One of my friends sent me a birthday text that included encouragement of what I’d “accomplished” in my 30 years. She listed “several flourished ministries” and I stopped dead in my tracks, thanking God for the privilege of being a part of his Kingdom Work.
Last Sunday we were excited to attend our former church family in Albion, New York. It was so glorious to be back in the presence of friends-turned-family, to feel the love and knowingness that hadn’t faded because of time or space. Being in that town makes me smile. Eating at that Tim Horton’s, walking down Main Street and waving to passers-by, walking through the halls of that familiar church building. I loved every minute, every conversation, every hug.
And I have to be completely honest when I say I expected to feel some discontentment rising up in my heart during that weekend. For we loved that place and those people fiercely and it was terribly hard to leave. The last year and a half in full time, lead-pastoral ministry has been intense for the Eccles. It’s a big job with a steep learning curve. I thought I’d want to quit and go back to my “happy place.”
But even as I braced myself for the ride home when I might cry wishing I could stay in My Albion, I found that the Lord had already laid seeds in my heart for something totally unexpected – deep contentment, true joy, and resonating peace. As we drive those many turnpike miles, Kevin and I could hardly stop talking about all the things we love about our church, Our Monroe. We had truly missed worshiping with our congregation that Sunday. We realized we truly love everything about Monroe FMC.
And I was somehow surprised that God had done this work. I was surprised that I still felt all the love and affection for my New York church while feeling eagerness and deep connection with my Michigan church. It’s hard for a pastor’s wife to feel truly safe among her congregation. There’s this unspoken expectation that our family should be better and holier than others, that we should have everything all together. It’s hard to know who to trust and who to talk to because your church people are somehow supposed to be those under your shepherding leadership, but also those with whom you share life authentically. It’s a tricky situation. So to have prayer gatherings where tears are shed, life’s hard stories are shared, meaningful hugs are exchanged…it’s like taking a deep breath of fresh air. It’s what Church is supposed to be. And I get to be a part of a growing congregation that is learning this true-life kind of Christianity.
These people know me. I mean, for Pete’s sake I received peanut butter M&Ms, Reese’s cups, Chai Tea, a Nintendo 64, music note earrings, and KALE for my birthday. Those are my favorite things ever. To be known is every heart’s desire. And to be known by the congregation to which you were called to shepherd…THAT is a true blessing.