Last week, I accompanied my husband while he attended our denomination’s national meeting. For many pastors' wives, this is a highlight of their year. Afterwards, I see pictures of them on Facebook, smiling broadly with their arms around their girlfriends. They have spent the week praying and laughing and encouraging one another. For a few days, their road less traveled becomes a little bit more companionable.
I am truly happy for these my sisters.
But this is not my experience. When I go to the General Assembly, I see a few people I know, here and there. (And, actually, I know more men than women, thanks to the work I do for our presbytery.) But I don’t have a group of kindred spirits to catch up with over chicken salad and sweet tea. And, at 9:30 at night, I am not sharing my heart with another pastor’s wife; I'm reading a book in my hotel room.
Partly, this is because I missed seminary. My husband and I got married (10 years ago last week!) before his final year of seminary, and my nine months of seminary life were spent as a newlywed with a full-time job as a teacher. By 7:30PM on Thursday nights, when the seminary wives’ group met, I was busy grading papers. I didn’t have children, either, so their Tuesday afternoon prayer and playdates were something I experienced only as I drove past on my way home from work.
I made a few friends in seminary. But, still, when I go to the General Assembly, I often feel like other women got to join a sorority that I didn’t. These other women bonded for three years over miniscule family budgets, cramped living quarters, and shared uncertainty about the future. Now, they meet each other annually in the convention center with shrieks and hugs.
Meanwhile, I’m the girl standing against the wall, quietly reading while I wait to join my husband and his friends for lunch.
I missed forming a seminary sisterhood. But, over the years of watching convention center reunions, I have figured out a few things:
I am not alone.
I met a pastor’s wife at the hotel pool last week. “I married my husband after he was already a pastor,” she told me, “and my first General Assembly was so overwhelming. Everyone seemed to know everyone, and I didn’t.” I suspect there are lots of women like her—and like me. If you are one of us, you are not the only one.
I can make one friend.
Last week, I made a new friend. Not a foursome or a table of eight or a group of twenty. But, still, one. Several months ago, I had read this woman’s book and sensed, through her written words, that we might be kindred spirits. So we corresponded a bit and then arranged to meet for coffee during the meeting. In God’s kindness, I now have a new friend, and next year’s assembly will have one more friendly face at it.
I can go back to seminary.
Not literally, perhaps, but with a bit of creativity, I can reclaim some of what I missed. My sister-in-law, for example, married my brother when he was already a pastor. So, she joined the seminary wives group at a local seminary (not even the one my brother attended) and has made some of those life-time friends that will brighten the national assemblies of her future. Another friend intentionally hosts small groups of seminary wives in her home. Though she’s older than they are, she can share her wisdom with these sisters who will someday be fellow pastors’ wives, too.
For me, last week was not a reunion of old girlfriends. But, as I walked through the halls and caught the eyes of other women, I smiled at them. Someday, I’m going to catch up with these sisters. Though we don’t even know each other’s names now, our names are washed by His blood and written in His book. And, on the last day, we will have an eternal reunion of the most glorious kind.