until the end of the year, and then used them for paternity leave, because we certainly don’t make enough that we can get unpaid paternity leave. And then when we did try to group it all together, and many of our friends encouraged us to take time off after Eden was born, we still dealt with many other friends letting us know that it was a shame we couldn’t be here for different holiday parties, or host them… or cancelled service the last Sunday of the year… such a shame. And do you know how many of those days we’ve used this year….which is half over? Not one. Not a single one, because it’s never convenient. Just this morning I told Jesse, I need him to take a week off to let me just sleep, and then a week off to let me just have some time to myself not taking care of kids and doing miscellaneous ministry, but then that’s HIS vacation time, and so when does he get to rest? And when do we actually get to see our family that lives scattered throughout the U.S.A….much less actually take a REAL vacation just for ourselves and our family? That would be half the time right there… So don’t start in on vacation time and how blessed we are. Because yes we are blessed, but it’s never that simple, and there is never a good time to take it, and then there are complaints about how slow this is all going, and how people are tired of waiting for things to pick up speed… and we’re losing people right and left, so work faster, work faster, which means we can’t take vacation… and I’m literally bursting at the seems and working my fingers to the bone… so it’s not personal, except it is, and the fact that I can’t NOT speak about it, once again, makes me not so great of a pastor’s wife, because I’m asking you to validate OUR reality and not just your own. We certainly have empathy for you and want to serve you, that’s why we are here. But can you see us? Perhaps can you imagine that our life is not so happy and jovial all the time? Like when Corona set in, and I was reminded by my ‘’friend’’ that I guess I got off easy because my husband could still get paid, and I didn’t have to move into a hotel and be separated from my kid. You’re right. I do see those things as a blessing. And I ache for my friends separated from their children, and I reach out to them, and I pray for them, and ask how I can help them. But please don’t tell me my life is easy. I am not telling you your life is easy. I’m listening to you and willing to say you have a lot to endure. Are you willing to see that maybe for me, I have a lot to endure? Because that is what a FRIEND would do, but perhaps a good pastor’s wife would not point this out. Or perhaps a good pastor’s wife, does not deserve friends, at least within her own congregation.

Maybe that’s just it. I don’t mind hearing we don’t do it perfectly. I don’t mind hearing we could improve, but I would like to hear that we are appreciated, and that you value what we’ve given… and that you wouldn’t trade us. Because even though all this has been said, I actually value all of you, and I wouldn’t trade you… if I didn’t value you, honestly, I probably wouldn’t stay. I’m probably not as godly and committed as you think. Let my posting of this be proof. If I didn’t love you and value you, and really only wanted to follow God to greener pastures, I probably would have left years ago, probably back in 2011, when I was first drained and exhausted, and my senior pastor told me that must mean I wasn’t cut out for ministry, so he would approve me going to part-time and having unpaid vacation, making much less, but please still fulfill my duties that benefited the church, although I needed to realize, I was not church leadership, no more, and I certainly needed to make sure I could still commute to Chinatown, to open church, or have someone open church, my responsibility…it was.. but I would I wasn’t cut out for ministry if I was depressed… and he was sorry, it wasn’t personal. And it isn’t personal still, to this day, though he stands by his comments, but he is sorry IF those comments hurt me, but they are his opinions, and maybe most people don’t love me enough to be honest with me, but he does. Because ministry is a hard job, one where you have to swim up stream, against the current, and perhaps I just don’t have it in me. I would, however, make a great secretary.

Which is odd because I’m still here, still swimming against the stream, after all these years, and after so many things have been called into question…. I’m still here, although my commitment to my job was questioned, and I needed to fill out a time card to log my work days, and it was a constant conversation, up until I finally quit- was I working enough hours, and did Sunday really count as a work day? But I should still come on Sunday…I shouldn’t find community elsewhere, because I had an example to uphold, and my presence was needed to show support, and I should continue working with youth, because that’s what I was hired for, and there was no need to disciple women, although countless women begged for discipleship. I needed to grow the youth ministry, and figure out a way to integrate the parents who spoke a different language, even than our OWN Chinese congregation, into the church. But keep in mind, was I really working enough to be paid what I was paid? I literally even questioned myself at many points, and I felt GUILTY that the church paid me. But it wasn’t personal, and maybe I would understand that, if I’d worked more jobs, or at other churches, or in the corporate world. This is just how things are, and I certainly take this all too personally. It’s not personal. It’s job performance, and I’m not performing up-to-par. Okay, maybe so, but does that make it right? Just because it’s like the corporate world, that there is no room for people to grow? For vision to change? For risks to be taken? And is it not personal? I say no… The lack of affirmation but the constant critique from those who are supposed to be community and supportive, or, gasp, family, and constant criticism from those you are trying to love. It is personal, and I will deal with it, $100 every other week, because this conversation with you is getting nowhere really.

And I’ll grow, and learn to forgive. People are less than human, like myself. We make mistakes. We hurt others. We don’t know how to apologize or own our mistakes. But we shouldn’t say it’s not personal. It’s all personal. We are all people. We are personal.

Or there was the time my baby died, and I was reminded, that God knows best, and maybe although I wanted the baby, I really wasn’t prepared for it. Sometimes we want things that we don’t really need, like that time you placed an order at a restaurant, and really wanted all that food, but the cook forgot to cook it, and then in the end you realized, you were full and couldn’t have eaten it anyway. So it was better the meal was forgotten. Similarly, maybe it was better I didn’t have this baby. Maybe I wasn’t ready. I thanked you for seeking to comfort me, and then I cried on my bed, because maybe it was true. Maybe I wasn’t cut out to mother more than one child. Not yet. I wasn’t up for the challenge. I wasn’t enough, so I deserved to suffer… and God let me get pregnant because I wanted to get pregnant, but he ripped my child away to teach me this lesson. Yes, that is basically what your analogy preached. I’m sure you didn’t realize that.

