Tea is the least of my problems
- George Eliot
Thank God for women minister friends and times we can gather for conversation over tea or coffee together, to pour out our words to one another...without measuring. (I'll be there in four more days, Pastor Lisa!!!)
I'm sure after yesterday's post, some of you are thinking, "Gee whiz, I wish not having any iced tea was the worst problem in my life."
Let me assure you...it is my least problem. But as I said yesterday, it's one I can safely blog about, albeit a very small issue.
If I had my way, I'd blog about every single intimate detail of my life (I'm sure that scares some of you to death...!) What can I say, I just love living life "open". You should see the e-mail or comments otherwise that I get sometimes when I just make a statement about Larry and I enjoying time in the jacuzzi the night before, or having an amazing night (or morning!) in the bedroom or whatever. It gets interesting sometimes to see various attitudes. (Have you noticed, when somebody reacts like that, it always comes from women who don't have it happening in their lives. Not sure how much you other "transparents" have noticed that, but I have. Just talk about an amazing night with your husband and the person who will cringe or get upset about it is the one who either doesn't have a husband or isn't getting anything from the one they have...at least anything half way decent. People in happy marriages or ones who have satisfying sex lives never mind, in fact they are usually happy for you. I guess it's sort of like having a new car...some people aren't happy for you if you have something they don't, while your real friends are. Whether it's having a new Mustang Convertible that your friend doesn't have, or amazing sex which they also don't have because they are either: single, widowed, divorced and not remarried, or just have a lame married sex life...they expect you not to talk about it because they don't have it. It's an issue of jealousy, not an issue of a lack of discretion. Give me a break...people hear a lot more than this in passing in the mall or on a billboard, and besides that I'm talking about a Godly marriage relationship...big difference. But I digress so let's get back to tea being the least of my problems.)
I do blog about all the details of my life good and bad on two private password protected journals. I have to for my own sanity. It actually helped me lose 40 pounds to do that. When I write it all out, I don't feel like I have to eat a bag of potato chips to feel better. Yes, I pray. Yes, I go to God. But the fact is, I'm a communicator and I love to write, to talk, to connect, not just with God but with others. Bottom line is... if I wasn't in the ministry I wouldn't measure my words and defer them as much to private journals as I do now. Some may think, "we didn't think you were measuring your words." Contraire my friend. Give me a ministry friend and a cup of coffee and I turn into a different person.
I read blogs everyday of people who share details about their deep feelings, questions, struggles, needs, and fears. They share the highs of their day. They share the lows. They share thoughts about disagreements they are having with their husband and feelings about it. They share about angry feelings they have and exactly why those feelings exist. They don't just say, "I dealt with some irritating things today" - they will tell you exactly what those irritating things are. I have to confess to you that sometimes I read those blogs and wistfully imagine for a moment that I could be like them. I go back to those people's blogs again and again, drawn to their transparency. Ever notice how we all have a craving for what is real? For what we can relate to? (At least what we can relate to without getting jealous, ha ha!)
Take note that the blogs I read aren't a slam session about things but rather people working out these issues in their lives, and mostly from a Biblical standpoint as many or most blogs I read are by Christians. A blog is, in my opinion, a way to work things out in your life, with everybody else watching. You can watch somebody really grow and come to terms with things by reading their blog, if they are an open person and don't just post their sermons. I don't want to digress on this too much, but I actually don't read blogs by friends who just post their sermons. I want to hear more than their sermon. If I want a sermon I can go to http://www.sermoncentral.com/. What I want in a blog is to get a glimpse into what made them ever arrive at writing that sermon in the first place!
Right now I am reading a blog daily of a woman who has an unsaved atheist husband. She is praying for his salvation and she writes about her struggles, her ups and downs on this rollercoaster of dealing with not only an unsaved but a radically anti-God man. She writes candidly about her struggles, her fears, and journals her prayers. (Her husband doesn't even know how to turn a computer on and off so he doesn't know the blog is there. ha ha! And truly, she writes not in spite of him, but because she loves him so and this is her place to express it.) But she has thousands of people praying for this man to come to Jesus, and she has a place to unload about the load she bears when he comes home and says, "if you go to church tonight, I'm leaving you and the kids!" I have to admit, I log on each day hoping to see that there has been a breakthrough. I have no doubt one day it will come. Because this woman is serious as a heart attack about praying her husband through, and staying with him.
I am by nature an incredibly transparent person. It is only my profession that behooves me to curtail any of my transparency or leave out some of the details and let you connect the dots even though sometimes...I may only write the equivalent of one dot on an issue that requires confidentiality or at least more discretion.
