Why "Recovering Church Lady"?


We are all familiar with the negative stereo-typical "church lady". She is judgmental, strict and humorless. Her world is small and her view is extra narrow, believing that it is her job to point out sin in those around her.

I used to be a church lady. But I let a smile cover my fear of not being good enough.

I was a busy mom and even busier churchwoman who was involved in multiple church committees and jobs of all kinds. You name a department of the local church and I either organized it or was a  “pillar” of it. My life was centered around the local church with very little “worldly” interaction.

There is a well-kown TV character using this stereo-type that makes me laugh, but she also makes me very sad. Sad, because I know her. Sad because I recognize the fear that motivates her. She acted superior but she did not  feel superior, she felt afraid.

In her mind, God was an extremely difficult and unreachable being who set up a series of unreachable standards that were requirements for entry into Heaven. The idea of a friendship with God here on earth was not even considered. Life was all about getting the points piled up by doing good here, so that we will be issued a ticket that said, “Well done, you may enter your reward.”

I too, have spent many years working for God. More than a few of those committees and Bible studies I was involved in had little to do with my friendship with God. They were expectations put on me by myself and by others. Wouldn’t God love me more if I did more for Him? Is that such an unreasonable motivation?

The truth is that God loved me long before I was introduced to Him. He thought I was amazing before I was a senior pastor’s wife who spent ridiculous numbers of hours on the phone getting the women’s ministry event organized. God delighted in me without taking into account all the wonderful work I did for Him.

But why? Why in the world would the great Creator of all things care about me just as much before I shivered at six o’clock every morning for two years praying in the church sanctuary? Didn’t He love me at least a LITTLE bit more when He saw that sacrifice?

You can be sure that the church lady in us believes that I made some pretty big points on those mornings. Every minute spent on my knees or pacing and praying was definitely adding up in His big book of good deeds. What about missionaries? They give up the comforts of a civilized society and move to remote, dirty places to tell strangers about God. Surely missionaries will be hearing some extra hearty welcoming praise as they enter Heaven!

I am no longer a “church lady”. The striving to be holy and pure is gone. The fight to appear perfect so that I don’t become a “stumbling block” to others is over. My mission to live by the rules to gain the love of God is done. To continue would be the same as the poor little hamster who runs with all his might on his spinning wheel, getting nowhere.

I am loved, accepted and delighted in by God. He is not waiting until I get it right. He is not looking at me with hope in His eyes for what the future-me will become. God is pleased with me today, now, in all my ordinariness and goofiness!

Is there some “church lady” in you? In the coming weeks I will be exploring this whole question and letting you in on my journey to being a Recovering Church Lady.

Former Church Lady,


23 comments:

  1. Hi Susie! I'm sure your sacrifices counted for something! Isn't in the Bible that God collects every tear we shed? How much more precious than tears are our sacrifices especially on behalf of his people! But then we always have to remember that the most important to God is really that we have a relationship with Him, friends with Him! Don't we have an awesome God! Patsy from
    HeARTworks

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    1. Hi New Friend, Yes I do believe they "count" but I'm not sure that count is as important to God as it is for many believers who think the higher "count" will make God love them more. Our sacrifices only count in how they shape and form us into happier and more whole people while still here on earth, I think.
      I love our awesome God, He continues to amaze and surprise me! Thanks for the comment.

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  2. Thanks for being here. :)

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    1. You are welcome ~C, it really is my pleasure!

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  3. As a wife of a pastor, I can understand this...nice post...really makes me think. Glad I found your blog.

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    1. Welcome Holly, I am glad you found it too! I look forward to getting to know you. I'll be looking up your blog as soon as i can!
      Susie

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  4. Absolutely, Susie. God has given us the righteousness of Christ, and we know that the Father delights in the Son; the Bible says we have that same relationship with God now. The good things we do, the bad things we do - none of them change God's attitude toward us, as it is always an attitude of delight. What grace!

