- She is soft, blonde, and sweet on the outside, but is wild underneath the surface–which comes out from time to time.
- She is very creative and does not do well when she is boxed in emotionally or creatively.
- She is fierce about truth, and has a very low tolerance for hypocrisy, especially among those she feels should know better (like church leadership).
- She is politically incorrect. She says it like she sees it.
- Because of the above facts about her, she does not fit in well with “churchy” types, consistently violates the unwritten codes of churchy behavior, and often gets into trouble in institutional circles. She tends to make church people mad just by showing up.
- One other important thing: she loves Jesus with all her heart, and is a true worshiper of God if I have ever known one.
I attribute Shelby’s wild streak to her Cherokee heritage. You’d never know by her complexion that she is part Cherokee, but inside the word “tribal” fits her well. She sees life very organically and integrated, not at all compartmentalized, like most Euro-Anglo white folks. She’s never been one, for example, to have a set “quiet time” like most of us church folks are practically commanded to do. She prays as she goes–always has. But God knows how to get her attention, and she knows how to respond to Him.
The problem with Shelby–if you can even call it a “problem”–is that she has never fit the mold of the typical “good Christian” projected by institutional Christianity. During our years in that system, she spent most of her time feeling like–and being treated like–she was NOT a good Christian. Mostly, her “sins” had nothing to do with what the Bible calls “sin”–they just didn’t fit the unwritten churchy codes very well. Between her inability to fit the cookie-cutter Christian mold and her intolerance for hypocrisy and political shenanigans within the church, Shelby felt very much like an anomaly, a misfit. And yet, because she was a believer in Jesus (and had no intentions of leaving Him), she felt compelled to try and fit in because the church system was the only Christian expression she knew.
Add to all this the expectation of being a good “pastor’s wife” when I took a full-time ministry position, and you have one soulsick individual. She nearly lost her mind.
And to my shame…in earlier days, when I was very much part of “the system”, I added to her shame. I made her feel like a bad girl because she wasn’t measuring up to the “standard”. I let my pastor convince me of her “issues” when he would complain about her. I prayed for her as if she were a struggling Christian. And, mostly because of the pressure of my great expectations (see previous posts), I bore the stress of feeling responsible for her behavior.
Then when God sent us out from there into the journey we have been walking the past eight years or so–a journey outside of the institutional systems–I watched my wife begin to thrive on the inside. There have been the struggles inherent in a walk of faith, but overall her worldview is much healthier. She never has backslid. She is much happier. And in my opinion she acts more like Jesus than most of the religious folks I have known, including myself. And this has helped me to see that her problem wasn’t rebellion, stubbornness, or anything else ungodly. Her problem was that like many others, she couldn’t stomach religious Christianity. She just wasn’t built that way; her strong sense of truth tells her that so much of that system isn’t even real. So when she tried to shape herself to that system because all the people she valued were telling her the system was real and she was the misfit–it nearly drove her insane. The wild Cherokee inside her kept screaming war cries against it. Leaving that system was the best thing that could have happened for her.