There I sat. The good, supportive wife, watching my husband become the senior pastor of a rural church in Missouri. As various church members stepped forward to hand him symbolic items—a bowl and towel for servanthood, a Bible for the ministry of the Word, a chalice for the administration of the sacraments—I wept. Sobbed would be more honest. And they were not tears of joy, shed by a loving and faithful pastor’s wife. They were tears of anguish, regret, and anger. I knew in that moment: I should be up there with him.
But this had been the plan! I would attend seminary while he jumped into a local pastorate. It fit our personalities—me and my love for formal education and him with his love of learning by doing. I would focus on school, and he would focus on pastoring. It made sense, didn’t it? So why did this all feel so very wrong? Why did my heart feel like it was being ripped from chest? Why did I want to stand up in the middle of that sacred moment and scream, “Me too! Don’t forget me!”
It took that painful, horrifying moment to awaken me to what in retrospect should have been blindingly obvious: I belonged up there, next to him, receiving the mantle of the pastorate alongside him.
It was a long car ride home that night. My husband, bless him, was so excited, so passionate about his new role. He was eager and ready to embrace his flock with gusto. I was less then enthused. I was critical, irritable, and generally mean the entire ride home. I complained about the construction along the way, “Well, that will make my drive to seminary even longer now. Awesome.” I went on and on about gas prices, and how much the commute would cost us. In sum, I was extremely pleasant.
Understandably, my husband was frustrated and angry by my attitude. This had been the plan after all. Why, then, was I feeling so put out? Why was I so angry and resentful?
Feeling the Call
My call to ministry did not begin as a call to the pastorate, and certainly not to the pulpit. I initially felt my call to full-time Christian service as a call to be a missionary. Looking back now, while I certainly had certain gifts and graces for cross-cultural ministry, my leaning into that particular role was largely influenced by what I had seen. Women were missionaries. Women were children’s pastors or occasionally associate pastors. But women were not senior pastors. Women were not preachers. I had no imagination to see myself in a role of that nature.