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?
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