Honest to God, Part Two
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...