February 18, 2013

Mean Girls, Pastor's Wife Edition

In ministry, sometimes wounds are inflicted upon us. They come from both inside and outside the church, from people who are unhappy with decisions made, who are offended by something we've said or done, or who simply didn't have the full story before jumping to a conclusion.

But there are also wounds that we just don't talk about. In fact, I'm not all that excited about talking about it right now, but I'm going to. Because women are emailing with such profound hurts, asking for prayer, laying out hurts that they have had to hold silently to their chests. Because I think these hurts turn from subtle cracks to great canyons that keep the Spirit at bay and the church from being the church. Because I get really uncomfortable and angry at a church culture that allows it to happen. And because I've experienced it myself.
These girls are not mean girls. They are my friends, and good ones at that. 
The wounds I'm talking about? They are the wounds between pastors' wives at the same church: the slights, the competitiveness, the keeping-at-a-distance, the subtle pulling people to one's side, the purposeful refusal to champion and celebrate one another's successes and gifts, the gossip (even if only to spouses), the complaining, the judgment at differences, the leaving out, the questioning of another's heart and motivations, the expectations, the inability to have honest conversation, the lack of forgiveness. 

It happens. It happens way too often. Why?

This is where I stop and say that I have myself been a wounder. I have been a competitor. I have also rushed to judgment and hurt other pastors' wives, actions for which I have had to repent and ask for forgiveness.

I, of course, did not go into ministry looking to undermine women who were laboring beside me, but I quickly ended up doing so. Looking at my own failures in this area, I can tell you why this happens. It happens because of pride and because we want to build our own kingdoms and because we expect others to be like us and act like us. Our insecurities, if not taken to the cross, create ugly hearts of comparison and competition that we attempt to cover up with sweet smiles, small-talk, and half-hearted relationships.

I can also tell you the effects of this in the church: inauthenticity, staleness, and people starved of the Spirit. Silos are built around ministries and personalities and there is so much subtle division and silent hurts that everyone stands at a distance from one another.

We are people--fragile, prideful people. Left on our own, we make a disaster of relationships. Even in the church, even those leading and sheperding the church. Without Christ, without repentance and grace, it's a total disaster.

But we are not left on our own. We do not have to be mean girls who fight to protect our territory. We do not have to let Satan use this tactic to paralyze the work of the Spirit among our churches. We do not have to compete and undermine. We do not have to hold onto unforgiveness and bitterness over our wounds.

We have Christ to gather around and we also have His example of how to relate to one another. He sought to serve rather than be served. He thought of others before Himself. He valued every person He interacted with, showing them mercy and grace in their sin.

We must follow His example and His commands in relation to one another or we will kill the very church He has called us to build and serve. This is that important.

I have learned my lesson from the disaster that was the beginning of our ministry. I have learned how important my relationships with staff and elder wives are to the health and well-being of the entire church. I have learned that I must pursue them and seek every opportunity to have honest, heart-level conversations with them. I have learned that these relationships must remain top priority, that I must seek out ways to bless and champion my co-laborers, that I must pray for them, consider them, and serve them any way possible.

I trust God enough now that I don't have to compete with them in an attempt to build my own kingdom.

I don't have to be a mean girl.

In my next post, I'll continue with this theme (you can read part two here), discussing how to deal when you're the wounded. For now, however, what are your thoughts about what I've shared?
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