Sep 29, 2011

Confessions of a Youth Minister’s Wife

     Marcus and I got in our first argument in the parking lot of Old Dominion University’s higher education center in Virginia Beach. I had the pleasure of taking a Friday night class from 7 to 10. Not exactly the class that every college senior clamors to get into, but I needed the credit & it was the only time available. Marcus, a relatively new boyfriend at the time, would sometimes come pick me up and we would get a milkshake from Chik-fil-A{ddictive} and drive around for an hour or so, talking the evening away. He was a lumberjack, a man’s man job & he loved it. He wore flannel, used a chainsaw with one hand, and learned lessons in trees & faith from a very godly, talented arborist. So, why the argument? New or not, Marcus & I were already praying and discerning marriage and what God was calling us to do now in order to make vocation a reality. At the time I was finishing up my degree in elementary education and clearly very prideful of my plans to enter graduate school the following summer. {By the way, this is absolutely HILARIOUS to me now, as I sit typing in mid-morning, with coffee in hand, collegiate ambitions down the drain} But that was before God laughed at my plans, and I was still under the impression that I was oh-so-responsible with my upcoming career. I knew Marcus loved his job, but had many other interests including starting his own tree care business, firefighting, music, music production & youth ministry. So, I pushed. I kind of pushed a lot and we fought right there in the parking lot, the windows to his beloved black Dodge Dakota down to cool our tempers. The milkshake melted & I cried, feeling guilty for instigating. 

     But he did want to do something, he assured me the next morning on the phone, the argument still weighing heavily on both of us. We prayed about it, being very grateful for his current job all the while, and began to ask God for a way to provide for a future vocation. We didn’t have to wait long. It was then that he applied for a volunteer firefighting position and began that academy & eventually volunteering. It would be a long while before volunteering would turn into something else though. In the meantime, Fr. Parke {his longtime Priest & family friend} called him and started hinting that he would really like to hire him as a youth minister. Marcus, who once resisted this job when Fr. Parke asked him in college, enthusiastically interviewed and was promptly hired. “God works fast!” my Renaissance Man marveled at the change in jobs. While so proud of Marcus, I had my back up. Yes, we did meet when we were both helping out at a youth retreat, but I wasn’t exactly the teenage whisperer. In fact, I am the opposite of the teenage whisperer. I would be a teenage yeller if my better judgment & God’s grace didn’t have a firm grip on me. Maybe it was the fact that I was the most obnoxious teenager known to catholic youth groups, or a shortage in the patience department, or the summers I spent managing a waterpark of disrespectful, lazy, unreliable adolescent lifeguards..whatever it was.. I just plain didn’t like teenagers. Not my ministry, I swore up and down. 

     I’m ashamed to say that Marcus’ new job didn’t bring out the best in my attitude. I grumbled about the late nights teaching confirmation or youth group nights. I complained about his 7 work days a week schedule, the constant youth retreats, the summers of traveling, mission trips where he could barely sneak in an exhausted phone call at midnight before he went to bed himself. A blackberry that constantly buzzed with texts from his kids during our date nights, the complete lack of any structure in a schedule, and I could go on and on. And I did go on and on in my complaints. To Marcus & to anybody who would listen. So ashamed even to type this right now. I had a negative, ungrateful, fearful attitude towards his job. It should be noted at this point that Marcus dealt with me with the utmost patience {& prayers, I am sure} Moreover, in all our engagement & newlywed bliss, Marcus was able to convince me to accompany him, and his teens, to their annual domestic mission trip.

     That mission trip nearly killed me, y’all.  We had been married for one month when we drove off, and I was to help a saintly lady with all the kitchen duties. Packing lunches for the kid’s mission fixing up houses, and feeding them for meals. Sounded simple enough. Physically, it was simple enough. It was hard work to be sure, but I spent my days with the most amazing example of service and love, Mrs. Laufer. Dedicated would be an understatement, since Mrs. Laufer has pretty much laid down in her life for the youth group for the past several years. When I was ready to call it quits, snap at kid, walk away from the sheer volume of noise, she was still loving. Loving the kids that criticized the dinner she slaved over, hugging the teens that drudged mud through a kitchen we had just cleaned, praying with them after a hard day. She would smile at me and empathize when my patience ran out, full of encouragement. Her kindness nearly undid me, as I would cry hot tears of shame at my own coldness into the air mattress every night of that week. It was that grating week that God finally showed me the resentment in my heart towards Marcus’ job.

     I competed with youth ministry for Marcus’ time. I was completely conquered by my insecurity, feeling threatened by any thing else my husband had interest in or invested time in.  I resented his talents that I felt I couldn’t share in. I felt less of girlfriend/fiancé/wife since I didn’t take part in his youth events. I worried that people would perceive that as a lack of support. I felt like the only thing I had ever been able to offer in ways of support for his job was prayers. As we tried to get comfortable on the air mattress in the cramped sacristy where we stayed during the mission trip, I confessed. As I confessed, Marcus smiled knowingly. I was blubbering my revelations to a man who already understood them and where I was coming from. It was  that meltdown & God’s quiet voice that finally helped me to finally be a good youth minister’s wife. A wife that gives grace and prayers without clenched teeth. That has peace with her lack of talent with teenagers and knows that is okay with her husband, or more importantly, with God.  And it’s a good thing I finally got my act together because..oh wait, he just got a new job. Darn it, I won’t even be able to show off my new skills for much longer. It’s like my mom says, As soon as you have something figured out, it will change. I guess that is God’s way of keeping us on our toes.

    Ever the nostalgic, I know I am going to miss Marcus’ youth ministry days. Lazy mornings, days off in the middle of the week, religious resources at our fingertips, flexible schedule, the love of a great parish. In a couple of weeks, our lives will change and we’ll be trying to set a new rhythm in our household. Chances are it won’t be long until I’ll be back with Confessions of a Firefighter’s Wife. That’s the thing friends…it’s easy to be dissatisfied with our lives, completely blind to the abundant grace & blessings of our present situation.  But please, I won’t pretend I’ve got this lesson down pat. Just pray that I won’t get so jealous for Marcus’ time while he is in fire academy that I start fires on purpose while cooking in the kitchen. Just kidding!!! I’m more mature than that. But I wouldn’t put it past my culinary abilities.

1 comment:

Jiza said...

I love it that you're real and that you're human. :-)

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