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Thursday, April 4, 2019

"...And Spouse"

"Coffee lounge for youth pastors and their wives."

The next year:

"Coffee lounge for youth pastors and their spouses."

"This morning we have missionary Dan and his family with us."

"Dan and his wife are here with us this morning."

Pastor: "Do you play the piano?"
Me: "Yes, I do."
Pastor: "Well then, you're a blessing to your husband!"

On a Facebook post:
"Taking the missionary wives to lunch today!"

On a seating arrangement at a missions convention:
"Missionary and spouse."

"... and spouse."

For much of my married life, I have been "and spouse".  I joke about it some, especially with other "and spouses", or with Dan. But it can get pretty discouraging. 

Sometimes I feel like a two-for-one special.  While Dan was a youth pastor, it didn't really bother me as much.  Dan was the one on staff at churches, and I had a full-time outside job.  (Sometimes 2 or 3.) When there was a mid-day staff meeting, and I was (inexplicably) expected to attend (remember - not on staff, and full-time job as a Kindergarten teacher), I resigned myself to the role of "and spouse".  Even though I was there for every service, every practice, went on every trip... I was not the pastor, and therefore was okay with my status.  There is no other job in the world, where the spouse is expected to devote as much time and effort as the one holding the position.  You don't see lawyers' husbands volunteering at their firms, or plumbers' wives tagging along on house calls.  It would be pretty weird if an accountant's wife sat in on every meeting he had with a client, or if husbands stopped by to bag groceries for their cashier wives.  We expect spouses in ministry to be ever-present, but then don't offer the associated acknowledgements.

Now that we are missionaries, I find the attitude towards my role much the same. The difference is that this time I don't have another job, this actually IS my job - and yet much of the time I feel like an add-on.  The difficult part is, that I even attach myself to my husband sometimes - because the "and spouse" role is one I've become used to.

Add to that, the fact that on paper my husband is the missionary - even though our leadership does work hard to make me feel like an equal - it can leave me feeling unimportant.

Once, we were shooting a quick video.  Dan was recording me on his phone. I started with, "Hi, we're Dan and Abigail, missionaries to Slovenia..." Dan stopped the recording and said, "Honey, you're the only one in the video, just use your name."

It made me pause.  I realized, that in all this time I had never used just my name, or the term, "I" when referring to our/my ministry.

I think women in general are more prone to refer to themselves in plural - meaning them and their husband, or them and the children...

"We are missionaries."

"We love Slovenia."

"We are following God's call on our lives."

It almost feels selfish to refer to just myself - isn't that crazy?

I think this is a uniquely female dilemma.  We give so much of ourselves to our husband, children, ministry, work... that we forget that we are our own person.  We are not just "and spouse", or "so-and-so's mommy". 

I know that what I do is important.  But a lot of the time, it is a support role to Dan.  I stay home oftentimes, so that he can go.  On Saturday Dan texted me pictures of him with a pastor, and the team that is visiting doing all sorts of things - just to check in, and let me know how things were going.  
I sent him a picture of the one kid showering, while I bathed the other.

But you know what?  I make what he does possible.  If I were not holding down the fort, there wouldn't be a fort to come home to.  If the kids weren't fed and bathed, child services would step in.  And to to be fair, Dan does that stuff when I have things going on.  But realistically, it does fall to me.  

Also, I have plenty of things/ministry that I do that have nothing to do with what he is doing.  They just aren't usually the "headliners" in the newsletters (that I write), or the things that people think of, when they hear "missions".

But God doesn't see me as an attachment, or an appendage.  Jeremiah 1:5 says 
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
    before you were born I set you apart;
    I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.

God knew me, as just me, before any of the other people were in my life.  He sees beyond any title, status or role. God thinks I am unique, simply because he made me that way.  So, today I am affirming: 

I am not only "...and spouse".

I am a missionary.

I am a friend.

I am creative.

I work hard.

I am resourceful.

I make an impact.

I am not only a "relation" to everyone around me.

I am learning a new language, and trying really hard at it.

I find solutions.

I am a peacemaker.

I am me.

I am loved by God.

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