Guest Author: Heidi Gilboy
I was standing right in the middle of the church foyer with two of my children around my legs, and she was facing me with a big fake smile pasted on her face as she proceeded to tell me just how my husband had failed as a pastor. She had been one of my first friends in the church. I was a bridesmaid in her wedding and thought we were almost like sisters. As she spoke, I flushed hot and then cold. I mumbled something in response (to this day, I don’t remember what) and locked myself in my husband’s office before I dissolved in tears.
We are all familiar with the feelings…the sick stomach, the pounding head, the rising blood pressure, the anger or perhaps the threat of tears. We’ve been in that place of feeling attacked, betrayed, wounded, accused and defensive. Maybe our gut reaction is to fight back, maybe it’s to run far, far away. Maybe we just feel blindsided and paralyzed.
Whatever my instinctual response is, some perspective can help me avoid the biggest mistake – fighting a dragon by becoming one myself. If I fight fire with fire, then everyone loses in the end. The instructions in Romans 12, “Do not repay evil with evil…do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good,” apply even to difficult members of our church body!
There are actions I can take to deal with the dragons in my life effectively and in a way that glorifies God, but before I DO anything, I need to check my PERSPECTIVE.
I must begin by KNOWING WHO GOD HAS CALLED ME TO BE. Dragon attacks can feel incredibly personal and wound deeply. When my core identity is firmly rooted in Christ, I’m not so afraid of the opinions of others or of what they can do to me. I know that “nothing can ever separate me from God’s love” (Romans 8)…not even dragons. I am deeply loved and nothing can change that! God’s delight in me is rooted in Who He is, not in what I do.
I also need to REMEMBER WHO FIGHTS THE BATTLE. Romans 8 also says, “if God is for us, who can be against us?” This feels like MY fight and I want to WIN. The truth is that sometimes the difficult person gets their way…but as long as I live God’s way, it’s a win for the Kingdom. God promises that He will sort everything out in the end. Personally, this is hard for me to hang on to when the attack is on someone I love, or when false accusations threaten a reputation or ability to minister in a particular context. I have to consciously choose to exchange my fear for faith.
With God’s help, I can RECOGNIZE THAT MOST OF THE DRAGONS ARE REALLY WOUNDED SHEEP. (Sometimes we encounter “wolves in sheep’s clothing,” but even they can be redeemed). It has proven true over and over in my life that the fire breathing dragon is really someone going through great pain. That was the case with the woman in the foyer. Her sister was having an affair and the whole family was dividing over how to deal with it. When I found out that was her story, it didn’t take the sting away from her betrayal (I still feel it as I write this). But it did help me in the hard task of choosing to love her in spite of it. And it enabled me to choose to seek reconciliation instead of ending the relationship.
Once I have a truer PERSPECTIVE on the painful situation I am in, I can begin to take ACTION. But without this heart check, I’m likely to start breathing a little smoke myself!
Heidi and her husband have served in pastoral ministry for over 23 years together. They have been in big and small churches, rural and suburban. They have worked in youth, family, and lead positions. Heidi is a mom to 8 wonderful kids and is passionate about helping women on their journey with Jesus, and encouraging other women in this tough but beautiful call as a pastors’ wife!