June 3, 2013

Your Differentness is Your Opportunity

I met a doctoral student in February whose dissertation is about the contribution of church planting wives to the church plant. He told me several interesting tidbits from his research, but the one that stuck out to me was about how church planting wives see themselves. He found that, when asked if they were the same as other women in their churches, church planting wives seemed eager to agree that, yes, they were. They were no different than the average church member. But his research showed that, in reality, their roles, duties, and the expectations placed on them were very different from other women.

I understood this dichotomy immediately. I can hear these women saying the same things that I say to myself: I'm no different. I'm just a typical church member. This is, in essence, my wishful thinking: I don't want to be different than everyone else. I want to be an average church member where average church member things are expected of me. Or even my feelings of inadequacy about being a church planting wife: I don't feel very good at this. I am not gifted for this. I should feel "different" from typical church members because I'm the church planting wife, but I don't.
In his research and in my interaction with church planting wives (and pastors' wives of all kinds, for that matter), I see this desire to belong to the church's community, to be seen as normal and like everybody else. I see this push-back on being "different" or having different expectations placed on us simply because of our husband's job.

I get that and have felt all those things. But in reality, we are different. Our needs and struggles aren't different, but there is just something almost unexplainable about this role that sets us apart from the typical church member. And I've discovered in my own life that being different when I don't want to be can either be a source of frustration and resentment, or it can be an opportunity.

When I choose to look at my differentness as an opportunity, I see that my options to influence, lead, minister, share, make a difference, help, and change things for the better are almost limitless. I have doors open for me just because of my role that aren't open for other people.

I find also that as I walk through those doors and use my gifts within my role, I build relationships. Within those relationships, I build trust and, within that trust, I can share my own needs and struggles and receive the ministry of those within the church community. I become less different.

But when I get scared about taking advantage of the opportunities given to me or get resentful of my differentness, I become more and more isolated and alone. My role becomes a mini-prison. I become more different.

Where are you on this?

Are you scared to fully leverage your role as an opportunity for ministry? It helps me to remember that God called me to this too, that it's not just for my husband. If He called me, He has something for me in this. He wants to use me and my gifts.

Are you isolated by your resentment of being different? The only way out is to change your perspective, to embrace your role as an opportunity. As you do this, you invite people into relationship with you, and you help create the own environment you are looking for to share yourself.

May God help you see yourself, your role, and your church with new eyes today. May He help you embrace your life as one big opportunity.