Single is never where I thought I would be at my age. It’s been a little over a year since a lot of terrible things happened and I had to make some extremely gut-wrenching decisions that led to a community-affirmed divorce. This was never what I had wanted or hoped for, yet here I was. Single. A mother. An exhausted pastor. A recovering enabler.
I told someone at the time that my life was ruined by this whole thing… as a woman in pastoral ministry things were difficult enough, but as a divorced, single mom? How was I ever going to make things work financially? How could I have any kind of career in ministry (or career in general) when the cards were stacked against me?
All my degrees and all my training are found in ministry, and on a lot of levels most churches are still quite conservative still when it comes to women in ministry (outside of children’s pastors, women’s pastors, and “missionaries”). What was I supposed to do when churches would most likely reject me because of my gender and current life-circumstances? How was I supposed to support myself and my son on my own when my career path had only led me to a dead end?
Perhaps it was simply the end of myself. When you have to let go of a marriage you tried desperately to hold onto for many years, it’s terrifying and humiliating to think that divorce could even be on the table. From a public eye (and especially in an age of social media), I was in somewhat of a “seen” position (as all church leaders are), and it was terribly humiliating to even consider having take a step toward something that was still quite taboo in churches. Yet I had to get to the end of myself and realize what was happening (hello enabler, welcome to reality), and then take steps on what needed to happen.
I shook often in that season, my teeth chattering, when I talked about the events that had taken place that led me and us all to this place—these symptoms of a psychosomatic response to trauma. The heartache that followed was some of the most soul-tearing that I can describe; I’ve never been so demolished in my whole life. A terrible heartache was mine to walk in and I just wanted to get rid of it. I feared rejection, I feared alone-ness, I feared lack of financial provision, but mostly I sat in the ripping of one flesh and it hurt like hell.
But let me tell you about what a Jesus + church community can do…
While I knew that I was held by Jesus in this time, I expected rejection from my church, yet my church staff and elders could not have walked things out more beautifully or sacrificially with me. Let me be very clear about this process: I experienced the opposite of any kind of rejection. They leaned. in.
Our elders and pastors had leaned in long before the shit hit the fan and stayed in it long after, affirming how I walked things out in my own season. I didn’t know a church could walk this out with such grace and strength, but when the Creator of Grace and Strength is leading the charge and His pastors and elders are listening to Him, they follow suit. Did all of us walk it perfectly? No. No one can do that… we are humans, flawed yet forgiven and covered with mercy and grace. But did they (and I) walk it in health and with clear boundaries? Yes.
I am still attending and serving at my church. After a slight reprieve of regular church attendance in order to heal and regain composure without the feeling like I had to explain myself (“Yes I’m doing well thank you for asking” was a regular response when I would show up on a Sunday at my home church… and the pressure from an entire group of people who knew the circumstances was more than I could handle), I am back and serving in simple ways and I love feeling like I’m home again with these incredible people.
I anticipated rejection from the camps I had spoken at in the past and that my speaking opportunities were over… but when God takes care of the details and my elders and pastors vouch for my character, He gives opportunities because HE is the One who calls and moves. It’s so lovely to know that stuff isn’t up to me, and that the church isn’t actually the place of rejection that I had anticipated… in fact, she has been more than kind.
All of my experience, training, heart-beats, passions, and degrees have been in vocational church ministry, yet sometimes God likes to turn things around and give you jobs that you really don’t have “regular” qualifications for because He knows what your heart needs. I am a creative, and He’s opened a job to do home staging and design, a hobby I did on the side and now am paid to do, and I am teaching music lessons to students, a role that combines my pastoral heart, momma heart, and music heart all in one 30-or 60-minute lesson.
Singleness, single-momming, dating again as a 30-something, living alone (um hi I’m an extrovert who lives with a three-year-old… someone call me), and working and momming was not something I had ever planned for. I had hoped for a big house that resonated with hospitality, a wonderfully loving partner-in-ministry and in life and in adventure to call my home, 4-5 kids (some biological, some adopted.. give me all the babies) and all their friends to call my own little youth group tribe, a big ol’ van to take everyone to the beach in, a career that was free to serve God however without need for money… all of that (yes I know, many of us long for similar dreams)…
This was not the life I had planned, nor had hoped for, but I am wildly grateful for His hand in it all. God is too Good, too Kind, too Loving, and even in this season, His blessing is more than I can handle. I am vulnerable and strong, and so is He, so I’m following Him.