How to love God’s Church even when she’s unloveable as a Pastor’s wife
I sat down in the back of our Worship Center, feeling the weight of the week as I took a moment to breathe. How can so many tornadoes hit at the same time? Yeah I know, spiritual attacks on so many fronts means the enemy is scared. I’ve heard that before but right now it doesn’t seem to be helping to pour courage into my weary soul. I know we have a very real enemy… and that our enemy is not the Church. But right now, being close and loving Her through the messy really stings.
Have you been here before? Whether the tornado is targeting you and your husband or it’s cutting its path through your congregation and you are left to walk alongside the wounded, there are times when loving a people is hard. It’s painful. And it can take the wind out of you.
I don’t struggle to navigate individual crises when they come spread apart, with some recovery time in between. But during times like this when a bunch hit at once, it throws me for a loop. And I’ve got to get my bearings, plant my feet, and find His strength in order to get through.
As I’ve been asking the Lord to give me clarity about how to walk through the “tornado alley” this month has been, He has been showing me a few things and in His mercy is distilling them in a way that I can share. That’s mercy because if my pain can help you make some sense of the hurt that you are feeling on behalf of His Bride and find some clarity in seeing your next steps forward, I’m up for that. Maybe I can pay some “dumb tax” for you so that you can walk forward with more courage and resist withdrawing and building that wall around yourself when the Church gets messy.
3 Nuggets to Hold Onto
Here’s what I’m learning:
Getting my Bearings – Avoid Generalizing
When an individual causes something to blow up, causing a lot of pain, it is easy for me to look at what they’ve done or what they’ve said and generalize it to the whole church. It is NOT the whole church. It’s likely a few that are loud, distracting and damaging. When I can remember that it isn’t the “whole church”, I’m able to put it in perspective and resist the temptation to just push away and avoid the whole lot of ‘em. Instead, I need to find the place where I see Jesus working and press into that. I need to intentionally allow God to remind me of the good things, those relationships where I am seeing redemption and new life. Those voices need to be louder than the ones causing the pain.
Planting my Feet – Remember my “why”
“I want to know Christ- yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings” (Phil 3:10)
Eugene Peterson paraphrases it this way, “I gave up all that inferior stuff so I could know Christ personally, experience his resurrection power, be a partner in his suffering, and go all the way with him to death itself.”
We know how much Jesus suffered for His Church, but sometimes I forget that this suffering that I am enduring right now, for His Church, is intimately connected to how I am knowing Him more. Remembering that Jesus hurts and weeps for those in pain and those turning from him helps me enter into that same pain. I grow to know him better when we share it.
Finding His Strength – Cultivate Compassion
When circumstances beyond our people’s control cause their pain, I feel tons of compassion. It is easy for me to “weep with those who weep.” But when the pain is caused by their own choices or choices that others in our congregation make, this is when it’s harder for me. I need to remember how much Jesus wept for the multitudes who were “sheep without a shepherd.” And how did he know they were without a shepherd? Because they were wandering, making bad decisions and getting themselves hurt. Bad decisions usually come out of brokenness. And brokenness brings deep pain. When I am tempted to be angry at those that are making poor decisions and causing pain, I need to ask myself:
- Is there a place of brokenness and pain in their life that is moving them to these decisions?
- How is God leading me to pray for them in that brokenness?
- What needs are not being met?
- How can I help them go to Jesus to meet them, instead of others who will only disappoint?
But that same brokenness that is causing pain is the brokenness that Jesus bled for. When I see their brokenness, I want to become like Jesus in allowing it to move me to compassion and sacrifice rather than anger and bitterness.
So take heart, my friends. If you are in “tornado alley” right now, you aren’t alone. I get you. And there is a time stamp on this thing. This present suffering won’t last. And you can be sure that God is working under the surface to calm the storm, bring redemption and heal the pain you are seeing around you and feeling in your soul. He is working to make that Bride of His “a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.” And He is using you to accomplish that, as you roll up your sleeves and get into the messy with His people.