We have officially lived in Bartonville for one year. It’s crazy to even say that; it doesn’t feel like it’s been a year. In fact, it’s probably been our slowest year given we didn’t have a baby, move, or make a job change in that year. A change in pace that I readily welcome.
I love Bartonville. In many ways, it reminds me of growing up in Monticello. Kids play outside unsupervised and ride their bikes up and down the streets. Neighbors go door-to-door with extra produce from their gardens that their families can’t eat before it spoils. On brisk fall days when I have the windows open, I can hear the marching band rehearsing. I love it.
My house is just the right size and I feel like I’m finally making it my own. Sure I’d love to have another room or two, but that’s not out of necessity, just the desire to buy more furniture. We also have the most amazing back yard. It’s big enough for a sizable garden and still lots of room for Milo to play.
Yes, I love it here. I’m getting to know my neighbors (we even shared an hour in our basement with one neighbor as tornadoes blew past). In many ways, I have a sense of belonging to Bartonville.
Except in our church. It’s been a really hard year for me in terms of life in the church. It’s not because I’m the pastor’s wife; many people assume our congregation would expect me to help on every committee and be a regular member of the United Methodist’s Women’s group, but they don’t. They give me a pass in all responsibility because of Milo. I’m the only mom (with a toddler) in our church. And that’s what makes life so difficult.
They didn’t know what to do with or for Milo and me when we first arrived. For almost a year, I did my best to keep him occupied during the service. But as he grew more mobile and independent, it became a meaningless attempt. We would inevitably end up in another room, isolated. That made wanting to come to church incredibly difficult. I spend most of my days alone with Milo at home, there was no need for me to come to church to spend the hour in the same way.
So for about a month I quit going to church. All I could say to Nick was that I needed a break. I needed to not going through the routine for a little while so that maybe I could return with some sort of renewed strength. In my absence, Nick put together a sign up sheet for nursery volunteers. The response was less than overwhelming, but we did get a couple of volunteers.
I returned to church and started dropping Milo off in the nursery. He loved it; every Sunday has tears as I try to get him to leave the room and toys. I was hoping this would be the solution, that my desire for church would return, but it didn’t. I couldn’t even fake it; Nick commented on it the second Sunday of Milo being in the nursery.
The truth of the matter is I just don’t belong. I’m the only female under 50. But I also just don’t like the service. Sigh. I said it. I don’t like going to my husband’s church.
I have felt so much shame over this. I want to be the wife who lifts her husband up, who supports him, who wants to worship with him. But if I came to this church once on my own, I wouldn’t come back. I don’t like the traditional prayers and response times, I don’t like having an organ as the only instrument, I miss the sound of others passionately worshipping next to me. I miss the contemporary church.
But I couldn’t admit it for fear of failing as my husband’s wife, for fear that it meant I was really cut out for him. I couldn’t admit it for fear of what it might say about Nick as a pastor that his own wife doesn’t want to come to church. And I couldn’t admit it for fear that it made me a weak Christian. Isn’t the devoted one able to worship under any circumstance?
I felt so ashamed, I did nothing about the situation. I thought that it would be like exercising, the more I showed up the stronger I would get. Only I didn’t get stronger, I just became resentful.
Nick suggested that I find a church that better fit my needs and demographic profile, but my ego was too large for that. I couldn’t admit defeat, but also what if I left and then God’s plan for Bartonville wasn’t fulfilled? I had believed that I was part of our calling to this place, so by abandoning it was I not admitting I wasn’t necessary?
But it got to be too much to bear. I felt separated from God and longed to be brought back into the fold. I missed singing a song in church that stuck with me for days. I missed the flooding sounds of instruments that washed over me in worship to God. And I won’t get that at Bartonville.
So this past week we tried out a compromise; we attended a Saturday night service at a Peoria area Christian Church. It was exactly what my heart had been longing for. And it wasn’t just for me, this gave Nick an opportunity to worship where the spotlight and responsibilities weren’t on him. It gave us an opportunity to worship together. It also gave Milo an hour to play with kids his own age, something we can’t get enough of.
So that’s the plan. Saturday nights as a family at a different church. I still come to church on Sunday mornings, mostly as a symbol of support for Nick. And I’m coming to terms with the fact that God doesn’t need me to do big and amazing things in our community.
It’s important to me to acknowledge that, even though I couldn’t find my fit at Bartonville United Methodist, I dearly love the people there. They have been kind and generous to me and my family. I love seeing them on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights at our house for small group. Since Nick took over as pastor, there has been a revival in many of the people and the church as a whole. I felt a void that BArtonville couldn’t fill, but that is by no means a judgement on the church itself.