My Husband's Affair - with the Church
We wait for grief to loosen its stranglehold on our hearts. We wait for signs of hope in the Horn of Africa. News that the economy is recovering. The kids to go back to school. The workday to come to a close. To get to the front of the line at the grocery store.
In Oh the Places You'll Go!, Dr. Seuss called life's waiting places "most useless." Eileen Button, author most recently of The Waiting Place, says it's in the "wobbly," in-between times where she finds the love of God. She issues a vital reminder to those who wait that "now - even the most difficult now - isn't forever." And, as a woman whose husband is the senior pastor of a growing congregation, many of Button's "difficult nows" are related to the church.
Button, a newspaper columnist, college professor, and mother of three, is the kind of writer who conspiratorially grabs readers by the arm and leads them into the realities of life behind closed doors and polite smiles. In this book, we stumble into the house with her family after a burglary. Later she paints a vivid picture of both women as she measures the awkward space that exists between her mother and herself. Her "pastor's wife" confessions are most striking as they reveal the challenges of fulfilling that role.
"She is loving and life changing; she is malicious and overbearing. She is beautiful; she is ugly. She is as light as day, capable of astonishing kindness and generosity; she is as dark as night, capable of unspeakable evil. I love her; I hate her. She is the Church," Button writes.
As must be true for many women who find themselves answerable to "the pastor's wife," Button never expected to be one. When she married him, Brad Button was a banker with no plans to enter ministry. For the past 17 years, however, he's served as a pastor in the Methodist Free Church. Like many in her cohort, Button has found that being married to a minister takes a significant toll on their family life. Perhaps those sacrifices make it all the more difficult for Button to accept being referred to as, simply, "my pastor's wife."
"After all, no one introduces a new friend with the words 'This is my gynecologist's husband.' It's hard to believe that both the pastor's wife title and the corresponding expectations remain. I don't sing, and no one wants to hear me play my clarinet," Button said. "I'm a little terrified of youth groups, and when I volunteer in the nursery, parishioners giggle or poke their heads through the doorway to make sure the kids are still alive. You might say I have a bit of a reputation."