The Dean’s Wife

One of my roles in this next chapter is to be the wife of the Dean of Students.  So far, that has meant smiling pleasantly as I have met dozens of people who were beginning to wonder if my husband really had a wife at all.  He had been referring to me for close to a year with no physical evidence of my existence.   So, many have shaken my hand and said, “so he really does have a wife.”  Indeed. 

I have made a couple official appearances — the faculty back-to-school picnic and a volleyball team dinner — and several informal ones — football scrimmages, a volleyball tournament, a community service day, a color run, and others. We are still in the honeymoon phase; I am still meeting new people everywhere I go. 

Today, I will meet even more new people and hopefully see some old friends.  It is the university’s first official home football game.  The president of the university, the president of the Michigan District of the Lutheran Church, their wives, and other VIPs will be there.  We have also invited alumni and friends that I haven’t seen in many years. The day will be full of smiles, handshakes, hugs, and hopefully a little football.

I sometimes wonder what God is thinking.  I mean my husband is perfect for this position.  He is kind, thoughtful, consistent, and the consummate professional.  I’m a bit of a different story.  Remember, I am the truth teller.  Stuff just blurts out of my mouth whenever it wants to. I have gotten better over the years at holding my thoughts in, but my face, as I have mentioned, often tells the whole story.  

So on days like today, I get a little nervous.  I know I can greet people and make small talk.  I will probably even evoke a little innocent laughter.  But there is always a chance that my guard will drop and I will say something … true.  Oy.  

I never know what is going to trigger it.  I am usually in the middle of innocent conversation.  You know, relocation, the house, the kids, Ann Arbor, and then someone will ask a question or make a comment that triggers a sensitivity and — blurt — there it is.  I have a few hot buttons — race, education, poverty, inner city, church, politics…  People make comments that are fairly innocent, but they press one of those buttons and — whoops — it happens. 

One time it looked like this.  I was at church, mind you, several years ago. I was chatting lightly with another woman, another church worker’s wife.  

Her: “Your high school always beats our high school in sports.”

Me: “I’ve noticed that.  Especially football.”

Her: “Do you think that’s because your students are black?”

Me: “I’ve never thought about it that way.” (I was able to hold back what I was thinking: “Wow. That is such a racist comment.  I have just changed my whole opinion of you.” However, I am pretty sure that my face registered my disgust.)

I have tried to coach myself.  “When the button gets pushed, ask a question.  You are not personally responsible to change the whole world today. You can just enter into dialogue.  Try dialogue.”  I re-envision that former conversation as this.

Her: “Do you think that’s because your students are black?”

Me: “Do you think that race determines athletic ability?”  

But see, even then, I am pretty sure my face would have an aggressive stance.  Or one that says, “Seriously? You think that race determines athletic ability? Really?”

See, I told you.  I am all over the truth, but I forget the grace.  Let me try one more time. 

Her: “Do you think that’s because your students are black?”

Me: “Hm.  I’ve never thought of that.  I wonder if it’s because they are better athletes?” A little laughter.  A smile.  Still the truth.  Not trying to hurt anyone. That wasn’t so bad, was it? 

I’m on a journey, folks.  I am a work in progress.  And, I am the Dean’s wife.  Lord, have mercy.  

Psalm 34:13 

Keep your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking lies

Ephesisans 4:15

…speaking the truth in love…



2 thoughts on “The Dean’s Wife

  1. I, too, am a truth teller. I, too, have gotten into big trouble for being so. I often opt for the confused ridiculous response. So for me it would have sounded like this:
    Hmmmm. I know of no studies that attribute athletic ability to the amount of skin melanin…. are there some?

    Or perhaps this:
    Really? Why, I had not noticed!

    Or my favorite: a blank stare long enough to make her feel really uncomfortable (and if you do it correctly, stupid) followed by a loud raucous laugh and these words: oh my, you got me! For a moment I actually thought you were serious!!! That was great. You really got me. I actually believed for a moment that you were that racist or that ignorant. That was great! Well done!

    So yes, I still suck at grace too.


  2. Kristin, first congratulations on a new ministry. Also enjoying your blog
    This one made me think of a saying on a shirt I thought would be good for me and my daughters. “Oops. Did my eyes roll out loud?!


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