February 19, 2013

Mean Girls, Pastor's Wife Edition (Part Two)

There is a dream that dies when we are wounded by another pastor's wife. Let's face it, we typically enter ministry alongside our husbands with an ideal picture of what it will be like to serve on the staff of a church, a kind of kumbiyah-meets-the-office sort of picture. And that certainly doesn't last long. But the first time we feel slighted or we are purposefully wounded, it's really quite a shock. We didn't think it would be perfect, but we didn't think it would be like this.

But it happens, it certainly does, because of insecurities and little-k-kingdom building, and also because we're human and there are misunderstandings. Will we close in on ourselves in a protective shell and develop a sharp edge of cynicism? Or will we purposefully and firmly choose forgiveness and grace? Wounds give us an opportunity to live the gospel, and they certainly bring the marrow of our hearts to the surface. 

I have already told you the shameful fact that I have been wounder, but I also know what it's like to be wounded from within our ministry. I'm thankful for those wounds in a way because, in time, they became opportunities that God used to show me my own ability to wound and to teach me to forgive and root out bitterness in my heart. 

This is what I learned:

Stop having expectations. Most of my small wounds were self-inflicted because I expected other ministry wives to do and be exactly what I thought they should do and be. But the more I thought about it, I realized that if they expected the same things from me, I couldn't meet their expectations. I was expecting from them what I myself couldn't give. 

When you are sinned against, do not then become the sinner.
When we are sinned against, we want other people to know it. We want to be justified in our anger and unforgiveness. We want people to "side" with us, even though we may never speak about it directly to anyone. We want to be right. In my hurts, the Lord has spoken to me over and over and over again that, yes, I had been wronged (which even took me a while to conclude because I felt like it was somehow my fault or something I shouldn't be so upset about), and that He sees everything. He sees the hearts of people and "vengeance is His"; He will deal with it perfectly in that person in His perfect time. He hurts that I have been hurt. At the same time, if He sees everything, He also sees my heart. If I continue to harbor bitterness, unforgiveness, and anger, then I am wrong, too. 

We have to trust God with our ministries, our reputations, our everything and forgive. This wasn't a one time deal, but something that had to happen every single time I thought about those who hurt me or everytime I was tempted to dwell on it. Eventually, by doing this every single time and praying about it over and over and over, I was truly able to forgive and trust God with my heart and the heart of the other person.

Grieve the lost dream well.
Your eyes have been opened, yes, but do not allow any bitterness or cynicism to grow in your heart. You answer to God for your response. You do not have to respond by wounding or out of your wounds. You can continue to initiate, be vulnerable, minister, and use your gifts. You don't have to shrink back.

Let God make something good.
God can make good out of this in your life. Perhaps He wants to strip away any seeking of other's approval and to help you learn to live only from His approval. Will you spend years trying to get the approval of others? Or will you learn to find your approval solely in Christ? 

Be the solution.
You don't have to be the lead pastor's wife to reach out to other staff wives. Whoever you are and wherever you fit, be purposeful in extending friendship and grace to other staff wives. Champion them. Speak highly of them. Pray for them and tell them you are. Overlook slights and unintended hurts. Bless them in any way you can. Value them and their ministries above yourself.

Isn't this so important? And such a needed conversation? Ladies, let's not break our backs trying to be the church to our congregations and completely fail at being the church to those who are serving beside us. Let's be the church to one another-- the messy, humble, authentic, looking-to-serve church.

How do you handle wounds? How do you practice forgiveness?


Christine said...

It's so helpful for this issue to be addressed, and you've done so very well! I have been one of those lucky ones that was in ministry for years before experiencing these types of wounds, but once I did, they led to my biggest struggles with forgiveness. These wounds brought up many of the things you addressed - the fallacy of my own expectations of others; the internal battle of wanting to scream the injustices from the mountaintops, but knowing that could do much harm to people that shouldn't be affected by it; bitterness... I don't always handle it well. Thankfully, now, I can see that past wounds were tools used by God to refine me and to help me depend on Him more. But any time they are re-inflicted, I feel the inner battle. The choice of either to learn something and forgive or to close my heart and stop loving. I know the right choice to make, but my heart doesn't always follow suit quickly.

The command to love others as Christ has loved us has never been more daunting than in the midst of these types of wounds. But there it is. And when I see how Christ addressed the woman at the well with such compassion and never shaming her, it helps me see His heart for how I am to address those who have wounded me. I can't love those who have wounded me or my family. But I believe Christ can through me if I surrender that desire to get back at them or to expose them.

In dealing with these wounds it's been helpful for me to have at least 1 safe person to talk to about them. Safe for me is someone who either does not know the wounder and/or is not involved in my sphere of ministry, who is also seeking to live a God-honoring life, and who won't back down from letting me know if I've contributed to the situation in any way. I usually share just about anything with my husband, but I've found that there have been certain circumstances where he has also felt so wounded, that our discussion only perpetuated the unforgiveness. Also, understanding that the wounder is also wounded and may be acting certain ways out of that woundedness helps me tremendously. Finally, seeing my own faults and need for grace is huge. Maybe I've done nothing to deserve the wounds that have been inflicted on me in particular situations, but I haven't lived a perfect life and have been in need of others' grace and forgiveness many times. Remembering that is vital. The bottom line is God calls us to forgive, and when we do, it is the most freeing thing!

Christine said...

"Ladies, let's not break our backs trying to be the church to our congregations and completely fail at being the church to those who are serving beside us. Let's be the church to one another-- the messy, humble, authentic, looking-to-serve church."

Powerful statement Christine! Sometimes I think we do forget that part of being the church is building strong relationships together, growing in Christ together. We have been focusing on this a lot at Riverbank - learning how to truly be in community with one another. Thank you for the reminder.

Christine said...

Preach, sister! You just wrote a blog post right there.

Christine said...

Ha! :-) After submitting it I thought how long it was for a "comment"! You can tell I have thought through this subject quite a bit! Thanks for your great post about it!

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