[For context: This post was written on the eve of the occasion of Reverend Robert Lee Wootton, Jr. being installed as Pastor in Residence at Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church, PCA, Williamsburg VA. To the glory of God.]
It was a year ago today that Rob and I met for our first date. We had been messaging back and forth on Facebook for a few days and I guess I made a good impression because he asked me to meet him for a drink. I knew I’d like him. He was a pastor who wanted to meet me at a bar.
I remember driving up to the bar, late as usual, and he was sitting on a bench outside. He had his legs stretched out in front of him, crossed at the ankles, with his hands in his pockets, just people watching. He was more handsome than I remembered him, but that should go without saying. I mean I saw him nearly two months before when he was a guest preacher at my church and I’m not exactly in the habit of determining how good looking the preachers are. Plus he had shaved off the big beard he was sporting when he preached – not that I have a thing against beards, in fact I think he looks so handsome with a beard – but like I said, I wasn’t exactly checking him out at the time.
So, I have to admit that the whole pastor thing was throwing me off at first. I hadn’t really been on a ton of dates with Christian men in my life, let alone pastors, and the usual flirt in me was at a bit of a loss. Don’t curse or make suggestive comments. Don’t wear anything that calls attention to your woman parts. Make sure you say something about God at least three times. It made me nervous. And apparently reserved, as Rob has described me at that first meeting.
Growing up I had this notion that pastors were like monks. Except that the protestant ones had kids and stuff. But the rest of the time they cloistered themselves away and studied the bible and prayed in complete Shakespearean sentences and spouted wisdom and truth like a tap. As an adult, I then did a 180 where I thought all pastors were total idiots who liked to hear themselves talk and put “preacher” bumper stickers on their Lexuses (Lexii?).
Somewhere along the way it occurred to me that they were people just like me. They sometimes struggled to pray. They sometimes would rather watch cartoons than read the Bible. Some days, it was difficult to get out of bed. And on really bad days, they couldn’t think of one single helpful thing to say.
By the time I met Rob for a date I knew he was real. I had heard something of pain and heartbreak in his sermon. I knew a little about his story and his past. I knew he had kids. I knew he struggled in his calling to be a pastor and to know what God was doing with his life which seemed to be in a holding pattern like that plane ride from hell that keeps you on the tarmac forever. I had the general idea that he wasn’t going to be that pastor who had an answer for everything and advice to make you realize everything you are doing wrong. But I also knew he was someone who had been there, who had faced the fire and been through the flame, and had walked through to the other side. And that is always someone I will listen to and want to know.
What I didn’t know and could never have guessed in a million years was that he would be my husband and I’d be having his baby a year later. He walked me to my car that night, we talked about the Alien movies which I loaned him (and I wasn’t sure I was going to in case I would never see him again and not get those back), and gave each other that half-committed hug which for me was somewhere between I like you and want you to know that but I’m not going to make out with you because you’re a PASTOR. Just kidding. I wouldn’t have made out with him even if he wasn’t a pastor. But you know what I mean.
So for the next couple weeks of June 2012, I thought and prayed about what it looked like to be a pastor’s wife. I had known some pastor’s wives in my day and they were all as different from each other as you can get. I started comparing myself to those I particularly admired and thought, well I’m not going to be the one to host bake sales or classes on knitting. I won’t be the one to have prayer meetings most likely, or the one wife who I know met with every deacon’s wife (fyi deacon in baptistic speak is a ruling elder in PCA-speak) monthly and had a recipe exchange. maybe I’d get them together to do a cocktail recipe exchange. (um, just kidding)
but for the most part, I quickly realized, I wasn’t daunted. Looking back, God had been preparing me for all of this life that I have now. I would never have guessed in a hundred years that I would be married to a pastor. I wasn’t even that girl who dreamed about my wedding and what dress I would wear. I mean I bought the 2nd dress I tried on and was like, yep that’s good enough.
And I wasn’t someone who imagined this big spotlight, who wanted to do “great things” and conquer the world – I still don’t – all I want is to make a small difference where I am right now. To have someone thank me for making them smile. To have a child come over to talk to me because she wants to. To crawl into bed at night with my husband and laugh together and question each other’s knowledge of important 80s movies.
And to some degree it doesn’t matter what Rob is called to do. I just want to be tested and tried and found faithful. I want to stand strong and firm in the face of trials and temptation. I want to rely on the grace that has brought me safe thus far, and never once think this is all about me or what *I* can do. Because as soon as it becomes about me or my labels or title and rank, I have failed. As soon as I am territorial or controlling, I have lost sight of what God has been doing all along. I didn’t make it this far on my own no matter what I may have thought before, and I sure won’t make it any farther if I think it’s all about me and my needs and my hopes and dreams.
So I join the ranks of pastor’s wives tomorrow and I embrace the honor and the responsibility wholeheartedly. Not because I want to be the perfect example of what it all looks like, but because more than anything I want to point people to the Grace I have been given and the Grace that will lead us all home.
“For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.”