Thursday, August 05, 2010
Closing Thoughts on Church Ministry
For the last few days I got to spend time with my sweet, oh-so-funny sister.
What a blast. I always cherish our time together.
This has been one of the most precious summers as we have literally soaked up our friends and family...held them close, breathed them in...spent time laughing, crying and living with each other. If we stay in Haiti long-term, I pray every summer is just like this one.
Moving to Haiti marks the end of a huge chapter of our lives. For 13 years we've been involved, in one way or another in leadership at a church. As with everything else, I've spent time this summer thinking over so many things...saying good-bye to church ministry is one of them.
I was thinking the other day about how different my life would have been over the past several years if something drastic had not happened a few years ago.
Ya see, a few years ago Aaron and I were both on staff at a very large church. That church started two new churches and when it did we went with one of the new churches. Aaron has been leading worship for New Life up until he left for Haiti.
While on staff at that larger church I had bought into this super weird lie (probably no one's fault but my own...not wanting to blame anyone, just saying this stupidity on my part happened while we were at the larger church). The reason may have been that I was young and immature. Who knows.
The lie went something like this:
You are in leadership, so that makes you very different. You can't really let people know you or be honest about your failures. Oh you can be honest about failures publicly, but only AFTER you are no longer dealing with those problems any longer or if those failures make you really seem super holy in some weird passive-aggressive way. If you have "victory" in an area of struggle...share that, but if not then keep your problems to yourself or only share them with other staff members.
I'm not exactly sure where that came from or more importantly why I believed it, but my word...how dumb. Maybe I am the only person who has ever dealt with this. Who knows. I will be the first to admit I can fall into "dysfunction" faster than most people.
No matter where it came from, that train of thought led to lots of unhealthy ways of thinking and behaviors. It led me to believe that I could not have any close friends, because that didn't look good. It might make others in the church jealous. It made me think I was not a real person. It made me want to take breaks from the people at church because they were a job to me instead of dear friends. It made me want to go on vacation from the people in our church body because I wanted to get away from our job...our vocation. The church was a career, not my family. No one knew the real me. I thought I had to seek out close friendships among other staff wives or among minister's wives from other churches.
I'm seriously rolling my eyes just remembering this craziness.
Thankfully, through a series of fortunate events, God began to heal me and reteach me. Total freedom ensued.
I was struck by the Jesus of the Bible...the Jesus that was so loved by his closest disciples that they were willing to die horrible deaths to defend what they had seen and learned from Him. Jesus redefined family. He said anyone who does the will of His father was like his mother...his sister...his brother. His disciples loved him...as a person...a friend...not as a public figure. They saw him weep. They saw Him get angry. They loved being with Him. They did not live in fear of Jesus. They were themselves with Jesus, almost to the point of embarrassment.
Slowly I began to ache for real, genuine relationships where I could be myself. Where people could see how I was struggling...present tense struggling, not past tense struggled.
People in the church became my family. We grew in close relationships with others. Instead of wanting to hide away on our "day off" or turn our phones off, when people from church called, we answered because those people weren't people anymore. They were our friends. We didn't want time away from them. We went on vacations together. We hung out constantly. Yes, we still reached out and met new people...and I pray we were just as genuine with them as anyone else. But most importantly we no longer felt guilty about having close friends who knew us, loved us..all of us...the good, the bad and the downright shameful and embarrassing parts of us.
When I'd catch wind that people were jealous of a relationship I had with someone else, it didn't even bother me anymore. It still doesn't. I refused to allow anyone to put me in that yucky, prideful place I had allowed myself to be in years earlier. That place was gross and unhealthy. It was also unhealthy for everyone else around me. No one and no snide remark was going to push me back into that nasty spot where I thought I had to be...the girl with the frozen smile, waving, being friendly, knowing no one and no one really knowing me.
If your pastor's wife has a close friend, please don't be upset that she does. If your worship leader's wife has a bff, good for her. They are people too. Just like you. They aren't any cooler than anyone else. I promise.
They are just as needy, just as sinful, just as human as every other woman in your church. A pastor's wife or a worship leader's wife or an elder's wife or any other staff wife isn't a female Jesus. She's a person. She's human. She can't invest in every single person that passes through the church foyer. It's impossible. It's silly for her to think she can and it's just as silly for people to expect her to do that.
If your pastor's wife looks like she's sitting on a parade float, for the love...grab her, sit her down and tell her you're going to be her friend. Kidnap her and don't let her go until you convince her that there's nothing really special about her. Nothing that makes her have to live her life far away from the love of people and close friends. No title is worth that.
I hope you know me well enough to know that I'm not advocating for cliques or holy huddles. Jesus despised exclusive groups that practiced favoritism. However, I do think staff wives can go too far and be so afraid of cliques that they have no true friends...no real connections with others. They can be alone in a giant sea of people. Leadership becomes synonymous with isolation. Somehow Jesus pulled off leadership and still had close community.
All that to say....
We've learned in over 13 years of ministry and 14 years of marriage that relationships are most important. Although it hurts desperately, I am most thankful for the way God has literally woven our souls together with so many precious people in our lives. We feel the sting as we're saying good-bye, but only because we've already invested deeply into these relationships. A few years ago, we could have left this town and people would have been a little sad...but all they would be grieving would be the loss of our position. Not the loss of us as people. People they know. People they love. People who have known and loved them. Praise God for His rich mercy for teaching us how to love and how to be loved. Real. Honest. Genuine. Love.
If the Lord ever puts us back into church ministry, I will never ever go back to being the lady on the float. No way. People want to be her, but people don't love her and from way up there on that decorated float, it's awfully hard for her to love other people.