As a young ministry wife, I was totally unprepared for the requisite sacrifice required of me in the area of loneliness. I came into this ministry life with ideas that I was going to be just like everyone else in the church. I was going to be open, transparent and accessible. I was guileless and deeply in love with the people of our church. So I expected them to be the same. I was wholeheartedly committed to the vision and purposes of our church, and so I expected all our members were also. I had committed to the Lord, that I would resolve all the inevitable disagreements and disappointments that would arise with biblically prescribed steps, under authority and with the intent of restoration. So I expected everyone else would as well.
These unrealistic expectations, of course, led to being exposed to quite a bit of unnecessary pain. It’s not that I trusted the wrong people. I just trusted way too many with the personal side of my unique life. I put people in the position of bearing burdens they were never called or intended to bear.
Some friendships struggled because people I trusted did not have the maturity to deal with someone in my position being far too human. Relationships got awkward when people I loved became upset about decisions my husband made or the way he was leading. People walked away from me when they decided to leave our church for whatever reason.
This loss and injury due to “friendly fire” left me feeling isolated, rejected and pretty sorry for myself for a season. So, I sought the Lord in prayer and Bible study. I sought and received counsel from older, wiser, godly wives in my same situation. I began to use what I was learning to heal. And I set out to restructure my social and personal relationships. I set some boundaries for myself and with others in order to properly guard my heart.
What follows are some of the new ways I’ve found to deal with relationships:
- I am still 100% committed to show love and respect to all people, including those who hurt me.
- I am still committed to resolving conflict according to scriptural procedures.
- In this position of leadership, I must lay down any right I feel I may have to vent, complain or blow off steam to people who don’t need to know. I must bear this burden for the sake of unity, clean minds, confidentiality and soft hearts. I can carry my issues to Jesus. He is my wonderful counselor.
- I will have many companions and will be socially available to do life with the ladies in our church and community. But, I will choose my inner circle carefully through prayer, long experience, and in unity with my husband.
- I will understand that I do not owe people transparency, but that I do owe everyone authenticity.
- I will set a boundary over my heart to enter into close friendship only with women who share a covenant commitment to the leadership, mission and vision of our church. Through the testing of time, they must demonstrate discretion, an uncritical spirit and faithfulness to Christ and His Bride above any personal agenda. I want to attract friends who will work and strive alongside me to make much of the glory of God and the gospel of Christ… and have fun doing it!
- When I answered the call to ministry by marrying my wonderful man, I took on the responsibility to protect my husband and his sheep. In order to do that, I must lead alongside him with an open and loving heart. This cannot be done without being “wise as a serpent and meek as a dove.” This mix of supernatural ability to discern trouble down the road, as well as a forgiving and un-resentful heart can only come from Jesus. I must take on His posture of humility, His servant attitude, His selflessness. I need to see with His eyes and keep in step with His Spirit. When I abide in Him this way, I’m never alone with my issues or church issues.
- My closest friends must have healthy, godly marriages. They must have a deep knowledge of scripture and be walking in increasing holiness with Him. They must be serving. They must be emotionally mature and stable. They must challenge me and encourage me to do the same.
- They must be willing to defend my husband and me. She must be a prayer warrior for our church and our family. She shouldn’t ever ask me to keep things from my husband.
- They need to be willing to keep our friendship low profile. I don’t want our friendship to be used for advantage or privilege. For obvious reasons, it is not wise to be super close to women in your ministry whose husband is supervised by your husband.
The most important thing I’ve learned (and wish I’d known earlier) is that this kind of close friend is hard to find. But let me assure you, she is out there. She might be another pastor’s wife, not even in your church. You just need to pray for her and ask God to show her to you exactly when you need her. You also need to pray for wisdom to know who not to get too close to in friendship. There may be seasons of walking alone. There will be seasons when you need to lean a little more on godly family members instead of friends. There will also be seasons when you just cling to your husband and let that be enough, with Jesus in your midst.
What have you learned the hard way about friendships in ministry?
Published July 18, 2016