Craig and I have been doing a lot of wedding planning in recent weeks. We have booked the wedding site, the reception site, a florist, and a photographer. We have looked at websites for honeymoons and song lists for DJs. We have ordered samples of invitations and started to compose guest lists. We have laughed and we have argued. We have taken delight and we have gotten a little overwhelmed. It has been a journey.
In the midst of all of the wedding planning, we have also had several conversations about what it means to be married to the pastor.
I have long realized that it would take a very special man to want to spend his life with me. As a United Methodist, I am an itinerant pastor - someone who has vowed to move when called - to pick up our belongings, our children, and our lives and move to the place where the bishop feels I can best serve. As a pastor, I have taken a vow to practice celibacy until married. As a pastor, I am on call when there is an emergency - I can be called out an any hour of the day or night to the hospital, to a home, to the roadside. As a pastor, I live a life that is often scrutinized by others. People watch me. They listen to what comes from my mouth. They look at my grocery cart to see what I am buying. They examine my dress. As a pastor, there are certain expectations that are placed upon my life that are not placed upon the lives of others - I am to live a model life. And, as a pastor, I know that Sundays go much more smoothly if I am in bed by 10:00 on Saturday night which means that we miss parties and opportunities to go away for the weekend.
There are times when I wonder why anyone would want to live this life. There are times when the pressures of this life consume the best of me, and I want to throw my arms into the air and go into real estate sales or property development instead. But then something happens. I stand before the eclectic flock God has given me to serve and share the Good News with them only to have someone tell me what a difference the words made in their week. I go to the hospital room and recognize that I was not only invited there but I was summoned there - I was summoned to be in a place where life begins and life ends - to walk on ground that is so holy that no one really deserves to walk upon it. I hold a baby in my arms and repeat the words, "I baptize you in the name of Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit" and realize that there is this extraordinary power that does not belong to me but that I have been entrusted to share. I offer to people a bit of bread and a sip of juice, watching as the one who is partaking realizes that her sins are forgiven once and for all. I listen as people confess their sins and then joyfully walk into the new life Christ offers. And, I journey alongside men and women who are searching for something larger than themselves. These reasons are why I love being a pastor. These reasons are the ones that give me joy even though I cannot escape to New York City or the beach for the weekend.
But what about this man who has accepted my call? How is it that my partner adapts to this radical and unusual lifestyle?
Craig has done a beautiful job of accepting me for who I am and trying to understand my vocation. He has been editing my sermons each week since early in our relationship (a practice that I have learned is best done before Saturdays at 10:00 p.m. when Craig might respond, "Well, it's not your best work," leaving me up late into the night trying to make it better!). He has continued to practice his faith in his Catholic Church - a church that means a great deal to him and a church that he cherishes - while coming to Mount Vernon Place when I or someone else really wants him there. Yet, Craig has also made significant sacrifices. He has not gone to a party on a Saturday night in months. He knows that there are challenges with planning a wedding weekend when the bride is a pastor. He has gone away on a Friday, knowing that he would love to stay until Sunday but that we have to return on Saturday. He has allowed me to be at the church on some evenings when we would have rather enjoyed the evening together.
Oftentimes, people express gratitude to their pastors. They send the pastor notes of thanksgiving or appreciation. They bring the pastor gifts at Christmas. I am learning, however, that the one who stands alongside the pastor has offered just as much of his or her life to the church as the pastor. The one who is married to the pastor has given an equal sacrifice. The one who stands with the pastor is, well, an absolute treasure - a one of a kind - a gift from God.
Thank you, Craig, for your willingness to marry the pastor - to journey with me on this road called ministry.