Pulling the Trigger

Post Author: Name Withheld

Trigger. As in “pull the?” Exactly. It is day fifteen and I just had the trigger shot. Some of you know what this sentence means without me explaining any further. For those who don’t, I almost wish I was still in your shoes. I didn’t know what this meant until about two months ago when my husband and I decided to go forward with in vitro fertilization (IVF). For unexplained reasons, we can’t conceive. No one knows exactly why and it doesn’t really matter. We are in our mid-thirties, own a house and a business, have successfully raised pets and tomatoes, so babies seem the next natural step. We want them and are trying not to be desperately wanting them.

After ten years in ordained ministry I have finally been called to a head pastor position. I’m on my own. I make the decisions. I hire and fire. I don’t have to ask permission to start a new ministry or go see someone in the hospital. I get to preach Christmas and Easter and stand in the aisle and ask questions for the sermon if I want. It may not be glorious work, but I love the work. I love the people. And I have lied to them. It’s wonderful fun to lead the congregation I have been called to and I love being on my own. But what does one do when they need to miss a Sunday to go have an ultrasound and blood work? IVF requires almost constant monitoring and I just can’t say, “Oh I need to be away to see if my ovaries are progressing well and my estrogen levels are healthy.”

What is the appropriate line to share with my church leadership? How do I tell my parish secretary that I will be away a few days so I can maybe see if we might be able to bring a little one into our lives? I haven’t figured it out…so I lied. I told them I was going to a conference (which I was actually scheduled to attend, but didn’t) when I was really traveling to the largest city near us for IVF monitoring. I feel guilty, yet not enough to let them in on our quest. It’s so emotional. I’m not embarrassed. I just cannot handle their expectations on top of my own. My sweet hubby’s desire to be a dad is almost more than I can bear alone.

When is it okay for the parishioners to be the pastors and the pastor to be the one in need of care?  I don’t know the answer to that one either. So I sit here on day fifteen, having pulled the trigger on my body, and wondering if I pulled some sort of other trigger in my ministry. A trigger that allows lying and doesn’t allow weakness. Sounds pretty un-Christ-like to me. How can I be so bad at being vulnerable?

The author resides in a small Georgia town with 20 legs already in her home, 16 of which come with tails and need to go outside on a regular basis. She and her husband are praying for a few more legs to love and cherish and who will delight them in old age as surely they will be in retirement by the time graduation comes along. But what a great retirement it will be!

Image by: Etolane
Used with permission
3 replies
  1. Cynthia Holder Rich
    Cynthia Holder Rich says:

    Having struggled both with fertility and with the reactions and response of lay leaders and members to my struggle and my (difficult) pregnancy in an earlier era, my heart goes out to you. I generally believe that transparency is something for which to strive; but, unless you want to have communal joy and grief at every stage of the process, coupled with resentment of you, your maternity leave (which you negotiated, right) and your health insurance benefits, this is a tough call. You do, however, need some allies. Hoping you are in a supportive judicatory, and if you are, that you are discussing this with those who can be your advocates and supporters.

  2. Megan
    Megan says:

    My husband (a pastor, too) and I have struggled with whether or not to tell the congregation that doctors have told us we’ll be unable to conceive. We don’t feel like we’ve processed it enough ourselves. And yet, in a large congregation, someone mentions something nearly daily. It would spare us their hurtful comments and them the foot-in-mouth disease.

    But a friend gave wise council– she said, don’t share if you’re burdening your flock. If you’re wanting them to help shoulder your burden, they’ll disappoint you, and it’s not their job to do that.

    We did decide to share with a few other pastoral staff, and that’s the support we’ve needed. We don’t lie, we just tell people, “we’d love to have kids when God sees fit.”

    Not exactly the same scenario, but I hope it helps.

  3. liz richens
    liz richens says:

    It is a struggle to determine what is personal and what is shared. The key question I’ve asked is how will this effect my ministry?

    I am currently pregnant and have shared this news with the congregation, but last year the week before palm sunday I suffered my second miscarriage…another priest was called in to preside over the parishes I worked for that Sunday and I had to decide what to do and what to say, especially with the Easter Tridium coming up.

    my husband and I attended Palm Sunday and sat in the congregation. The rectors warden informed the parish of our loss and asked for prayers. We also introduced healing prayers that Sunday for any who wished. I cried the whole time. Good Friday was torture, Easter held true hope…the whole season took on new and personal meaning. but not just for me…

    Since then I have hear many stories from parishoners about the losses they suffered and were told not to speak of, the times they ran from church too embarrassed to cry in front of people, the permission they received through seeing our crises as a part of our spiritual journey to express their true emotions to God and how important healing prayer has become in their lives.

    I feel that being vulnerable is an important part of my ministry, just as being strong is…we are all human and can be examples (as priests) in many and varied ways.

    God bless you in your ministry and in your decision.


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