Last Sunday, I stood in the parking lot chatting with someone long after the last service was over. A friend leaned out his car window, waving and shouting to me, "Bye, First Lady! Have a great day!"
Truly, how many white girls from Orange County ever get to be called "First Lady"? I mean, unless they're married to an actual US president. Gah, I love our church.
My life is very different than I ever expected it to be when I was a lowly Hollywood production assistant in the art department, making Starbucks runs and listening to old artists wax eloquent about the 1960s LA art scene. One story involved a woman who famously played naked chess with Marcel DuChamp. She also set her polyester pantsuit aflame one day while smoking and driving her VW bug. You just can't make stuff like this up. Another guy ominously predicted the simultaneous demise of all the palm trees in LA one day, since they aren't indigenous, were all planted at the same time, and have the same lifespan. Every day of my life was basically a Seinfeld episode back then.
I thought it would be like that forever, days full of odd artists and driven studio execs. I also thought denim overalls had become permanent fashion rejects, which only proves the future is hard to predict. For many reasons I can't list here, I jumped at the chance to run away from my LA life and marry a campus minister. Love was worth the leap.
Many years later we ended up as pastors of a struggling church. I barely thought twice about the strange path my life was on- it was seamless, you know? One moment led to the next, like a dream I was scrambling to keep pace with for years. I jogged along, having babies, hosting students, loving God with all I had, and then I looked up one day, and I was a "pastor's wife".
Let's be clear: I had no idea what I was doing.
I don't always love the pressures of ministry, but I do really, really love the people we serve. They're all real life heroes. When church feels more like family, the joy is indescribable.
There has never been a more ridiculous group of mismatched people than we find in God's Church. When we link arms it's a sight to behold. All we really have in common is the gospel. The way our brokenness, need, and weaknesses meets His risen glory is the singular cord linking us together. Any time I am given the chance to stand at the front of a group of people and pray for more precious souls to enter this ragtag group of Jesus people, I can't believe my luck. To be allowed to hold a microphone and lead people into God's Kingdom is a gift.
If I could go back in time six years and meet "me" for coffee, I would have a great deal to say, and maybe just as much to keep to myself. Spoilers ruin the fun.
Spoilers would take away the need to cling to God. A genuine love for Jesus and His Church propelled us into this place in Austin. Had I known how hard it would be to do this well, all kinds of second thoughts might have arisen. But the hard days have birthed a greater love for God and a deeper awe for His beautiful Church.
We have had front row seats for one of the most precious miracles I can imagine: a church revived. It takes a mystical blend of the Holy Trinity, the faith and effort of many people, and money. I'm not going to lie, you need boatloads of all three ingredients. While you're waiting for those ships to come in, you learn the power of praying things that sound like modern day psalms, "God, come on! You told us to do this! COME. ON. You're so powerful! You MADE EVERYTHING. You can DO ANYTHING. Please, do this for us. We know you won't let us down now, Lord!" Good, holy prayers come later, after all these honest ones grease the wheels a bit.
All along the way, we are also learning who the Church is meant to be in the world.
The simplest acts can often be the hardest to do in life. Loving people is easy in theory, and very messy in practice. If they're victorious, you make a run for Jesus with them. If they're prickly, you draw good boundaries and give them some grace. But if they're grieving, you hold hands, you take meals, you talk about the pain, you sit in silence, you pray in tears. But the sadness wears on you. And in these days of tragedy and constant media coverage, the sadness is everywhere.
So we live Colossians 1:24. God continually shows us in new ways to rejoice in what we suffer, filling up in our own selves as much of the aching sorrow this world offers us, so that what the world needs of Christ can be brought through the love we share. This chance to offer Christ to others is also a gift.
Even though I don't think I ever "wanted" to be a pastor's wife, there is probably only one thing I would tell myself on that trip back in time:
"You will love where this path leads. (Also, keep your overalls. No fashion trend is ever dead.)"
Ok, fine. I would tell myself two things.