Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Family Matters

Often, when I'm going about my morning routine getting ready for the day, I find myself reflecting in some depth about whatever has been on my mind recently. Being in my mid-to-late twenties, a TON of my friends are getting married, and many of them are starting to have kids. I, as you may be aware, am not among them.

Now, this doesn't bother me on principle. Although I would certainly like to have a family of my own, I'm sure as H-E-Double-Hockey-Sticks not going to settle for the next guy to show an interest in me just because my "biological clock" thinks it knows better than me. I've looked into it; it doesn't.

However, since the prospect of beginning my professional ministry in earnest has begun to become less prospect-y and more reality-y, I have been thinking a lot about family not in terms of achievement or reward, but as support system. I'm not saying that I formerly saw men as conquests to be "husbanized", but I did have times when I saw having my own family as something I've "earned," something I deserve for being a good person.

Anyway, as the pressures of ministry begin settling into the wrinkles of my life, and I find myself as single as one could possibly be, I've begun feeling the absence of a significant other much more keenly. While a nice glass of wine after work is nice, it can't possibly compare to conversation with someone who knows you better than you know yourself.

So then I started thinking, "Well, self, a family comes with its own challenges, you know, especially for those engaged in an active ministry." Good point, self (I can be so insightful sometimes). Ministry is a time- and energy-consuming job; a relationship is a time- and energy-consuming job; raising children is a time- and energy-consuming job...there's three full-time jobs squeezed into one life!

I get it. I've known for a long time that relationships (even long-term committed relationships like marriage) are not all sunshine and rainbows and puppies and other nice things. They take work and sacrifice and compromise. But I can't help but wonder...does sharing the load--even when the sharing itself increases the load--make it easier to bear?

As someone who has only really been in ministry as a single person (and for a short time, at that) I am singularly unqualified (Ahhhhhhhhhh, see what I did there???) to engage this debate any deeper than on a theoretical level. However, I will say that, while I am grateful for the freedom to pursue God's call for me anywhere and any time that it arises, the day-to-day business can be brutally lonely. And exhausting. And I don't know that those who aren't in ministry (or those who have never engaged in the "single person's edition" of ministry) can understand that. After all, it's not like an office job where you leave your work behind at 5 and do whatever you want until the alarm goes off in the morning. The job follows you home, and can even play a role in dictating "me time". It's a heavy burden to carry by yourself.

Don't get me wrong, I love my job, I love my call (I'm considering another blog post of reasons why I needed this call, but that's later), I love my relatively flexible life. But it's far from easy, and not something that I look forward to doing for the rest of my life.

So, friends: I would be interested to hear from you on this subject. Especially those who have been on both sides of the coin (dating as a pastor is particularly terrifying to me) and those who have had a different experience than I have. What do you think? Is one "mode" more difficult than the other? Would you do things differently if you could have? How has your congregation's attitude been affected by your family status? Go go gadget comment.


  1. Katey
    I can't respond as a pastor but I know that trying to balance career, home and family is a challenge. My minister at my home church told me that he looks at his life as rungs on a ladder and each step up the ladder is ordered by God. This is how I have tried to balance my crazy life, taking one rung at a time and knowing that eveything in my life is set by God.
    Blessings on you as you continue on your journey, or ladder climbing.
    Grace and Peace

  2. Katey,

    You will figure out how to navigate this phase...the start of any career is scary with lots of angst but you will gradually keep moving along the path of balancing career and family. People will give you lots of advice but you'll have to make it work, especially with the challenges you've described above. Family is also an evolving term...I think of all of you as part of our family. You never know what's waiting right around the corner...