Would he be my Pastor, if he weren’t my husband?
I realized a week or so ago, sitting in leadership training at our church HarmonySTL, that I had never pondered this question.
I’ve lived the double edged sword my entire life of having hands on Pastors at all times. A Grandfather, A Father, a Boyfriend then Fiancee, then Husband, then Father of my Children, and recently, myself.
I’ve never, nor will I ever know what it’s like to have a distanced relationship with one’s spiritual leader.
It’s hard. Like really hard. I’m supposed to be fed by this person that sees ME at my absolute worst. I’m supposed to be fed by this person that I see at THEIR absolute worst.
It seems like a recipe for disaster, if not for the most important ingredient,
(I’m not going to pretend like I’m not really proud of that baking metaphor, because I am, because I mean, seriously, The Great British Baking Show anybody? Pure brilliance and joy. To think a reality competition show could help restore my faith in humanity is a little ridiculous, but it does, and all the while I get to look at delectable concoctions and listen to lovely accents)
So that’s the thing, without Jesus, I wouldn’t choose my husband to be my pastor. Heck, without Jesus, I wouldn’t choose my husband to be my husband. Because marriage is hard. They don’t tell you that beforehand. I mean they do, but they don’t to the degree that they should. They don’t tell you that life is going to kick you flat on your ass, and sometimes it will be easier because you have made vows to one another, and sometimes it will be harder. “They” also don’t tell you that it’s a good idea to pee before and after sex, because if you don’t, you’re going to be stuck in the Virgin Islands (not making this up) with a urinary tract infection, with no way to get antibiotics, with two days left of your honeymoon, and you only brought one book, because, well, you didn’t expect to be reading much, but you end up spending those last two days in the bathtub reading and re-reading Naked by David Sedaris, again, I can’t make this stuff up).
They don’t tell you how hard marriage is. . .
But back to this posts original purpose, if I had the luxury of church shopping, and I was seeking out a spiritual leader, would I happen into HarmonySTL, and would I choose Pastor Nate Hopping?
I sat there in the chair watching my husband do what he was created to do two Thursdays ago, and my heart was swelling, and my chest was puffing, and my head was a twitter with the extreme joy that comes with seeing someone live out their passion.
And I realized, I’ve never asked myself that question, because there wasn’t a need to. Because the yes has always resounded from deep within my gut, my very being.
I knew from the moment that Nate and I met, at 18 and 19, that this young man serving Christ with his life would be an explosive and earth shattering thing. That if he fully answered his calling with his life, not only would my life never be the same, but countless others as well.
A few years ago we were having a conversation with some friends, and they were sharing how they had stopped going to church, because there just wasn’t a leader that they could follow, and they kept reiterating that if Nate and I planted a church in their city, they would go to that church. That Nate was the kind of leader worthy of following.
I let loose on them. I don’t think I was full on yelling, but full on set jaw, steel eyes, deadly serious Meredith.
“Don’t you guys realize, that out there, in your city, there are Nate and Meredith’s all over the place who are in desperate need of someone to come and believe in them, to support them, to follow them, but also lead alongside them as they try to live out the messy, messy, crazy beautiful calling of Pastoral ministry.. When you decide not to go to church, not to invest in a community, it hurts just as much as if you were doing that to us”
Dramatic, yes? Well, yes. It’s me. But the sentiment I still stand behind. Because every Pastor, every Christian leader, is someone’s husband, or wife, or brother, or sister, or mother, or father.
They are people, they are human, they are flawed, and they have the courage to live out their calling, in a very vulnerable way, for the Gospel of Jesus Christ has changed them in such a way that they cannot be silent.
This past November Nate and I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary! Wowzers. It’s pretty amazing when I look back and think “well, at 21, about 25% of me was excited about the long term marriage part, 25% of me wanted a big party and a pretty dress, and 50% of me just wanted to have sex”.
But remember that ingredient? JESUS.
At our wedding, our dear friend Miles read this excerpt from The Irrational Season by Madeleine L’Engle. It rings truer with every passing year. And as I’ve been reflecting more and more on the church, and the people who enter or DON’T enter the doors, I’ve seen that this can apply to anyone attempting Christian community (so note where I have changed some words)
“But ultimately there comes a moment when a decision must be made. Ultimately two people (or a person and a Christian community) who love each other must ask themselves how much they hope for as their love grows and deepens, and how much risk they are willing to take. It is indeed a fearful gamble. Because it is the nature of love to create, a marriage (being part of Christian community) itself is something which has to be created, so that, together we (all) become a new creature. To marry (become part of a Christian community) is (one of) the biggest risk(s) in human relations that a person can take. If we commit ourselves to one person (community) for life this is not, as many people think, a rejection of freedom; rather it demands the courage to move into all the risks of freedom, and the risk of love which is permanent; into that love which is not possession, but participation. It takes a lifetime to learn (a Christian Community) another person. When love is not possession, but participation, then it is part of that co-creation which is our human calling, and which implies such risk that it is often rejected.”
Friends who might not be in churches, friends who are in churches but haven’t fully stepped in and moved from participation to co-creation. Go for it. Try it out. Try it out knowing that it’s risky, knowing that it’s broken, because people are in it, and people, well, we are broken. But there is something about being broken together, working towards a common goal, with the grace to allow mess ups and wrong turns, and pushes to get us back on the right track.
Would he be my Pastor, if he weren’t my husband?
peace to you,