I like my husband. He’s attractive. Dresses great. He’s hilarious, and he gets my jokes. He’s incredibly smart, an unbelievably intuitive partner and parent. He’s insightful, good with people, takes care of the money (thank God!), and he loves God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit (and knows the difference between them all. And that’s not just a given, ok?)

I benefit so much from being around him, soaking up all that he is, from having him for a best friend.

But there’s one tiny problem. We never have anything to talk about. Unless you count church. Church goers. Church not-yet-goers. Church used-to-goers. People who like us this week. People who don’t like us this week. People who will probably not like us next week. We talk about the church plant. Church policies. Church finances and meetings and who-what-when-where churchy stuff. Yup, that’s pretty much all we talk about. We also talk about our son because he’s hilarious and parenting is extremely rewarding/challenging. Sure, I squeeze in convo about adoption and my work and what my friends are up to. But these two things take up our lives. I think they’re supposed to, but I didn’t know what I was getting myself into, okay?

See how happy we were. This may have been due to the fact that we had other things to talk about. We’re this happy most of the time, but it’s just a bit more complicated now. 

I really should’ve seen this coming. I was in full-time ministry for a year after college before I decided it was definitely not for me and went into the “secular” universe so I wouldn’t have to be a “professional Christian”, which is what ministry felt like to me. It was this all-encompassing life of a minister that did me in. I never knew when I was working. In ministry, you make friends with the people you are reaching. It’s wonderful. And terrible. They’re your friends and dinner party pals, but you are also correcting and guiding and encouraging and praying with and for them. So confusing for a girl with poor boundaries. [That was me, in case that wasn’t clear.]
Going further back: I’ve been a ministry volunteer in some fashion since 1999. That June, Nate Severson and Hillcrest Covenant Church took a chance on me as a youth ministry leader. I was a flaky 17-year old, fresh out of the pages of Reviving Ophelia, determined to start a teenage revolution and prevent the young girls of America from getting their souls sucked out by Cosmo and false body image expectations and bad boyfriends. But I didn’t even come every Sunday. My communication skills were terrible. Some of the parents thought me and my nose ring were a bad influence. Maybe they knew that sometimes I got drunk the night before church and had to come lead a small group the next day. 

I had so much left undone in my own soul. God bless Nate though. I think youth ministry and those sweet awkward tweens who adored me, I think they saved my life.

Fast forward 11 years and the man I married, this wonderful, bearded man with deep, squinty eyes and a sharp theologically-bent intellect, this man took a job as a pastor.

He still looks at me like this.

It started small. As in, our influence was small. Everyone looked at us sideways to see what we were up to. They were right. We were a bit aggressive at first, despite our best efforts at humility. But it wasn’t long before our impact grew, before we became trusted, sought-out. But with growing influence comes more suspicion, more accusation. And before we knew it, the people who we loved so much were hanging out with people who don’t love them as much, and these people made decisions which “will self-destruct in five seconds”. Or five years. But either way, it’s so painful to watch. Like letting your teenage daughter go out with that loser guy and you can’t prevent it because she’s doing it behind your back anyway, and you just have to let her fail, but you pray the fall will be light and the pain not-that-much, and that she’ll be back soon.

This is what pastoring is like all the time. The love you feel for all these people who sit on our couch and cook lunch in our kitchen on Sunday afternoon and live in our basement and cry into the nook of our shoulders – it’s crazy. It just takes over your life. Takes over our life

So you can imagine. I don’t even do this for pay. I’m just married into it. But the pain hits me too. When people leave, when they misunderstand our intentions, when we mess up and overreact, and they stay mad and we can’t convince them how sorry we are, that’ll just mess wreck my body and sleep for days if I let it. If I let it. It’s a choice, I know, but I’m such a rookie at this. 

Why do I do it then? I mean, other than the fact that it’s my husband’s job. It’s such a good question. It’s because we can’t do anything else. It’s a calling. A big, huge magnet in the sky with all the gravitational pull of heaven behind it. It’s excruciating at times. But I know on the worst days when we’ve just lost someone else so dear to their own decision that takes them out of our lives for now, I know that Jesus knows exactly how we feel. He just sits there with us and says, “Yea, I know what you mean. It hurts so bad, doesn’t it? But this isn’t the end of the story. You still have me. And I love you.” Being loved and understood is so nice. So necessary to keep going.

We still have each other, Babe.

And on those oh-so-sad, lonely days (that seem much more frequent now), Josh and I often say to each other , “Babe, at least I’ve got you. We’ve still got each other,” just to remind ourselves that the being misunderstood part isn’t the end of the story, that we have a few people who love us well, who we know won’t bail. We have our adorable John and that jumpy puppy in the backyard. We have a house-full of people who will listen to our rants and pray for us. We have our families who have loved us for years and years, especially our parents who held strong when we were so unlovable and mean. Now we know what it’s like. Yea, Mom and Dad – we get it now.

But just so you know, I’m not going to quit this thing. Certainly not my partnership with my husband, but not even this church gig, this nights and weekends, sidecar business I have going when I get done with my 40-hour a week paycheck. (And it’s a calling too.) But I’m not going anywhere. I have a faithful God and a loyal, tenacious husband and with these two around, our roots are going down, down, down into love. Into Love. Into the place where I can move out of running on fumes and live and love with leftovers to spare, the good-tasting kind, with a smile that I mean. No matter what they say, no matter who stays or goes, no matter what the offering was that week, no matter how many seats are filled. That’s the kind of love I’m burrowing into. It’s all I got.

Yes, I met my match.

My favorite for life.

[Photo credit is the absolutely brilliant and gorgeous, Sarah Tafoya Howell. Check out her gallery of beautiful people at saratafoya.com.] 

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