So, one evening towards the end of my freshman year, I’m bored… I start messing around on the AOL local chat rooms, and I start talking to a local pastor who was in there trying to minister to people.
I’m sick of my church, so I start asking him about his church.
Up to this point, I’d never heard of the concept of a house church happening within anywhere except in other countries that didn’t have the option to meet in open buildings.
I keep asking the guy questions… and keep getting deeper and deeper into areas that I was completely unfamiliar with.
The church was of the 3 rivers line of thought…. essentially being that there are three elements of the spiritual life that need to be kept in balance, each the domain of a different person of the trinity: God the father’s dominant element was obedience, and who was best sought through tradition and keeping to the old testament rules; Jesus had mercy, and was best learned through New Testament study; and the Holy Spirit’s area was over revelation, best learned through personal experiences.
They felt that traditional denominations focused so much on Jesus that they neglected the other two, that pentecostal and charismatic groups focused too much on the spirits domain and completely ignored the others, and that groups like catholics focused too much on tradition and lost sight of the latter two.
So it ended up with an interesting mix of elements in an attempt to balance.
I’d never heard of Christians who were not of jewish origin who kept kosher and tried to follow OT rules… or of the whole concept of raw foodism… or a lot of the prep-er style of thinking where it would make more sense not to own a church building etc. I knew of the name yahweh, but didn’t know anyone who actually used it as a primary name of god… yeshu/yeshua was completely new to me…
So it was interesting… and drew me in mostly out of curiosity more than because I believed they were right… and I became friends with the guy, at the time not even realizing that not only was he a pastor, he was actually the president of an association of about 60 similar churches.
After a couple of months of being friends with the guy, they were working on a new web strategy… the topic came up that I was webmaster for several of the department sites for the college, and he had checked them out and asked me about how I had set up one of them. (Just an image map… nothing all that fancy… )
So I offered to help them out and make the image map for their front page… and somehow I end up as part of their web team with full access to it and being brought into the discussions on changes, etc.
I’m not even attending any of their churches at this time.
So, into this web strategy came a yahoo group to help coordinate and connect between the very spread out churches…
And the guy who was taking on this project was someone who had basically been volunteered because he was the youngest member of the associations board of directors by about 15 years…. but who had never even owned a computer before this point.
So I was familiar with the yahoo groups setup, and so I agreed to help him with the technical side of things…. and thus D came into my life. We worked together… things clicked… we sort of became known as partners on the group (which took off quickly), which then sort of spread to the people who weren’t on the group assuming we were connected… which then eventually developed into dating.
D, by all outward appearances, was Mr. Perfect.
He was the association’s golden boy.
Star athlete in high school, homecoming king… both smart and charismatic… from the perfect family with his perfect brother as his best friend…
He’d become an ordained minister straight out of high school at 17 as an assistant pastor to the founder of the association, had his own congregation by age 20, been a regional director since 24, on the board of directors since 25 as the youngest member to do so by decades, and had just become the vice president at age 30. (He was 31 at this time, I was 20)
He was one of those people who everybody adored and followed to the point of darn near worshiping the man… and they had since he was a teen… (and it had very much gone to his head)
And so of course everything had to give that appearance.
He wouldn’t go to a video chain that offered porn movies in some of the other regions. He wouldn’t drink, but also wouldn’t allow anyone with him to even have wine with dinner. The man wouldn’t even speed because that would be showing disrespect for the rules of the powers god had placed over us. The list of companies being boycotted for various moral reasons was long.
Why in the heck was he dating me? The best answer I ever got was that I was “sweet and endearing”. My theory is that I was the only one patient and easy-going enough to put up with his crap.
Either that, or he was just desperate… in that world, 31 was ancient to not be married and with litters of kids already. That was basically the one thing that he didn’t have going for him.
In any case, Mr. perfect expected Mrs. perfect… and we basically spent the whole relationship fighting over that fact that Mrs. perfect is very far from who I am…. in spite of giving it my very best attempt.
So basically what I keep hearing from him is about all the ways that I failed to live up to his standards… and getting into these huge fights, always over something I’d said or done that he had taken differently than I’d meant it.
Everything I did was wrong… and everything I voiced my opinion about was basically twisted to make me look stupid.
The agreement was that after I graduated, I would move up near him and live with the reverend’s family in the next town over. If things were still going well after 6 months of dating in person, we would do a formal engagement with a ring etc and finalize wedding plans for 6 months beyond that. (I’d also agreed that I would join the church formally at that time, in spite of not being aligned with some of the out there beliefs)
But in this church…. where women were expected to be homeschooling mothers who didn’t work outside the home… everyone in the churches in my local area completely missed that memo. Everyone seemed to expect that I should have immediately dropped out and moved, because what good is college to a baby factory anyway?
I got very used to being called by his last name… introduced as his wife when I wasn’t even sure that it was even firm enough to be using the title fiance.. in general treated as leadership and roped into positions that I had no business being in “because i would be soon, so might as well begin filling the shoes”..
So I’m not even a member of the church…. and yet helping send out the women’s newsletter by formatting it, turns into writing part of the womens newsletter, turns into being in charge of the womens newsletter, turns into my name (or rather, my first name with his last name) being listed as the current womens director in the main association newsletter mailed out to all members of the various churches without my ever having anyone even mention the topic to me.
Not that my objection mattered. The same college education that I was getting pressure to consider worthless now suddenly became a reason that I looked good as a leader.
And when that failed to convince me, we got into the whole “ministers have a calling on their whole family to serve” logic. That a husband being called meant that his wife was included in the deal as a freebee.
This was a very common assumption there, and within the christian community in general… but being from the other side of the tracks, this is one that still doesn’t make logical sense to me.
If I married a doctor, nobody would expect me to also be able to treat them. If I married a lawyer, few people would expect me to be an expert in law unless I also chose law as a career. Nobody expects a military wife to fight, on the contrary, she’s usually kept in the dark about work information. I’m dating an IT guy now (interestingly enough, a former pastor) and I highly recommend not taking my advice on anything but a simple computer repair.
Why in the world would marrying a minister be so different as to suddenly require that I be a leader and an expert in that area as well, if no other area of calling has the same sort of “called by association” assumption?
So all of the sudden…. I’m stuck in this weird position where on one hand I’m being blasted for being not good enough…. and on the other hand I’ve got these people treating me like I’ve got it all together and am mrs perfect to be and expected to keep up that appearance….
And of course it all feels fake… like I’m playing a role in a play of what I think a good christian wife is supposed to act like.
I haven’t the foggiest idea what I’m doing, and I don’t even believe a good chunk of their practices…. I’ve openly admitted this…. and still just sort of got shoved into this mold anyway.
Every time I protest about this…. I basically get shamed into being a good little christian girl.
But the longer and longer it went on…. the more the doubts grew.