Osofo Maame – The Pastor's Wife

This weekend I took the rare opportunity to close and lock the door while I was taking a dump. As I sat in my windowless bathroom, I heard my 1 year old wail “Maanee!?! (Mommy)”, and my second born knock on the door and ask if I was pooping.

“Yes, Aya. Yes I am pooping,” I answered. The door remained securely locked. I was not going to endure 3 children sitting betwixt my legs while I was trying to deliver my morning payload.

Directly in front of me sat a stack of very old magazines that I used to subscribe to before I had so many children. Time, Ebony, Essence…luxuries I can no longer afford. I flipped through a dusty April 2007 edition of Time and found an article that immediately piqued my interest. It was about Pastor’s wives, and the imminent loneliness they all feel. This is the job description that the editor ascribed to a Pastor’s wife:

Help Wanted: Pastor’s wife. Must sing, play music, lead youth group, raise seraphic children, entertain church notables, minster to other wives, have ability to recite the Bible backward and choreograph Christmas pageant. Must keep pastor sated, peaceful and out of trouble. Difficult colleagues, demanding customers, erratic hours. Pay: $0.

I sat on the toilet shuddering. The cause of my discomfort was a conversation that I’d had with my husband no less than 2 weeks before. We had been kicking around this idea of moving to South Africa for a little while to help with Goshen International, a school that one of the missionaries in our church had founded about 7 years ago and decided to commit to it. I have no problem teaching little kids proper grammar, diction and oh, Biblical world view, so I was excited to go. Then one night a few weeks later, he informed me that he wanted to expand the vision to include pastoring, and training local people to pastor in their communities as well. This gave me pause.

I don’t know about South Africa, but in Ghana a typical pastor’s wife (aka osofo maame) can be found praying fervently day and night, while somehow managing  to keep an immaculate home and serving tea as she is praying. She is always dressed in white lace. If you ask her how she is doing, she is always “blessed and highly favored of the Lord.” She  has a perm (her hairstyle will only change every decade or so), and her eyebrows are drawn in dark penciled arch that gives her countenance a perpetual look of “huh?” when she’s speaking to you.  Her opinion must never differ from that of her husband’s, lest the congregation misinterpret her radical views as his, and risk him loosing his flock or causing a mutiny. It’s estimated that 50% of all pastor/wife marriages end in divorce. I could certainly see why.

Part of my dilemma is that I don’t know how to “do” church. During the summers that I spent with my maternal grandmother, I was a Baptist. We sat in the same pew in the same row and listened to the choir sing “Yes!!” on repeat for every service. When I spent summers in Larteh with my paternal grandmother, I was an Anglican. We dutifully covered our heads at church service and breathed in the thick cloud of incense billowing from one of any 6 decanters in the sanctuary.  The rest of my life I was a Muslim under my mother’s iron religious fist, and by the time I got to college and became a regular old Christian, my religious perception ended with the view that God dey (God is there)…and that was it. That’s not a radical enough view to win the masses to Christ – is it?

I am not suited to be the wife of a pastor. Lets just face facts. I mean, look at the intro to this blog entry. I can myself standing in front of a congregation, greeting them by saying “Saints, this morning as I was taking a dump I heard a divine voice say…”

Yeah, that’s not going to go over so well.

Apart from the fact that I have diarrhea of the mouth and am far too    opinionated, I am also prone to fits of verbal violence. If someone looks at me the wrong way, I (the pastor’s wife) just can’t roll up on on them with my cornrows  and blurt out: Whatchu lookin’ at? I ain’t a mir-ror!!

That’s not going to go over too well with the flock either.

That I am unsuited for this role was echoed and confirmed by my friend’s 70-something year old mother yesterday. As I explained my husband’s newest desire, she looked at me hard and quizzically. Born and bred in the Islands, she confirmed that they too have the same stereotypical pastors’ wives in virtually every church.

“Bot…you not a lady,” she in her sing-song accent. “Your husband not know dis when him marry you??”

Shocked as I was by her shrewd assessment, I was even more amused. In the 9 months that she has come to know me, she was able to ascertain that I am indeed no “lady”; I am merely a “woman”. I laughed.

“And you gonna hafta to change that laugh too, ya know,” she added.

The “laugh” she was referring to is more of a gregarious guffaw. Pastors’ wives don’t guffaw. They titter.

Later that evening, I discussed my concerns with my husband. He tried to be reassuring.

“I’m not asking you to be any of those things,” he said. “Those things are silly traditions that churches cling to, and we have to break the mold, baby!”

“But people find comfort in those silly traditions,” I countered. “People have expectations of these things, no matter how badly you or I might seek to change those expectations.” I sighed.

My husband seemed despondent and asked me if I wanted him to drop his plans to pastor. I answered in the negative. I wanted him to be happy. I’ll just have to try a little harder not to be so ‘bush’, sprinkle my conversation with a few hundred wanton “hallelujahs”  and at least cross my legs when we go out for dinner.