Put On Your Boxing Gloves

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My father-in-law was an amateur boxer. For a long time we had his old punching bag hanging in our garage. It really came in handy during times when one of our kids needed to release some anger or frustration and just chill out. So often as a pastor’s spouse there is a range of negative emotions needing to be released or boxed out: betrayal when you are gossiped about by someone in the church, pain when someone leaves the church, discouragement, apathy, frustration, depression, and loneliness–one of the top feelings consistently reported by pastors’ spouses. How do we combat (or box) some of these challenging emotions in ministry? I have three suggestions that have helped me over the years:

Abide
Abide is a word I have been mulling over the past couple years. I have John 15:5 displayed in a couple different places: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a person remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” It is a reminder to keep abiding, to keep praying. I have especially needed this reminder when feeling lonely, distant, and upset with God.

Recently I was taking a walk and talking to God about an extreme burden I had. For days I felt like there was a rock on my chest. I was having trouble breathing and sleeping. Every time I prayed, I felt no different. I pressed on with abiding and had it out with him one night. I boxed with God. I lay out all my raw emotions and told him I either needed to get on sleeping/anxiety pills or he had to do what I could not do. I prayed, “God, take this burden from me.” I reminded him that he told us to give him our burdens and that he would give us rest (Matthew 11:28-30). I demanded rest physically and emotionally. I told him he needed to respond by taking my burdens when I brought them to him because I felt like giving up. It wasn’t immediate, but I realized the next day that I slept better that night. The rock was gone. I felt lighter. Every time that the burden returned (sometimes ten times a day) I gave it to him and he has been faithful to keep the rock off me.

I have been thanking and praising him for this answered prayer. Had I not persisted in abiding, despite the silence I was feeling from him, I would not have experienced the joy of finally hearing him. And it is so good. When these feelings of discouragement, worry, fear, frustration and loneliness enter your thoughts, immediately take those thoughts and release them to God in prayer.  He will meet your deepest needs. Have a heart-to heart, a boxing match, with God. Thank God in faith for what he is going to do. Then, release it. Box with God. He can take it. When was the last time you boxed with God and laid out all your raw emotions before him?

Exercise
There is something to say about the endorphins being released, and the relationship of exercise to emotional health. I wish I could boast consistency with exercise, but alas, I can’t. And since I can’t, I can only attest to the difference I feel emotionally when exercising versus not exercising. One of my favorite things to do is speed walk, either by myself or with a friend. Exercise is something I long to make a lifetime habit. My husband has developed this habit over the years and has been inspiring me with his dedication. He recently participated in his first triathlon on Father’s Day. The kids and I couldn’t wait to cheer him on.

Play
I see play as synonymous with rest. It is easy for us to forget to play in ministry, but it’s so important to don our boxing gloves and make room for this. The list is endless: travel, a retreat, book club, supper club, have a neighbor or someone over for lemonade (Len and I have a list of those we want to invite over this summer for lemonade on the porch or for ice cream sundaes on Sunday), connect and socialize with other pastors’ spouses who may also be feeling lonely, jump on the trampoline with your kids, take a day trip or a longer trip with your spouse or some friends or a sibling. My mom, sister and I are going to plan a trip together (inspired by my husband who went with his dad and sister to the Grand Canyon). Sometimes it just simply helps to get away from your ministry work and come back with a renewed perspective. It’s like when I get away from my kids. I come back a better mom because of the break.

You might also develop or foster a new hobby. My husband and I have reached our midlife years. I turned 40 this year (gulp). Just yesterday on a lunch date we talked about the importance of continuing to try new things to combat staleness and help break up the grind of normal life routines. My husband talked about taking a cooking class, I talked of learning to rock climb. We talked about taking a ballroom dance class together. I am rhythmically challenged, and I think this will provide lots of laughs between us. Perhaps if I state my plans to you this will ensure I will follow my own advice! Sometimes our role is to help our spouse to play by planning something fun. Maybe we need to take the lead in adding spice to our lives.

 

Amy Luchetti-ExecutiveTeamAmy Luchetti met her husband, Lenny, at Houghton College where he was studying to be a preacher and she a teacher. They have been in many ministry positions together ranging from a small rural church to larger multi-staff churches. Lenny has served as youth pastor, assistant pastor, and lead pastor. He now invests in pastors as he teaches at Wesley Seminary on the campus of Indiana Wesleyan University. Amy has served alongside Lenny as a partner in ministry. She also loves her work as an academic specialist at a local elementary school. Amy’s greatest blessings are her husband and three children.

