The Common Good

Womanhood and Discerning 'The Call'

I’ve moved five times in five years of marriage. My husband is a pastor. I am a journalist. He is forever discerning, forever visioning — I am forever antsy.

This latest move to Washington, D.C., led me to think a lot about the “call” to serve. My husband and I were dating, then engaged, then married during his four years at seminary. I suppose I knew what I was getting myself into. (Nope, not one little bit.) 

During those years, it was drilled into my brain that even though I felt a “calling” as a writer, a storyteller, etc., it was extremely different from the call. 

Read: What your husband is doing is more important than anything you will ever do in your lifetime — ever. Except maybe have his progeny, and then, still, it’s a toss-up.

I accepted this as a fact for a while. Yes, I kicked and screamed all the way from Chicago to St. Louis to Minneapolis. I made it my mission to kick the preacher’s wife stereotype in the hindquarters. I drank a lot of wine. 

But deep down I believed what I was told:

“God can’t use you.”
“You just have a job; your husband is on a mission from God.”
Or my personal favorite: “Being a preacher’s wife is your call.”

Blah blah blah.

But a funny thing happened as we reflected on the past couple of months. 

The catalyst for the move was my job offer from Sojourners. I’ve been following the organization since I was in college, and out of the blue a perfect position opened. Within two weeks I went from a comfortable life in a downtown Minneapolis high rise (with a man who cooked for me every night) to prepping to move halfway across the country into an English basement with a roommate I found on Craigslist to eat peas & carrots out of can most nights, sans husband. 

While the situation was initially uncomfortable — as God’s plans typically are — it forced my husband to get real about his “call.” God’s been working in him to do ministry in an urban environment for years. Since I moved, he went through an immersion week and is getting certified in Christian Community Development. He did a church planters’ assessment. He’s reading and learning and praying. There’s no question for him that this is what he is supposed to be doing. 

In our denomination, it’s extremely rare (and scary) to leave a church until you’re extended a call from another. There are all kinds of traditional and political reasons that I don’t fully understand. So it was a big deal for him to make the leap. But God’s will trumps scary. God’s will is bigger than tradition. And God’s will rarely, if ever, follows human-made rules.  

On his last visit, my husband told me that looking back, God has worked through me to lead us onto the right path, even though his practical side told him I was insane. (This is not to say I am not, at times, intensely insane.)

We went to Chicago for his internship year because I got into the journalism grad program at Northwestern. Chicago blew his mind, he found a true mentor in his adviser, and the experience sprouted a passion for city ministry — to create real community amid the chaos of urbanity. 

We were placed in Minneapolis because I said my only requirement was that we be in a city. In the past three years, he’s gained invaluable experience in what it means to shepherd a congregation in a city as a sole pastor. He’s met countless ministry peers that have pushed him into the direction of church planting.

It’s incredible the way these experiences have worked together to bring us to this point. 

Still, I occasionally struggle with the old belief — that I am less than. That my call is not important. That I’m being selfish. And I even sometimes hear it from others. 

Then I think about something my mom told me when I was deciding on colleges. It was my dream to go to Boston — Emerson College specifically. I got in, even offered half-tuition. But it was still too much, too far, too expensive. Tearing up, my mom told me she knew I needed to leave. I would leave Texas, go off to the East Coast and do something great. (I don’t know about the “great” part, but hey, she’s my mom.) She said she was sorry it couldn’t be now, but some day it would happen.

So.

Should I put the dreams and desires God has put in my heart on the backburner? Should I be the timid and quiet woman behind the man?

For both of our sakes — and for both of our calls — I think not.

Sandi Villarreal is Associate Web Editor for Sojourners. You can follow her on Twitter @Sandi.

Woman reading Bible, Jacob Gregory / Shutterstock.com

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