Or the other time, when my baby died, and one of my parents said, “do you think God just knew you couldn’t handle two kids, so he let your baby die?” Because you’re right… maybe He knew that I couldn’t handle two kids. I could probably just handle one kid, and losing a baby. That’s probably as much as I could handle. That’s much easier. It’s not personal. And you don’t understand why I’m upset, so I’ll pay my therapist $100 more dollars, and she’ll understand, and walk me through it, and I’ll heal, but I’ll know, that there is one less person in the world that I can fully trust. And that you worry about me because I feel, and because I share; thus I am weak. I will live knowing you believe I am weak, even though I am your daughter. I will live knowing I do not measure up to your idea of strength. I would love to please you, and I never will fully. I will live knowing that. And that, actually, proves I am strong.

It’s not personal. These are all words, and people mean well… they want to help, except it is all personal, and it’s not my fault that people aren’t healthy enough to know when their ‘helpful words’ are just hurtful.

Or there is the time I was just 16 weeks along, on my 4th pregnancy, and was asked at church, “don’t you worry, that this baby might be deformed? How do you know it’s not?” And I thought, “wow… well hell. Actually yes. Every f***ing day, I wonder, but when I talk about that, you and most others remind me just to trust God. I’ve got to have faith. I shouldn’t fear so much.” And you’re right. I shouldn’t fear so much, but then again, how do I know this one isn’t deformed too, because I trusted God with the last two, and they were deformed? And they died. But that’s right; it was because I wasn’t prepared to handle a kid yet. Right? And because you just asked that to me… to my face. At church, I will isolate and speak less, even though you need me to smile and be kind and not cry, so you’ll pray for me. But you need me stay for the rest of the afternoon, sitting here, in pain, lest I appear unfriendly and like I don’t want to have a relationship with you. For this, I am once again, a poor-pastor’s wife. That, I am.

Or one last word, before I end, before I go back to being silent again; perhaps I need to forgive, and to pray more, and to repent, and come to bible study. Because I don’t, come to the bible studies, held at church, anymore, and that’s pointed out to me, quite often, how I am not there, and do not share. But have you ever wondered, that perhaps I don’t share because in the past, when I have tried, I have been met with the blank stares, and the accusations, “we’ve tried to love you. Why do you still feel this way? We did our best? If you don’t like it, why do you stay? You could just leave. What else do we do?” There was even a day, some years ago, countless friends called me out, during Sunday school, for sharing just that, that it was hard, to stay in ministry, and that I was sad… they were angered. “They’d done their best; what more did I want?” they asked… Perhaps space to exist, and be sad. It wasn’t about them. It was about me. Could it be about me? Was that allowed? So I pray at home, or with other friends, who won’t judge, but empathize. I pay a counselor, because to love you, I must not speak, because you don’t want to hear it. Honestly, I don’t mind loving you. I don’t mind enduring, but please perhaps, instead of questioning whether I could do better, pray for me… that God will give me strength, to endure, to weather storms, to love the unloveable, to be loved, because I certainly don’t like myself all that much, and wish I could do more, endure more… I certainly don’t like that I hurt, and that I care, and that I can’t be everything, you would like me to be.

I could go on. I have stories that perhaps you would not believe, even if I told you. More that I can’t say because surely I would have plenty up in arms, as even I know this will have many up in arms. But like I said, I want to say these things not to put anyone on blast, to remind everyone, that we are all humans here… and we are all doing our best, struggling… None of us really gets up each day and says, “what’s the best way I can make life harder for people I love… and how can I hurt them, and be passive-aggressive, and make them feel alone, and call them out, and make them sad.” None of us are doing that. But we are getting up each day and being unloving, and being unkind, and speaking too soon, and fixating on the specs in the eyes of others without plucking out the giant splinter sticks in our own.

So let us think about our words. Let us think about how honest we are and when. I think about that all the time, and most of the time, I do not share about my hurt because I know it will inflame people that I really hope to love, and I know it runs the risk of getting out outed, literally boosted out of here… because people don’t want to hear that they are broken and hurting us. They don’t want their imperfections aired to the world, and they don’t want others to know they are less than perfect, but how about we all be honest that we are less than perfect… Our lives are basically open books, and we’re often put on blast… can I ask my friends, my body of believers, to look in the mirrors at themselves as well? Because I’ll be honest, some days, I’m dying here.

And because also there are those who support me and support Jesse so much. And because of those people, we are preserved. Because of God’s great faithful hand, we endure, and because we love even those who say and do things that they hope we don’t take personally but that honestly, how are we supposed to take OTHER than personally… we are people, and we care about you, and we want to serve you and do what is best for you and love you, and apparently doing a good enough job is impossible, as we are often reminded… quite often reminded.

And for this, I am not a good pastor’s wife. That I know full-well, so you don’t need to tell me. It is truth I live out every day.

Originally published at http://meginlea.blogspot.com on July 2, 2020.

--

--

I write because I once could not. I write because God has called me to write. I write to give voice to the unheard who cannot speak, the unheard the masses will not hear. I write because I am, in God’s image, creator, artist, a voice to speak and breathe life and live, and write.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
MeginLea

MeginLea

24 Followers

MeginLea is a writer-singer-songwriter-minister from the deep South who expanded her horizon in Asia & has been woven deeply into the fabric of urban NYC.