Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Honest to God, Part Two

So here I am, a third-generation minister’s wife. Except Chad and I did something that flew in the face of both our families’ Church-of-Christ heritage: We jumped ship. In 2006, Chad left his job at a traditional Church of Christ for a ministry position at a non-denominational church. We’ve been worshiping with musical instruments for almost seven years now. Our daughter plays bass guitar in the youth group worship band. My grandparents could be spinning in their graves. Or maybe they don’t care. Heaven knows I don’t.

Somewhere in my early 20s, I realized being born into the Church of Christ was not a stroke of celestial luck that would seal my salvation. Turns out the Church of Christ is just another faith group with its own strengths, weaknesses, and first-rate screw-ups. My salvation is something to work out “with fear and trembling” (Life Application Study Bible, Philippians 2:12), and not a perk that is handed out by membership in the church that is the most “right.”

But for me, there was a sort of salvation in the Church of Christ.

My earliest memories are of being at church with church folks. They were not just friends; they were part of our family. We worshiped together, ate together, planned weddings and funerals together, and looked forward to heaven together—since we were the only ones going. Church was like air to me. I knew I would always need it and that was OK, because I knew it would always be there. People who did not go to church were a mystery to me. Church was my home. Church was where my family was loved. Who would not want that?

I had been part of six congregations by the age of 11, and I had encountered this strong sense of community at each church. There was the sweet group of women at Third and Central who hosted a baby shower for my mom when she was pregnant with me and then taught me Bible stories in the church nursery. There was the fun, vibrant, curly-haired girl at Taylor Street who became my best friend in our pre-school Bible class, and we are still friends to this day. There were the teenagers in my dad’s youth groups who doted on me and let me sit in their laps during after-church devotionals led by my dad. The closest friends of my family were the people we went to church with. When I was 11, we moved to my dad’s hometown of Beaumont, Texas, and our church friends there knew three generations of my family. Even in my teen years, while listening to ministers rail against the evils of rock ‘n’ roll and MTV, I sat in silent disagreement—I was and still am an enthusiastic fan of rock music—but never thought of leaving the church. It was my home.

After Chad graduated from seminary and accepted his first ministry job in 2000, I was consumed with anxiety. What kind of minister’s wife would I be? Pious and proper, like my grandmother? Careful and guarded, like my mother? If I adapted to the role in a different way than my family’s previous generations had, would I get to choose it? Or would I be shaped by pressure and a sense of duty into something I would not recognize? I had developed a strong sense of self and individuality by that point, and the prospect of somehow losing myself to my husband’s vocation frightened me. I still wanted to love rock music. I still wanted to be me. I did not want to disappear into a vacuum of church members’ pre-formed expectations. As we made our way across Texas to our new town and new church, I looked forward to being a stay-at-home mother to Julia, our toddler, and starting a freelance-writing career. But I hated not knowing what the minister’s wife role would mean for me.

To be continued...


  • At Sat Jan 25, 09:10:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Thanks for sharing! I can relate to so much of what you are saying. How did your family react to your decision to leave the church of Christ?

  • At Sun Jan 26, 04:58:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I have been reading your blog for 8 years. I check in occasionally and was thrilled to find 2 new posts. I hope you will blog more frequently. I have enjoyed reading your thoughts over the years. You can always make me laugh.

  • At Mon Jan 27, 02:57:00 AM, OpenID americangerman said…

    Celebrating 13 years' worshiping with instruments. We will not likely be part of a church of Christ again, ever. We do love to visit, but it is no longer home. Divorce/Remarriage changes the dynamics.

    We have a friend in Germany who was divorced early in life then remarried. The second marriage lasted for about 27-30 years, until she died. He is in a conservative church of Christ and to this day is treated like a second-class citizen. He will not "fellowship" with anyone except "the brethren".

  • At Mon Jan 27, 06:43:00 AM, Blogger Deana Nall said…

    Thanks for the comments, everyone! My parents were fine with us leaving the CoC. Chad's mom had a very difficult time with it, though. She's really the only family member we were close to who strongly objected. We have had it a lot easier than some of our friends who have also left the CoC. We know of grandparents who refuse to attend their grandchildren's baptisms, etc.


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