Wednesday, August 20, 2014

From My Sweat My Blood Runs Weak

And now I sleep
Sleep the hours that I can't weep
When all I knew was steeped in blackened holes
I was lost

Keep the earth below my feet
For all my sweat, my blood runs weak
Let me learn from where I have been
Keep my eyes to serve my hands to learn

And I was still
But I was under your spell
When I was told by Jesus all was well
So all must be well

Just give me time
You know your desires and mine
So wrap my flesh in ivy and in twine
For I must be well

Keep the earth below my feet
For all my sweat, my blood runs weak
Let me learn from where I have been
Keep my eyes to serve, my hands to learn

(Mumford & Sons)

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Confessions of a Pastor's Wife

The church is a very big part of my life. You could possibly even say that it pretty much is my life.
Some people might that is kind of pathetic or at least strange, since I don't have any official positions in my church. But regardless, I have given hundreds and hundreds of hours, energy, tears and everything else over the past ten years to my church. 

I have poured my heart into it. I have made my closest friendship there. It is my body.

And that, my friends, it the reason for this post.

Of the past ten years I have been in this church, I have been a pastor's wife for 6 of them. My husband is not a "head" pastor or a "senior" pastor. But we don't have those at our church. We have a plurality in which all pastors have equal authority. And believe me that doesn't lessen the struggle. 

During these six years, I have both witnessed and experienced some of the most intense pain of my life. I have experienced other losses in my life - death of loved ones, the ends of marriages, depression, multiple adoption losses, infertility - but let me tell you, church conflict is up there. It is not an insignificant grief to me. I haven't blogged about it much because it is a sensitive topic and I do not want to hurt or offend or slander or defend. But it remains one of the hardest places for me to trust God's sovereignty and goodness.

I have heard that in some circles, pastors' wives are discouraged from having close friendships within their own church. That idea has always been offensive to me because I inferred the reasoning to be that pastors' wives are required to project a particular standard, one which wouldn't be possible to maintain if people were not kept at arm's length.

I took issue because, after all, aren't we supposed to be pursuing community? Aren't we supposed to model relationships and acknowledge our need for the gospel? Don't we need life in the body, encouragement, accountability, and authenticity too? Aren't we supposed to demonstrate that we don't have answers, but that God is the one we turn to? I will be the first person to say that having people on pedestals, even (perhaps especially) pastors and their wives will never point to the greatness of God. 

But I see now that there could be another reason pastors' wives advise each other not to have close friendships within the body. That reason is conflict. Because when you have close, intimate friendships in the body you have community. And when you have community, you inevitably have conflict. And when people you love have conflict with each other, you are the collateral damage. 

I love my husband, I love my pastors. I love my church. I don't always like it, but it is a part of me. It is my body. It is my body. It is my body. It is my body. When it is not functioning healthfully, I hurt. When a part of it is severed, I bleed. Sometimes I feel like I am literally bleeding out. 

I have seen so many broken relationships. More than I ever thought possible. I feel like I can't take it anymore. I can't fix these problems. They seem to come with the territory. I want out of the territory. But I can only pray and bleed. Pray and bleed. Pray and bleed. 

I go to church and cry. The tears flow so freely and don't even bother to wipe them away. My daughter asks why I am crying and I can only tell her I can't talk about it. There are just empty pews where there used to be arms, legs, lungs, hearts. Feels like I am dying. My body is dying. 

So I pray.

I pray we will trust God enough to listen to each other. 

I pray we will trust God enough to love others by enquiring of them how/if we have caused hurt or offense.

I pray we will trust God enough to respect others by going to them with honesty and clarity when we have been hurt of offended. 

I pray we will trust God enough to not react defensively, aggressively, or apathetically by what we hear.

I pray we will trust God enough to be committed to reconciliation.

I pray we will trust God enough to forgive. 

I pray we will trust God enough to look beyond circumstances and know that we are not alone. 

I pray we will trust God enough to stay together even when it's hard. When we disagree.

I pray we will remember that Jesus stayed on that cross when he could have justifiably run to the safety of his Father. If ever anyone had reason to flee, it was Jesus, but he stayed. He stayed for the love. He stayed for the glory. He stayed for the reconciliation. He stayed for us.

No one said, "Oops. Our bad. You don't deserve this - here let us help you down off that cross and rush you to the hospital." 

No. He bled out for those very people who killed him. He bled for us. 

And that very blood purchased this stinking, pathetic, little thing we call our church. And that makes it precious. That makes it worth fighting for, worth bleeding for. And I do.

So please, Father. I am begging you. As your hurting child, I am asking you to help us. You are everything. Jesus gave his blood to purchase us, so please do not leave us in our mess. Redeem our petty sensitivities, our unwitting offenses, and our selfish ambitions. Lift our eyes. Fix our gaze. Show us your glory. Give us your grace. 

"I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."
John 13:14-15

Friday, July 18, 2014

in which I turn over a new leaf

I realized recently that there is a side to me that only shows itself when I write. I need that part of myself.

So I am beginning a new era of blogging in which I write for myself. Not for readers, not for friends, not for money, not for attention. Just because I need to do it.

As Flannery O'Connor said, " I write because I don't know what I think until I read what I say."