We got married in 1982. It wasn’t very long after we got married, maybe a year, maybe 2, that my husband started making noises about wanting to go into ministry. I said no. I said no the way a woman would say no if her husband smilingly asked her if she would like a bucket of spiders poured over her head while cockroaches crawled between her toes.
I mean, there was no room for doubt in my response. And that response stayed the same for the last 30 years. No. I don’t want to. I married him for many reasons, but I am not kidding when I say that one of the attractions was in no small part that he would never be a preacher. In fact, when we married, a majority of the attractions at that age and stage in my recovery and escape from growing up with abuse was that there was almost no way whatsoever my husband resembled my father- not in ambition, gifts, weaknesses, strengths, physical appearance- and decidedly not in career choice. I would never have dated anybody who wanted to be a preacher, let alone married him, not in any circumstances.
Over the years we’ve been asked why, and I’ve mainly said I didn’t want to be dependent on other Christians for whether we could pay our bills that month or not. Of course, people usually point out we’re depending on God not fellow believers, and I just nod and shrug because the end result looks the same- people. Money is fungible. It comes to us through people. But that probably wasn’t really the reason. I mean, I did not particularly enjoying being a preacher’s kid growing up. I didn’t like the looks, the expectations, the double standards. Not my parents’ double standards, but other people’s. “I can wear this,” said a deacon’s daughter to me about a skimpy outfit she was wearing, “but you’re the preacher’s daughter. It would be wrong for you.” I could give you a list of stuff like this, but that really wasn’t it, either. I was an intensely logical child and at 9 or 10 I was rolling my eyes at her reasoning- rolling them so hard I could see my own brain, because I just that snarkastic even then.
My parents did make a firm and loud point to us and to anybody else who would listen that they did not expect any particular sort of behavior from us because my dad was preacher, that what they expected from us would have been the same if my father was a lay member and we were just ‘civilian’ members of the church and our parents were in used car sales. I never had any sense that this was not entirely true until high school, when events revealed that for one of my parents at least, this was not really true. But then, almost nothing was true when it came to that parent. I am not going to go into the details, but I will say, I know that my mother, at least, had believed it was true, and it was true for her. For my dad, the well behaved Christian children were part of his necessary camouflage.
And there we are. I expect the real reason I have a reflexive recoil at the idea of being a preacher’s wife has already occurred to anybody who has been reading here for any length of time and can read between the lines, especially since the ‘between the lines’ parts are growing less and less faint as I grow older and my dad’s death places him every month, every year, at a safer distance from me. Abuse casts a long, long shadow.
My dad was a preacher, and he was also a psychopath. Unless it’s sociopath. I never can quite remember which is which, but neither is exactly the sort of parent who builds warm and fuzzy connections with the offspring. Somehow, one of my brothers managed to stomach it all and become a preacher himself, but then, he was, of the 3 of us, the least likely to be thrown into a wall or have his face rubbed in dog feces, or worse. Not, he would insist, that he doesn’t know it was hell, and from first hand experiences of his own, just that if the 3 of us were to line our pitiful childhood selves up in order of precisely which layer of hell we were in, my youngest brother and I would be hardpressed to admit anybody had it worse than us, and the middle brother would have to agree with us that it definitely was not him.
So I have always known this about myself- I have never ever, not even for a second, wanted to be a preacher’s wife. I’m not going to be one now.
However, oddly enough, bizarrely enough, strangely enough- I just-, and I do mean just, as in five minutes before I sat down to write this post- realized that I have been completely complicit in becoming a missionary’s wife, In fact, I have not only been complicit in this, I have encouraged, aided, and abetted this change, and not only is my husband going into missions, I’m expected to partner with him (precisely how, I do not quite know yet, a lot depends on the Cherub’s adjustment to a new country), and it’s entirely self- supported, self-funded. As in, we have to raise 100% of our support ourselves.
Although I have known this for months, technically speaking, as I say, my brain only allowed me to come face to face with the reality of what it all means about five or ten minutes ago. I am still rather stunned by this discovery. I am even more stunned by the way my brain has betrayed me, allowed us to get this far, allowed me to do as much as I have already done without letting me in on this little secret- that I’ve just become a missionary’s wife for a fully self-supporting mission. Wretched traitor, my brain.
I was tricked, you see, by the fact that the work my husband will actually be doing is creating a special needs program at a school in Davao City which has never had a special needs program before. I was distracted by the knowledge that there is an orphanage where others at the school regularly go volunteer, and fresh off our own very personally moving, life changing, heart breaking, heart aching experience with orphan hosting four brothers from Ukraine and having them wrenched away from us (no, I can’t talk about it more, not ever), that was an aching throbbing, cavity in my heart I was anxious to fill and I am hopeful there will be a way to fill it through helping other children at that different orphanage in another country. And, let us be painfully honest, I was seduced by my own wander-lust and lured by a desire to give my youngest and last child (even though he is 18) the chance to experience life overseas, even for a short time, in a very different country with a very different lifestyle. Bedighted by all these trappings, the plain reality that I was now married to a missionary and was also become one myself in spite of myself was hidden from me- by me.
I just blinked and saw God behind the curtain, laughing at me.
And now that I have gotten that off of my chest and spun the confused ponderings of my bewildered brain into words which make some sense, even if the reality still doesn’t, I have said and done all I ever wanted to do with this blog post. I merely sat down to do what I often do when I am baffled, bewildered, confused, or in some way feeling more emotional than I like (feelings? Ew. I got some on me, but shook that stuff off, and I’m better now, thanks)– Ariadne had a golden thread to help her through her maze. I find my way through my own mental mazes with words. Writing clarifies things for me, including my own thoughts and feelings. So I wrote. I thought I was done.
But having written, the topic will not release me until I do this one, uncomfortable, embarrassing, humbling thing I had not planned to do. You know that recurring dream where one is doing something very public- like delivering a keynote address- only one realizes one is in one’s underwear and nobody has noticed yet, but the fact that one is nearly naked is bound to dawn upon the crowd at any moment? I hadn’t had that one in five years or more. It’s back.
I mentioned we are self-supporting in this mission work. If you are interested in hearing more from us about it- short, chatty, weekly emailed newsletters at the moment, either leave your email address in the comments, or email me at Heartkeepercommonroom (gmail), and I will pass it on, and my husband will add you to his email list. I write the newsletters, largely based on topics he suggests, he handles nearly everything else because I am still somewhat in denial.
Obviously, yes, we’d be relieved by financial support, also by sharing on social media, and especially, we’d love your prayers and encouragement.
Thank-you all so much for reading.