September 26, 2012

Mistakes in Ministry: Self-Isolation

Until I understood God's grace and let it sink down deep inside of the core of who I am, I performed for Him and for others. To me, my perfect performance obtained love. As you can imagine, this false gospel had major implications in my life, especially as a pastor's wife. In this mindset, I was a "do-er" rather than a disciple of Christ, identified only by what I did and how well I did it, not by "Christ in me". This was my first mistake.

Most of my mistakes in ministry have been birthed out of this mindset. Because you know what happens when you're a performer? You're alone on the stage, running from plate to plate in order to keep them spinning. You feel like everyone is watching you, waiting for your failure. You can't rest, and you certainly can't ask for help. If the plates fall (and they always do) your guilt and self-condemnation isolate you further from others.

This is exactly what I allowed to happen in the early days of our ministry: I fed my own feelings of isolation. I simply could not let anyone in to the deep marrow of my life because they would see that I wasn't perfect, that I, the Pastor's Wife, didn't have it all together. I certainly couldn't ask for help or prayer. After all, I was the one who was supposed to be helping everyone else.

Shockingly, this made friendship difficult. It also made possible my bitterness and joylessness in ministry: See how hard it is to be in ministry? Why me? No one wants to be my friend. No one else has to endure these kinds of demands. Waaaah! These are the ridiculous things I would talk about with myself.

But what I couldn't see is that all along I was pretty much making it harder on myself. I couldn't receive grace from God, and I certainly couldn't receive it from others. I wouldn't even put myself in a position to need grace from others because to need it would only feed my guilt and feelings of failure. I felt such a powerful urge to play the role of Perfect Pastor's Wife.

Please don't make this same mistake. I'll tell you how to avoid it: ask for help, confess your sin to safe women, let people serve you, initiate friendship, cry in front of people, tell safe people how you sometimes struggle with the demands of ministry, meet the needs of your friends, invite people into your home and let it be messy, say no to stuff sometimes, ask for prayer when you're floundering, and fight for joy. But mostly, know and stand firm in the grace of God.

He will help you stop spinning plates, stop wearing the Perfect Pastor's Wife image, and begin (or continue) embracing this beautiful calling. That's certainly what He's done for me.

Have you been guilty of feeding your own isolation? What has helped you connect with others?