Lost and found

The faciliator or a pastors' wives retreat found herself in deep water within the first few minutes together. All the women shared around the circle, introducing themselves as the wife of pastor X at church Y. The facilitator responded:

"No, no... I'm not interested in any of that. I want you to tell me about YOU... what you love doing, what your hobbies are, what kind of person you are."

A significant number of women in the room promptly burst into tears.

These were good, wonderful Christian women. They submitted to their husbands, they served in their churches, they loved God. But somewhere along the way, something had disconnected inside them. They had lost touch with something of the unique, authentic "me" that lurks within every person God has created.

Christ is the one who brings abundant life... or as this is expressed in the Message bible: "More and better life they they ever dreamed of". In relationship with God, we should become MORE of our authentic self than ever before... not less. God should stir up the unique gifts and talents placed within, and through the work of the Holy Spirit, release these gifts in joyous service of God and others.

So what is the problem here?

I suspect the problem has a lot to do with "religiousness". The religious expectations of church people may make both pastors (and their wives) feel like they have to conform to a certain stereotype. This crushes the impulse toward diversity and personal authenticity.

In some cases, legalistic submission (and warped views around this) may be a factor as well. Yes, Paul did instruct all Christians to submit to one another in Ephesians (see chapter 5), and emphasised this particularly to wives (but we have to remember that the cult of the goddess Artemis in Ephesus produced a "dominant feminine" mindset that probably required correction). The idea that submission is a one-way street can become a "new law" (rather than about grace and mutual submission in love). It is also easy to misread "head" as "boss" in English... but in the Ephesians passage the word in Greek just means "physical head". The image of the head and the body is one of utter interdependence... not of ruler and slave. Legalistic misinterpretation of Paul's directives might lead to the idea (in some women) that "what I want isn't important... what I feel isn't important... what God really wants is just that I fit in".

It is also true that the needs of small children are so intense it is easy for women to "lose themselves" in the demands of breastfeeding and nappies and soothing crying children and kinder runs... and then perhaps forget to find themselves again.

It is also true that the pace of life in the Western world has gotten rather mad... most people struggle to find "me time" in the midst of longer working hours and a 24/7 world.

So my question for today is this: What is it that brings you joy? What is it that brings you life? And what are the things that stop you from discovering (and making time to nurture) the "unique you"?

If the Son sets you free, you are free indeed. Hallelujah and Amen!

Comments

AbiSomeone said…
Janet,

I am not at all surprised by the, well, responses: both that these precious sisters would see themselves as an appendage to their husbands and that they would be overwhelmed when someone wanted to know about them -- and not their husbands.

I know because my mom is one of those who, for all intents and purposes, decided 60 years ago that it was best not to have any wants -- so as to avoid both disappointment and disagreement.

After us kids were all grown up, it was not unusual to hear mom reply to dad's inquiry concerning what she would like to do with these words: it doesn't make any difference; we're going to do what you want to do anyway.

Sigh....

It is a very sad reality that speaks to all the things your post mentioned. My dad is a great man and everyone knows he wouldn't have accomplished what he has without the amazing support of my mother.

But does that make it right to "use up" my mother for the sake of my father's "calling"....

Much is this is cultural to that generation, but much of it is still hanging around. I am encouraged by those men who are dedicated to support the "calling" of their wives -- and my precious husband in among their number.

As a result, I can say that I find great pleasure in pursuing the vision for CovenantClusters -- and all the reading and blogging and conferences and meetings that has entailed.

And I also find great pleasure is finding ways to foster health in all areas -- spiritual, mental, physical, social. And many of them are considered, well, a bit "abi" ;^) don't you know!

Only time will tell how this plays out in the lives of our sons. But I think they will be grateful that they won't someday have to grieve over the fact that their mother's potential was never tapped.

It is a fine line, though, walking between self and other. And the way is not an individualistic one, but rather an interdependent one.

And that's a LOT of WORK!

Bless you, sister.
AbiSomeone said…
...and the things that stop me are the long and challenging recovery from catastrophic injury (with chronic exhaustion the hanger-on) and three BUSY boys (with my oldest now a teenager)!

The only reason I am able to overcome at all is the support of my husband. But, gratefully, we have been able to do this without sacrificing him.

God is good....
Janet Woodlock said…
Oh Peggy... how sad that your mother gave up on all her own hopes and dreams...

The paradox is that when we surrender ourselves to Christ, in His extraordinary love he gives everything back and more... we become more our true selves than ever before.

When we surrender our wills to an institution, or to a set of laws, or even to another person, we become less of ourselves than ever before... we fall short of the unique people God has made us to be.

This where the (sincere) misreading of a metaphor of interdependence (head and body) as a metaphor of "boss and servant" has been very damaging. This has been tragic where women have given up on using their unique gifts, and positively diabolical where women have been urged to endure physical and emotional abuse from a partner as a Christian duty.

We are learning for the better.

As you say, we need to embrace inter-dependence as the biblical ideal. I find the over-reactions of "negative feminism" carry a tone that is no more loving (or biblical) than old-fashioned chauvinism. Surely celebrating diversity and resisting gender stereotyping (from the right or the left) is a more productive pathway in releasing the gifts of ALL for the Kingdom, than some militant (or adversarial) approach to gender issues.

(I Corinthians 11:11 In the Lord, however, woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. 12 For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God.)

It's so wonderful that you are able to birth the vision God has given you with the full support of your husband...

The reality of fatigue and active children is part of the stuff of life... as someone who likes dreams achieved yesterday (or now at the very least) it's a reminder that God's time scale is not our own. I sometimes reflect on how long Abraham had to wait before the birth of Isaac... now THERE was a long incubation prior to fulfilment of a dream!

"Seasons" are the stuff of life too (especially for women... not wishing to sound sexist, but men can't get pregnant or breastfeed etc.) Spring will come for your Covenant clusters in God's time.

Blessings on you Virtual Abbess! Thanks for stopping by to share.
AbiSomeone said…
Sorry I haven't gotten back to follow up, Janet!

Yes, my mother's story is even more sad because it is a follow on to her mother. My mom could have been a world class pianist, vocalist and scholar... but, to keep her from "getting a big head" her mother responded to a request for advanced piano lessons with: "well, Mary, you're nothing special." Breaks my heart again even to type those words!

We are grateful to have all the genetic material of my mother's greatness in her children and grandchildren...and we do the best we can to appreciate her for being, well, HER! I am grateful to have a wonderful relationship with her.

She is 82 now and as sharp as she ever was! Still plays piano and organ -- when there's a call for the old hymns, that is!

I am blessed by her and grateful to carry in myself the best of both of my parents!

When she chose to marry my Dad, she was making the classic choice for picking up the mantle of "minister's wife" ... one that she wore with class and distinction, while raising six children who are all Christ followers, as are her 17 grandchildren. Quite a legacy in these times, eh?
Janet Woodlock said…
Oh my goodness... all of that extraordinary giftedness undervalued and underutilized... what a crushing script to receive from her own mother. No wonder "what I want doesn't matter" became one of her later mantras... too much disappointment might be involved in hoping for more. How sad.

But you know, she succeeded in the things that I hope for most... that my children and children's children will know Jesus as Lord. And one of the great things about being a Christian is holding on to the hope she has all of eternity to let out a joyous, unique song.

Thank you for sharing.

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