    Cheers,
    Tim

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  5. Wow Susie....I never knew you had all that going on! You will never know how much LOVE you poured out on us thirsty little broken souls who were trying to find out if we were loved, if we had a purpose, did God Love us...and for me, you were the essence or embodiment of that Godly love and acceptance I craved. No matter how many pieces The Potter was breaking off us on a given day, you were there in steadfast LOVE and Acceptance. Well, God love ya, eat another peice of See's candy and put your feet up...you richly deserve it! You and Curt impacted my life more than you will ever know. What a blessing to spend two years with you two! Merry Christmas dear ones.....Paula

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    1. Thank you Paula, they were very special years that I will always treasure.

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  6. Hi Susie-- Thanks for the comment on the She Writes article. I too am a PW or soon to be "was". My husband has just recently accepted a new position in a different field. I've never done the Church Lady thing well. I tried, but I was miserable and bitter. My faith, has taken some hard hits over the years, and I'm struggling to regain it without all the confines of expectations. I'm looking forward to following your blog.

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    1. Hi Julie, I loved your new column over at SHE WRITES and had no idea of your history! You will LOVE the freedom of enjoying your God relationship without outside expectations! I hope you come back again often!

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  7. I am so very glad you re-found me. The last few years of my life have been dedicated to finding the real me,under the layers of self expectation,doubt,ego,learned reactions and secrecy. It has been hard. I have blogged about it. Extremely hard. Nine weeks of hospital, even more 'therapy' and here I am, fragile but getting stronger, realigned with my true reality,loved,accepted and able to forgive. Wow its so good to have reconnected with you. Its amazing what happens when you drop expectation. Expectation is the mother of all disappointment, of this I am certain. Lisa xx

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    1. ". Expectation is the mother of all disappointment"

      Wow....that is so true.

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  8. I really enjoyed reading this post, it made me think because I had only come across this term quite recently and used it in a blog post. I used it in a different way though focusing on the possible root of it (linked to lack of godly self-love. ie. acceptance of who we are in Messiah/Christ) I would love to hear what you think - the blog post can be found here http://ontheroadtohealing.org.uk/blog/2013/11/03/loving-enough-4-things-show-lack-self-love/

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  9. Totally get this. Enjoying reading your story. It is so hard to step back from being involved in everything at church especially when we see a need we think we can fill. I'm contemplating stepping down from a few things at church and yet, struggle with letting others down. Thanks for your sincerity! It's refreshing.

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  10. I get it. Wonderful post. I think it will bring healing to many.

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  11. Thank you for taking the time to share your journey with all of us. I've beens struggling with many of the same issues over the years. I've also had that finger wagged at me more than a few times when my family just could not live up to the impossible standards of one of the "church ladies". What a beautiful life God has in store for us when we chose to live with Him without condemnation.

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  12. Read your post over at Five Minutes for Faith on God letting you know he loved you and your fat rolling tummy. When I saw the link to "Recovering Church Lady," I had to come over because I used to work for a young 30-something female attorney who was as far from me on matters of faith as she could be, or so she thought. She even dubbed me the "church lady," and to this day refers to me lovingly in that way even after I retired in 2006. She was a mirror for me to see myself as others saw me, just as you have described here, and so I too decided to make a change for Him, purely for Him, because I know He loves me faults and all, and He always will. Looking forward to getting to know more about you. And Him.

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  13. Susie - I look forward to getting to know you through your blog. We have a lot in common already. Thanks for sharing.

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  14. Yes! I hear you. Aren't you so thankful God brought you out of the tiny prison cell of a performance-driven religion and into the wide open places of grace? I would live to know more of your story of how got brought you to this place...

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    1. Thanks for coming by, Faith. It has mostly been a matter of God slowly and surely showing me His BIG LOVE for me. Sounds simple, but truthfully, if we could all grab onto the fact that God loves ALREADY, it automatically releases us from the STRIVING that legalism produces. The entire theme of this blog is this one message: God loves you as you are. Period. :)

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  15. Amen! Very well said and identifiable - thank you for the reminder to just let God love me. I've heard that love covers a multitude of sins! :)

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  16. I was curious to read about the recovering church lady who commented on another blog, so I came over for a visit. While I have never been in the position of being a pastor's wife, I know all too well the church lady and the constant striving. Very well said.

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All comments are good comments!

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