Chapter 8: Bearing Witness to Real Life
Out of all the things I thought I might do in my lifetime, the role of “pastor’s wife” was definitely not one on my list. My resume for the position was weak at best. I do not play the piano, and I certainly cannot carry a tune. A women’s group is in my top 10 most uncomfortable places to be, and I’m pretty sure most people would not describe me as “compassionate”. But like most things in life, qualifications mean very little when it comes to calling. So as much as it seemed like a poor fit for me, the life of a Pastor’s Wife soon became my calling.
Maybe you think being a pastor’s wife sounds noble, or maybe you think it sounds terrifying. I think I had it confused at first too. My early days of filling this Pastor’s Wife role meant a lot of smiling and nodding, swallowing my questions and stuffing down my sarcasm. I spent many days thinking that no one really understood this weird world I was in, the pressures I put on myself, the responsibility I felt to fit a particular cookie cutter idea of what it meant to be a perfect Pastor’s Wife. It was hard to make friends in my new church community, but it was my own fault, really. I think its hard for people to be your real friend, when you won’t reveal your real self.
But then, I met Caroline. Many of you know her, and to know her is to love her, because she really does embody this thing called we call “community”. She’s one of those people that takes a cab somewhere, and by the end of the ride, she knows the cab driver’s whole life story. She has that effect on people and she definitely had that effect on me. She was safe. She was real. She was never surprised or disturbed by any difficult situation in my life or thought in my head. She shopped for groceries with me, and we cried on each other’s shoulders. I think she was the first person at Calvary that made me feel like I really could be known and still loved, whether I fit that Pastor’s Wife cookie cutter, or not.
In this chapter, KJ Ramsey talks about the power of bearing witness to each other’s pain and suffering. I’d take it a step further to say there’s power in bearing witness to someone’s real life. It’s not always an easy thing to put yourself out there to be fully known and fully loved, and you will definitely encounter rejection. But there is a deep beauty in someone witnessing your unkept house and your messy thoughts and your indulgent grocery list, and still calling you loved. For so long I thought that’s just how I felt as a Pastor’s Wife, but I’ve come to realize that everyone feels a bit like this in the church. It’s hard to normalize brokenness, isn’t it? KJ Ramsey says, “Suffering becomes a sacrament when we acknowledge we each come with empty hands…Perfectly worded prayers probably won’t be able to peel back the darkness. Our lovingly prepared casseroles and pies don’t carry healing powers. Facing each other’s pain requires facing the fact that only God can heal disease, quell fear, and set captives free. While we wait, we together behold the mystery that in our fragile bodies Christ already dwells.”
Calvary is in a pretty fragile state these days. Many of us feel crushed, and disappointed. The church is broken and this is not the way we thought it would go. But if we can’t acknowledge our wounds, we can’t allow them to be healed. So now is the time to call up someone from your community, and let them bear witness to your wounds. Show them your pain. Ask real questions. Cry on each others shoulders. I’m pretty sure “the beauty from the ashes” is the community that is built around that feeling of being at rock bottom alongside others.
Christ dwells here, let us behold that mystery together.
What wounds are you covering? Who is bearing witness to your story?
Read “This Too Shall Last” by KJ Ramsey with us. Want to start the series from the beginning? Start here and check out our hope for this series within our Calvary community, and learn more about where you can get your copy of the book and follow along.
3 Comments on ‘Chapter 8: Bearing Witness to Real Life’
Thank you Erin, for writing such an honest and relevent article. So good. Peace to you.
Thank you. Peace to you, Gary!
With admiration, Erin. Your thoughtful sentiment speaks and shares beauty, healing, and inspiration.