This past weekend at Unstoppable, there was a woman who approached me late Friday night. She had come with her co-pastor/pastor's wife as her assistant, her armor bearer. She said, "at first I wondered, 'why in the world am I here? I'm not the pastor's wife. I'm not the pastor. So why did Pastor _____ bring me to this conference?'" She went on to say, "Now I know. I needed to get a window into her world. After hearing all these testimonies after the altar time tonight, I now realize that all these women here are in a secret club, one that most of them never asked to be in. It must be secret because if it were not, they would lose their positions, or at least have many negative ramifications. A place like this is the only place where they can safely let it out without it bringing destruction to their ministry.'" As she was saying this her eyes had an incredulous look, like, "I can't believe I never knew this before and that our pastors live this way!" Then she went on to tell me that after this conference, she has a whole new outlook on how to greater support her co-pastor. She said, "I've been supportive, however I can do a lot more and go a lot further than I have been, and I can encourage others in the church to do the same." As soon as those words came out of her mouth I thought, "MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!"
I really believe this is one sacrifice we as pastors and spouses make so that people can enjoy church. If we didn't keep it all in, except for to our minister friends and maybe on very rare occasions a trusted board member in certain instances, nobody would be able to enjoy the house of God. This is a blog subject all unto itself, but just a quick point here...I believe one of the gifts we give our churches is the fact that we bear the load of "information" and the heaviness that comes with that, and carry it ourselves so the people can be ministered to. If the people knew what we knew, they could not worship as they do in the same church. A pastor carries a different call and the grace to bear up under the requirements of that call. Through the grace and power of God I can know what I know, and still walk in to my church and worship week after week. But the sheep could not. And God knows that. Bearing this info and the weight thereof is one gift we as pastors give them. For instance, when Larry and I have issue with a staff member, perhaps even one that threatens their continued working with us, we do not share that with any other staff or board member during their tenure. We just bear up under it and deal with it until it's over. Why? Because although we are very negatively affected by it during that time and bear an incredible private load, our sharing it at that point would make it impossible for others to effectively work with that person during the time they are with us. It would greatly hinder the ministry of the church even more than it already is by that person's deficiencies. Therefore, it is a load we as senior pastors must silently bear. Common sense and ethics demand it.
What most people don't understand is that even in the best of church situations (and I have a good one at this time in my life) the load is tremendous. This is not to whine, cry or complain. It is just the reality of it and something we must find a way to deal with effectively, without whining, crying or complaining. While we might not be able to disclose the details of the load, I believe our people need to at least realize it is a great weight and pray for us daily. It has been said, "the weight of the ministry defies explanation to those outside of it." And no one bears it like the senior pastors. It is incredibly easy to judge the pastor/co-pastor even if you are a staff person who is relatively "on the inside." Even if they share with you some of the burdens and issues, you really still cannot comprehend their problems because they are never really sharing all of it with you. They can't for various reasons, some of which are confidentiality, and others ethics.
Even those closest to the pastor do not realize just how hard a season in the life of the church was or is, or what burden they are under with their marriage or their family, or their whatever. I remember when I was a staff person and I wondered why in the world my pastor or pastor's wife was so depressed. The truth is, I didn't realize that beyond all the issues I did know about there were countless more I didn't. And that's just in the church...that doesn't even include personal junk you are dealing with that you take a deep breath and count to ten before you even tell your closest pastor-friend about (wondering if they'll still have any respect for you after you tell them. Thankfully mine always have or they have laughingly said, "Um, Deanna, I didn't respect you in the first place, so just go ahead and spill your guts!" ha ha! Actually they do respect me, this is just a little running joke between us whenever we are going to bare our souls about something very personal.)
Which brings me to an important point. I've found a minister friend or two that I can bare my soul to even about the most personal of things. We go way beyond, "the kids just drank 2 quarts of iced tea." One of the reasons I always wanted to have Unstoppable was to connect women to others who they can bear their souls to, so they don't end up cracking, leaving, or falling. We may not be able to fully blog about it, but we can privately share about it, and yes with all the details there, no holds barred. I thank God for my friends I can talk to without them going, "Deanna, why in the heck are you still talking about this?" I appreciate all of you who listen to me until whatever I'm dealing with is expended. Sometimes there are difficult situations we deal with for two years, five years, even more and finally they come to and end. Then people wonder why in the world we are still talking about them later on but the reality is, we didn't go through it in two weeks time and we're not going to get over it in two weeks time either. I have seen that men get over things a lot quicker than women do. That's why it's so important that we ladies in ministry be there for one another and talk it out long after the men are tired of it. Because sometimes it's just not out of our systems yet and we need to release it, to a friend and to God. In my case, I have found my friends help me, hold my hand, and walk with me in the journey of releasing it to God once and for all. But sometimes...well most times...it's a progressive work. Which is a whole other blog. (Wow, I have a lot of future blog topics out of this one, don't I?) Thank God for friends with which we do not have to measure words or worry that it's going to come back to bite us.