I’m Sorry, You Must Die

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It started with a personality profile quiz and a brief conversation in our living room, ten years ago. The kids were settled into bed. My seminary-student husband was reading, and I was grading papers with occasional breaks to browse Facebook or read a friend’s blog. I happened upon a personality quiz, so naturally, because I was procrastinating, I took the online quiz. My result indicated the Commander personality type (ENTJ if you’re curious). I read some of the results out loud to Eric incredulously. “This thing is bunk. This sounds so cold and harsh. This isn’t me at all. I’m taking it again.”

My sweet husband laughed, went back to his reading and muttered, “Why take it again? It sounds pretty accurate to me.” Partially offended I retook the online quiz again, determined to proffer a more pleasing result. Ten minutes later I had my second result. “There,” I turned the screen in his direction, “that’s better.” I’m not even sure what the second result was, but he read the first two sentences and said, “No, the first one was the real you.”

So here’s the thing. The first result, the Commander result, had one sentence I still remember. People with my personality profile, which by the way make up a whopping 3% of the population and include people like Gordon Ramsey and Margaret Thatcher, might be represented with the phrase, “I’m sorry, you must die.” This line stood out to my dear husband who laughed out loud and remarked… “Yes! That is totally you. You need a t-shirt with I’m sorry, you must die across the front.” Apparently his personality profile did not include intuition because I was becoming more anxious by the minute, and he was laughing.

My thoughts were going something like this. My husband, who I love dearly, will soon be a pastor. I will soon be a pastor’s wife. What pastor’s wife would live by the mantra, “I’m sorry, you must die?” This is not good. Not good. I need to change.

I tried again.

“Don’t you think my second result could be a personality I’m growing to become?” I offered. “Maybe my initial result is like the immature me, and I’m learning to become more sensitive to others’ feelings and to keep my opinions to myself.”

He closed his book, and realized that I was genuinely concerned about my Commander results. Thankfully, even with my poor (non-existent) articulation of my feelings, he interpreted beautifully (a strength of his personality, not mine). He looked me straight in the eyes and said, “Listen. That second personality profile is not who I married. I married a strong-willed, crazy smart, determined, brave, leader. That is who you are, and that is who I love.”

Relief washed over me. We went on with our evening, but for the next days, weeks and even years, this conversation continued to roll around in my head and heart. I would have to learn to love this me- the real me.

I didn’t have many experiences to bolster the idea that women with dominant personality types are valued in the church. The valued archetype seemed to be demur, regal, effortlessly hospitable, and somehow able to transform a dingy fellowship hall into a banquet room with rosettes made out of crepe paper while simultaneously baking the perfect dessert, carried in by well-mannered, coiffed and clad children. Obviously this is an exaggerated and false characterization of the spouses of pastors. But somehow, I was still trying to force myself into that mold.

In reality, I have a career that I love. Eric and I chose (and still choose) to balance our time at home with the kids. We share the household (parenting, carpooling, calendaring, bill-paying, cooking, and cleaning) responsibilities nearly 50/50. We respect and value one another immensely. In one season, I sacrificed a job to be at home, and in another season he made a sacrificial and risky move to support my career.

My internal narrative used to be, “I’m not a typical pastor’s wife. I have to learn to be okay with that. My husband loves me.” But recently, I feel it changing. I’m beginning to realize that there is no “typical” pastor’s spouse. Every single ministry spouse handles the joys and challenges differently. I still think about how unhappy, despondent, and frustrated I could have become had Eric and I not had this little conversation 10 years ago. He wasn’t expecting anything from me as the pastor’s spouse, and I was assuming that he was. I was placing unnecessary expectations upon myself. I’m still learning not to do this- mostly as it relates to parenting currently… but that’s another blog post entirely.

The point here friend, is that the thing you and I have in common is that we both love and desire to support our spouses who are vocationally involved in ministry. Every one of us is uniquely equipped, by our Creator, to do this differently. There is no majority with which to conform. There are only sisters, brothers, daughters and sons of God with whom we can connect and grow.

If you look in the mirror, and you think to yourself, “I’m not like the rest of them. I’m _____.” You are right. You’re not like “the rest of them,” because there is no “the rest of them.” There are co-pastors, church planters, male spouses of pastors, financial supporters, career-oriented spouses and more. Love God first, and love others. Generously love your spouse, and sacrifice to support him or her. Follow the desires God lays upon your heart, and live into becoming the beautifully unique person he has created in you. The body of Christ needs each one of us- the executives and the defenders; the logicians and the entertainers, and even the commanders.

 

profile_2015Originally from New Brunswick, Canada, Erin Crisp met and married her husband Eric in Marion, Indiana where they now live. Erin is the Director of Instructional Design at IWU, Eric is the Discipleship Pastor at College Wesleyan Church, and they have three sons, Elijah (14), Micah (12) and Isaiah (11). A former English teacher, Erin enjoys writing and has published pieces with the Annesley Writer’s Forum, Asbury Theological Seminary, The Wesleyan Church, and Seedbed.