I sometimes feel like ministry life is a combination of a fishbowl and a coffin: suffocating yet on display for all to see and constricted in many ways. Think Snow White under the spell of sleeping death in her glass coffin. Yes. That. When Liz asked me to contribute to her blog, I gave an immediate yes. The thought of being able to freely share sounded liberating.
As I began to write, I started to peel back layers. Like an onion, I was full of stinky layers. I discovered some not so great feelings. I also kept censoring myself. I panicked and told Liz she should count me out, but she is a great cheerleader. So, here I am. Warts and all.
Ever see how sausage is made? There's a reason why sausage factories don't run tours of their facilities; it's gross. That's ministry.
As a Pastor's wife of almost 20 years, I've struggled in seasons. I'm learning that no matter how hard I try not to cause pain, I will. And people have, and will continue to, hurt me. That's the sausage.
A person I admire said the best way to clear your ledger was by making a list of people you didn't want to run into at the grocery store - and then meet with them. I made a mental list. It was longer than I expected. It was longer than it should be. It didn't just include people I didn't want to run into. It included people I have "hidden" on social media. (I don't care about your political views. Shut up and take a picture of your lunch like everyone else!)
I confess: I have kept records of wrongs.
I began to contemplate how to move forward with this growing list. I didn't like how it made me feel. I didn't realize that I'd kept a record of wrongdoing. It ranged from stupid remarks about my hair being "kind of Halloween-y" to a former pastor saying my husband and I had "no credibility" in ministry.
But the people who piss me off most? The critical bystanders. The people who don't contribute anything but expect the most from everyone else (mainly their leaders). The people who think pastors only work on Sundays. The people who write anonymous comment cards blasting various aspects of church services that didn't meet their needs (I saw many of these in my stint as a church secretary and oh, btw - I recognize handwriting). Get some freaking skin in the game! Instead of gossiping try serving.
Basically, people suck.
We all suck, in case you haven't picked up on that. You will not leave this earth without offending, or being offended. We are all merely works in progress. So, let's be kind. You can unfriend me on Facebook, but you still have to go to heaven with me.
As I move toward a clear ledger, I have found myself apologizing more than anything else. I was wrong for not approaching my brothers and sisters in love and maturity when the negative encounters occurred. I held onto my hurt. I felt justified. I considered it righteous anger. However, being unforgiving turns into bitterness quickly, and that only hurts me. I do not want to be a bitter woman. Other situations or minor annoyances I have decided I need to simply let go; they are simply not worth dredging up. My advice for what it’s worth: let the small things go and forgive quickly.
Read more confessions by anonymous contributors.