Once Upon a Time there was a very rough edged, untrained, idealistic youth pastor's wife who liked to play with her friends on facebook. She was sometimes quite foolish and said many things that were better left unsaid. She lost respect for her church leadership and handled it very poorly and publicly. Given grace, patience and proper coaching she might have matured into a much better pastor's wife than she currently was, but instead, one day just before vacation, she talked about the books she was planning to take on vacation with her online book buddies. Because the vacation was all fun and included a great deal of beach time, she wanted something light and easy to read. She chose classic James Bond books by Ian Fleming since she hadn't read those particular books before. In the course of the bantering back and forth about the books, several famous James Bond quotes were shared, and she was the one to quip the famous line "Dry Martini. Shaken. Not Stirred." While she often said things she thought might raise some eyebrows, sometimes intentionally, this particular quote she never thought twice about and continued blithely along packing for her time away.
A week later vacation time was over and the pastor's wife's pastor husband went to work as usual. That day he was called into the office and promptly relieved of his job, due in large part to his wife's blatant advertisement that the couple were getting drunk on martinis by the pool during their vacation. An evil spell of severance and silence was woven around them, and it wasn't long until the family simply disappeared.
Obviously, there is a lot more to this modern day fairy tale than meets the eye. But it is a great illustration for why I have such a tentative love/hate relationship with online social networking. For a period of time, I simply put on a funny name and made generous use of the blocking feature, but eventually that grew to feel dishonest, and I just gave up social networking entirely.
But for all the distractions and time wasting, social networks are a way that I communicate with some very dear people in my life, almost exclusively. I love these people. They aren't just imaginary friends. I became frustrated by trying to find creative ways to stay in communication with them when I couldn't do it consistently, and there was a very obvious and available way to have a little visit every day if I chose.
So I began spending a little more time on facebook. Approximately forty-eight hours passed before innocent words got all twisted up, and once again I'm considering secret identities and block buttons.
It's quite ridiculous, and almost impossible to find the balance between making wise and mature decisions about my words and being in bondage to a stereotype conventional pastor wife model that I will never be, nor do I believe God calls me to be. Here's the real rub, because I am the pastor's wife, I'm expected to "friend" any person who may attend my church, or have heard of my church, even if they aren't actually my friend, or even a passing acquaintance, even if the person doesn't have my best interest in mind but merely lurks waiting for something that might be twisted and used against me (see fairy tale above for possible examples of this happening).
Having spoken with other women whose husbands work in ministry, or who are in ministry themselves, I have come to realize that this is not a problem that is isolated to me, and I have to wonder why we as a church, a community, as the family of God would rather nit-pick, speculate and tear each other apart than resolve a true misunderstanding in a mature, graceful, face to face manner. The truth is that what you say publicly can absolutely be used to destroy you if a person with enough power twists it the way s/he pleases to an unquestioning audience. The more painful truth is that there are people who do this intentionally, but even unintentionally misplaced gossip and assumptions can cause far more damage than you dare to imagine. Is that really what we're all about?
While we were in Orlando, Hunky and I spoke with a couple who were assigned to the "S.O.S tent," a place for pastors and their spouses in crisis. While we don't consider ourselves in crisis anymore, it was very unburdening to speak to someone who was so completely removed from us, our lives, or any part of our former or current situations. At one point, the husband of the couple looked at me and said, "I know it's been years but I'm sure it still feels sometimes like it just happened yesterday." He's exactly right. Sometimes. Sometimes when my demons are circling and shouting in my ears that is exactly how it feels. Because that day ratified every lie Satan has ever told me that I even half believe: I'm the wrong person in the wrong place, a mistake, unworthy, unforgivable, unwanted, a liability to kingdom work. Hard, deep, bloody lies that I could keep at bay until they played out as spoken and acted out reality in my life. I've been running ever since.
Until last week that is. Up until now I've been fairly certain that God's only mistake was in making me a pastor's wife, but maybe, finally, I'm beginning to see through this sifting, a way that God will use even me, if I choose it. It is indeed true that what God says about me is far more real than any fairy tales that may have been woven, but sometimes the fairy tales speak loud, loud and their magic fairy dust distracts me from the deep quiet undercurrent of Truth in my life. I cannot minister effectively to broken people without first being broken. I have been; I still am, but now in ways that let the light shine in. God loves me enough to allow sifting. All is grace.
P.S. The fairy tale ends with 'And they lived happily ever after', because even when the circumstances stink to high heaven, God wins. I read the ending already.