“And what’s your job here?” asked the strange woman in my office.
She had no way of knowing, I suppose, although let’s be honest: we were in a church building, so the choices were rather limited.
I tried to smile as I said, “I’m one of the pastors.”
I almost never introduce myself as the “associate pastor”, even though that’s what I am. My wonderful colleague always introduces me as his “partner”, and I appreciate that a lot. He is twenty years ahead of me in age and experience, but he still sees me as a partner and communicates that to everybody else. (Pro Tip: This is rarer than it should be.)
But I have noticed recently that many other people refer to me as “the lady pastor.” This happens more often in St. James than it did in Litchfield. I suspect this is because in my two country churches, I was the only pastor, and here I am one of two. And, in addition to our many differences (personality, preaching style, height), our gender identities are different, too.
I know people mean well. I really do think they are using the phrase “lady pastor” to clarify which of their two pastors they are talking about. It doesn’t really bother me, except . . . I have never heard anyone refer to my colleague as “the man pastor.”
It’s hard sometimes, when who you are doesn’t quite line up with people’s expectations. It’s hard to wonder if the way people respond to you–whether it’s positive or negative–is connected to their awareness of you as a “lady pastor.”
But here’s the good news. The Bible is full of stories of people who don’t line up with the expectations of others. People who don’t quite fit, who don’t act or think or look the way the rest of the world thinks they should. There’s Hagar–a woman, a slave, a foreigner–who sees God face to face. There’s the Ethiopian eunuch–another foreigner, lacking the parts that make him a “real man”–who teaches Philip about the power of the Holy Spirit and the gift of baptism. There’s David, the youngest of Jesse’s sons, who becomes the king of Israel. The list goes on and on. Our God is a God who loves the unexpected, who picks the underdog, who champions the lowest and the least, every time.
And, there’s this: a few days ago, Mike went to get a part for our lawn mower. He told the man at the parts desk his name and phone number, and the man replied, “Oh, you’re Pastor Maggie’s wife–I mean, Pastor Maggie’s husband!”
Turns out this “lady pastor” business can cut both ways.
Where has God confounded your expectations?