Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Why Clergy Spouses are Holier than Their Spouses

"But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first." Matthew 19:30

A final reflection from my week at Camp Capers: lots of amazing pictures, and Rebekah is not in any of them. A couple of explanations for this:

1) Though Bek and the kids made the trip - and the four of us actually shared one bedroom (still shaking my head at this) - we actually didn't see much of each other owing largely to my crazy hours (7:30 a.m. - 1:30 a.m. was the norm) and the kids' alternating nap "schedules" that kept Bek pinned to the cabin for long stretches throughout the day.

2) When we did share time together, Bek did not especially feel like starring in the photo-shoots owing largely to the effects of her watching the kids for crazy hours (7:30 a.m. - 1:30 a.m.) and their aforementioned alternating nap "schedules", which left little time for her to rest and/or wear heels.

If given the choice, I would take teaching 117 junior high kids running wild over camp, with a couple dozen counselors besides, over being locked alone in a cabin with two small children, zero adult company, and a hundred details to plan for a forthcoming move any day. And I did.

Of course, I didn't abandon Rebekah altogether. Most mornings I would take Annie to breakfast and afterwards bring Rebekah a plate of fruit and yogurt back to the cabin, march off to chapel with Annie in tow and entrust her to the campers and counselors during our two morning sessions. Likewise, I would plan some brief chill time with the fam in the afternoons, and we shared our lunches and dinners. And then there were the couple of days that Rebekah loaded up the kids and trekked into Boerne to visit good friends. But these were welcomed exceptions to the rule that I outlined above.

In short, I am not sure that Rebekah's personality would thrive the way mine does when surrounded by 117 junior high youth and their friends while living in constant community, but she didn't have the chance to find out. She served the servant in nearly invisible ways. But Rebekah is not invisible to me, and I thank God each day for the blessing of our common life. She is amazing.

Rebekah is amazing, and not because she empowers my ministry; Rebekah is amazing because she teaches me what ministry is.

All of this is why I am utterly convinced that clergy spouses more closely resemble the holiness of our Lord than do the spouses of clergy spouses. Here I am thinking of words like "unconditional" and "sacrificial" and especially of the gospel lesson we read on Ash Wednesdays in which Christians are warned about practicing their piety before others - you know, like good clergy. Instead, we are told that "when you pray, go to your room and close the door." Here's to the saints behind closed doors.

Now, I would be grossly misleading you to imply that Rebekah's faith is lived exclusively behind the scenes. Over the last three years, Rebekah has written countless Sunday School curriculum for the children of St Christopher's, she has led small groups, hosted prayer groups, and organized/led Taize worship services to which the Rector simply showed up and sang with his friends. She has close friendships with play-date regulars in the larger community and is a heck of a speech therapist when she's ready to go back. She even chaired the first ever annual stewardship campaign at our church - and was wildly successful at it - eventually  - miraculously?? - forgiving her husband for his grievous lack of judgment in inviting her to the post.

Still the bulk of her service stirs in the shadows, her absence many times making my presence possible - at guild gatherings, service projects, Vestry meetings, youth and outreach ministries, worship, pastoral visits, community events, and camps. No spotlight. Simple self-giving. True love without condition and at considerable cost. I am in awe of her, and I daily pray to grow to be more like her. I pray that God's Church grows to be more like her. Because I am convinced that the Way of Christ is there in the love that does.

I love you, Bek.

Oh, and I did find some pictures:

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