We’ve been in ministry for over 25 years and it has been this amazing, and difficult adventure, to say the least. I grew-up going to church and being involved in every way and so naturally, I fell in love with the idea of a life in ministry – without of course, fully understanding the commitment and strings that were attached. But nonetheless, we easily stepped into full-time ministry enthusiastically ignorant of what would lie ahead.
It is easy to get caught up in the glamour of ministry and yes, there is glamour, and fun. But that short-lived honeymoon phase is followed by the reality that people are messy, and their situations are messier, and their messes become our messes and the load gets heavy and hard and often overbearing. It can become a difficult place.
Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love people and thrive on caring for the broken. I understand that we are all at different places in our journey of faith and because of that, each person brings different personalities, ideologies, and opinions, and that is good but at times, rough. We wouldn’t trade this privilege of loving, serving, and bringing the Gospel to the lost for anything; our calling is people.
I guess the load really gets heavy when our own lives get messy, and then messier. The weight often becomes unbearable and the usual, authentic, constant stoicism that is regularly portrayed, becomes a farce. But, rarely is it recognizable, because after 25 years of this, I’ve learned to mask quite well the hurt and pain of my own life. But, then again, I often do it alone.
I’ve sort of taken up a shield of self-preservation and protection to remain safe and protect my heart. Past wounds make it easy to shrivel-up and hide. I guess that is just part of the unspoken definition of pastor’s wife. I became keenly guarded, and circumspect in every way and that drove me to be extremely protective of my husband, boys, and our lives. Believe it or not, pastors and their families get attacked, and sometimes, viciously, and as strong as they may appear, they get hurt.
We are just ordinary people, and while most folks seem to recognize that, many don’t. They don’t seem to understand or allow us to have our own messiness, but it is there, and it is real. We’ve saturated our pillows with tears, agonized over our kids, stumbled through our marriage issues, struggled with deep hurts and grieved many great losses – we are just ordinary people.
I have difficulty in being vulnerable and I know this comes from being hurt because once you have been hurt, past wounds cause you to tread cautiously. The longing is great, but the need to protect even greater. And so we walk gingerly through our hurts trying desperately to fulfill our calling, while surviving the messes of our own lives. It can be a lonely and painful road to navigate at times.
And, it is hard, because for me, I prefer and love playing the role of friend rather than needing a friend. I am better at it, and feel confident that I am equipped with everything needed to be there in a heartbeat for anyone in pain. I love, loving someone back to wholeness and walking with them through their journey. I feel it a sacred honor to be a friend. But as good as I am at that role, there has been many times when I am in desperate need to be cared for and filled; this is one of those seasons.
Last October, my life took a drastic turn in every way possible and would never be the same. My little brother went to jail and it looks like he may be for a very long time. My heart has been shattered into thousands of little pieces as great family loss of extraordinary magnitude has emptied our lives. The pain has often been unbearable and the confusion, overwhelming. I think I functioned on autopilot for a few months until I was finally able to grasp a complete understanding of what all was happening. And then, I put on the shield of protection.
On the outside, I manage to look the part, you know the look because I am sure you’ve done it as well. I smile, and laugh and portray an image of what I wanted others to see, but on the inside, I’ve been crumbling. I have been mourning the loss of a large part of me that seems to have died.
But being paralyzed by pain doesn’t eliminate the ongoing and never ending pressures of ministry. There are no breaks and I can’t escape the angry voicemail or hurtful texts that seem to come effortlessly. There are days where I am drowning in my own suffering with no way up,and flaming arrows seem to never cease.
Over the months, I’ve heard many opinions, thoughts, and perspectives; people give them to you freely. Often, these unsolicited comments are made with misinformation or just plain insensitivity, but nonetheless, they have hurt deeply. I have been deemed guilty by association, and assumptions have made as some have drawn conclusions based on other sources.
But regardless of the input received, I have made a decision. I have decided to continue to love my brother in the ugliness of his own mess, and it is ugly. I don’t support those things he has been accused of or those things he may be guilty of, but I will support him in prayer and love, and trust that in his brokenness he find Jesus at the place that brings redemption, healing and wholeness.
I know this decision will cost me it already has in many ways. But in the ugly of ugly, I choose to love unconditionally. I’ve been called to love and Jesus commands us to love. After all, he loved me in my most ugly of ugly.
This journey is far from over, in fact, we are barely 6 months into this, and it seems it is just beginning. There has been a very few who have jumped into my current painfilled world and seem willing to be there for the long haul. They’ve heard me pour out my cistern of ugliness and messiness, and then, they’ve just stayed. They have remained right by my side in silence, with a strong shoulder, and tender heart.
True friends go deep into the messy and they get dirty with you. They listen, cry, pray, and hold your arms up when you have no strength to do it alone. There are no whispers, no secret thoughts, no judgement, hurtful assumptions, just love. They are in your corner, for bad and then worse, they are your silent treasures in a world filled with stones. That kind of love can only come from Jesus Christ.
I pray everyone has a friend like that because one day, you may need one. And I pray everyone becomes a friend like that because people need friends. This life wasn’t meant to be done alone. It was meant to be done with one another with the sincerest hearts of compassion, love, grace, and strength.
To those that have been with me on this journey, and continue to faithfully stick with me, I thank you with all I am. You are rare the treasures that have illuminated this dark road and I love you.