Stepping Up By Stepping In and Why "It’s Only a Year" Isn’t Comforting

Wednesday night youth group has been chaotic since Lent started.  Between my husband occasionally preaching at our other vicarage church and the youth leaders dealing with various illnesses and long work days, there has hardly been a Wednesday that all three of them have been at Bible study.  This week’s Wednesday night was quickly proving to be no different:  My husband was schedule to preach at the other church and the youth leader who was going to cover the Bible study texted him on Tuesday evening to say that he was sick.  The other youth leader was unable to teach the Bible study as well.  My husband immediately went into Plan C mode and started listed possible congregation members that could lead youth group the next evening.  After observing my husband in youth group crisis mode for a moment, I asked, “Well, can I do it?”  My husband told me that I could, but only if I wanted to.  The youth group wasn’t my responsibility, so I shouldn’t feel obligated to cover.  “I know that, I think I can do it,” I said.

My husband replied, “Okay, if you think you want to do it.  All you have to do is just watch them, don’t worry about the Bible study.”

Stepping Up:
I paused a moment to mull over the situation.  I know that the congregation doesn’t expect much involvement from me anymore; I declined invitations to many church activities when we first arrived.  They know that I won’t sing in the choir, won’t come to the Ladies Guild meetings, won’t attend the women’s Bible study, won’t come to craft activities, and some even know that I won’t play piano for service.  Likewise, my husband knows how much anxiety I had about the congregation’s expectations when we first moved here, so he is very careful to never make me feel pressured to help at church.  Sadly, in my efforts to show people that I wasn’t interested in doing everything at church, I’ve led people, including my husband, to believe that I can’t do anything at church.

But I’m tired of that belief.  I know it’s not true, I can and want to serve the church–just in my own time and in my own way.  So I asked my husband, “Can I do a Bible study with the high schoolers?”  After taking a couple of minutes to convince my husband that I could teach a 20 minute devotion and that I actually wanted to try, he agreed to let me lead the devotion.

Stepping In:
Even though I had said that I wanted to help, the next day I still felt nervous about working with the teenagers.  Despite my apprehensions, I prepared my devotion and talked it over with my husband before he headed off to confirmation class.  At 6:30, I sat the youth down and began the devotion.  While it wasn’t the best devotion ever–I haven’t taught a group since my daycare job–it still worked out.  The high schoolers answered my questions and listened respectfully.  I hope they even learned something.  I know that my subbing was only for one night, but it was still a big step for someone who initially didn’t want to work with the youth.

The Problem With “It’s Only a Year”:

So why now?  My husband has been in a bind with the youth group in the past; why wait until March to finally offer to help?  Unfortunately, this is my pattern.  Due to my introversion, shyness, or a combination of the two, I spend at least six or seven months to even begin to feel emotionally settled after a move.  It happened in college, it happened when we moved to the seminary, and it unsurprisingly happened with this move.  I am not able to jump into a new life like I would a swimming pool on a hot day (actually, I don’t even like swimming, so I wouldn’t want to jump into a swimming pool on a hot day either!).  It takes time for me to feel comfortable talking with this person or volunteering to help with that activity.  That means back in August when congregation members were excitedly asking me to help with the youth group, join the Ladies Guild, or sing in the choir, I needed more time to get settled before trying to get involved with anything at church.

Unfortunately, vicarage is only a year long program.  That means now that I’ve finally reached a point where I’m comfortable enough to slowly start to become part of the church community, I’m beginning to think about our move in four months.  So while I’m just warming up to say hello, I’m beginning to think about how to say goodbye.  Consequently, for me the vicar’s wife mantra of “It’s only a year, I can do anything for a year!” changes to “It’s only a year?  I need more than a year!This also means I get really pissed off when people lecture about the importance of experiencing vicarage to the fullest and implore sem. wives to make friends everywhere they go.  I’m not socially inept, I realize that I need friends and need to belong in a community.  Again, I need time to get settled.

The good news about all of this is that I can look forward to having more than a year after my husband gets a call (God willing).


2 Comments on “Stepping Up By Stepping In and Why "It’s Only a Year" Isn’t Comforting”

  1. For me, going out on vicarage I said "It's only a year, I can do anything for a year!" Seriously, that literally was the only way to make it through vicarage on some of the hard days! At the end of vicarage I was also saying "It's only a year? I need more time!" I had all of your exact feelings to a tee. But I don't think the two mantras are mutually exclusive. The shortness is both a blessing and a curse. Take it from someone who had a sometimes emotionally trying vicarage and who also made very close friends (in the last two months of course…)

  2. Katrina says:

    For me, the idea that "It's only a year" doesn't help me get through the hard days. Maybe it's because I now know that moving and new places/faces trigger anxiety problems and I don't exactly feel that going back to the sem. is going to be a big homecoming–too much changes in a year. Plus, I've had issues finding work here because we're only here for year–if we were here longer I would be better able to apply myself to a job search. I'm just ready to be settled somewhere! 🙂

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