Thursday, May 22, 2014

Setting an Atmosphere of Grace

*A few months ago I was asked to write about some of the struggles that pastors wives face. This one is about the pressure to have it all together or to look like you do. Something reminded me of it tonight and I thought I would share it here.


After years of being raised in and feeling right at home in church, I got to high school and began to feel like an outsider. I remember the day that sealed the deal. In my 10th grade Sunday school class we were encouraged to break into various small groups to discuss the things kids our age were going through. I went to the corner of the classroom designated for the peer pressure discussion and waited for others to join me. 

No one came. I quickly found another group to join so I wouldn’t look like a loser. It was absolutely demoralizing to realize I was the only kid in my grade battling the temptations that bite at the heels of teenagers. That was the last time I went to youth Sunday school or made an effort to be part of our youth group. I couldn’t relate to all the kids who “had it all together” and never experienced the pressures I felt. 

Separated from the flock, I eventually succumbed to those pressures and suffered greatly, believing I was the only one to fail. Years later, I know that I was not the only kid in my class who was dealing with peer pressure. I must have been the only one desperate enough to admit it that day. 

Perhaps the peer pressure to seem perfect at church was even stronger than the peer pressure I was dealing with in my high school. That is a scary thought. 

As a pastor’s wife, I play a very large part in setting the atmosphere of grace and transparency in my church’s culture. Authenticity starts with me. After what I experienced as a teenager, I reject the lie that I should either have it all together (no one does) or project the illusion that I do. Sometimes the lie originates in my heart and sometimes it comes from another person’s expectations. I tear it down as often as I can with a simple and powerful phrase: “Me too.” These words can lift a heavy burden in a split second. They can brighten the countenance. They can wrap a cloak of fellowship around a shivering, lonely sister. We certainly don’t need to say “me too” when it doesn’t fit, but our attitude of humility and love should fill in the gaps when we can’t relate to our sisters.

Woe to me if I can have a conversation with a woman who is stressed out, in pain, disappointed, struggling as a mother, or in a rut in her marriage and then let her believe that I’m above it all. Woe to me. 

The way I see it, I can use my energy to have authentic, meaningful relationships and interactions with our church members or I can use my energy to create illusions and desperately try to maintain them. In one hand I have community and the love of Christ, and in the other hand I have isolation and vanity. 

Sometimes it’s hard to know how far to take authenticity. There’s a fine line between transparency and letting it all hang out. I know I miss the mark sometimes, even if my intentions are good. The line we’re looking to walk can only be discerned by the Holy Spirit, so it is important that we keep in step with Him in our interactions. 


22 comments:

Ganise C. said...

Very well-thought and well-written. Like most women, perfectionism is a struggle for me too.

Tara G. said...

Nothing more needs to be said other than "YES."

PRDama Sellers said...

It is like you peaked straight into my heart and eveything I have felt and still feel spilled out through your fingers. I am not a "pastors wife" but my husband is an elder in our church and a leader- I am also the women's ministry leader. Many think we are to always say the right things, do the right things, and be happy all the time. As if as soon as God called us into these roles of servanthood our humans roles stopped, our sinful fleshly selves were to vanish and we became more "perfect"which pretty far from who we are. It is only by the grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus that we serve and every other week wonder why us, and was God crazy thinking we could do this. We both teeter back and forth with the thoughts of insecurity, uncertainty and doubt on whether we are doing any good here.

All I know that in spite of our imperfections, He continues to show us favor, bless us tremendously and every time we think about quitting He shines His face upon us and blesses with His loving arms... so Amanda hang in there... though in perfection on this side eternity you will not be, and you always feel tug of peer pressures(I am sure your momma can amen that) The Lord is a great comforter and we have to keep our eyes on HIM.

Angie
www.ponderthypath.com

Gab N said...

This is so good and true. I'm not a pastor's wife but definitely involved in the ministry of the church and so find these thoughts very compelling. Thanks for sharing.

Fran said...

Amanda...thank you. I use to be the person who wanted everyone to think I had it all together. Why in the world did I think that was the way to be? Now? Not at all. Never. Lord help me if anyone thinks I do. We are all desperate to touch the hem of his garment and be healed, whole, and honest before Him and others.

What a gift you are to your church and your community, Amanda.

Tracey said...

amanda, i RTd this but wanted to say i was teaching a Bible study this spring & was apologizing for not being "organized" one week. one of the precious young moms said "thank goodness you don't have it all together!" i will never ever forget your mom asking one time: "do you have the joy of BEING who you SEEM?" when we kill ourselves to portray perfection we rob ourselves of peace & real friendships. love this post!

Ashton said...

Loved reading this, Amanda, so real, so could relate. Thank you.

Doris said...

Great post Amanda, and great truth! Our "I've got it all together" facade will never minister to anyone. Sharing our struggles will reach far more. You are a sweet blessing; beautifully stated :)

John Harris said...

The fear is, I suppose, that they will judge you by their projection of whom THEY are, and not whom they actually are. Surely, the pastor and his family should have it more together, though certainly not all together. It's odd, some people struggle to make perfection happen and are devastated when it doesn't, and others aren't trying at all. The first group reads the Martha Stewart type blogs and are devastated, they need to relax. Other people are lazy and under the pretense of knowing they can't be perfect, don't even try. They read the blog intended to encourage the Marthas of the world and are vindicated in their choice to not even try. I've known far too many people who repost a blog talking about "stop trying so hard" and I want to say "hey, I've never seen you in anything but sweatpants and you look like you've never eaten anything that wasn't made by hostes" the "I've got it all together" attitude won't bless anyone, but the "I'm no further along than you" won't either. I struggle with both sides...

Teri said...

Thank you. :)

Hannah Lee said...

AMANDA! I love this. Struck right to the core of me as I am battling illusions and vanity. I have always had a heart for women and issues and maintaining good quality friendships, but lately it has been a struggle. Thanks for sharing.

Dionna Sanchez said...

Oh so beautiful. Beautiful because you've been there. You understand. You've felt and DO feel even today. May more women find this balance of authenticity in their hearts and lives.

Angela Carson said...

Good word.

Aly said...

Thank you so much for this- I completely agree! For years I gave the impression, unintentionally, that I had everything all figured out and had no problems. Life wasn't perfect, of course, but I just wasn't vocal. Through blogging some of my own faith journey, I have been so surprised by the encouragement people have expressed that it gives them because now they are hearing me say, "me too."

cougarhoogs said...

Thank you for this! The struggle between authenticity and "being a godly example" is definitely not limited to a pastor or pastor's wife/family, but seems as though it is a more intense burden to carry for those that are in ministry. Being a pastor's wife in a ministry with college students, the desire and urgency to model a real marriage and motherhood is where I find myself most often at the foot of the Cross and under the direction of the Holy Spirit. Without either of those, my only options seem to be to either build up for these young women the image of perfection and "having it all together" or a very flawed human who makes no effort to walk in grace and dignity. Such a fine line. Thanks for your wisdom and insight on the issue.

This Is The Day said...

I think perfectionism is an epidemic in our country. We live in such a Facebook society where most people only post the highlights and the happy moments of their lives and end up (maybe unintentionally) looking like perfect little families. It's so hard not to get caught up in that and attempt to project the same image. I'm definitely guilty of wanting people to think I've got it altogether, but of course I don't. Thanks for your openness!

Wendy McSwain said...

Amen! This is something I've always struggled with and am starting to recognize it for what it is. Thanks for the post.

Jill_in_AL said...

Amen! I choose authentic over ostentatious every day and twice on Sunday ;-)

Amy Beth Gardner said...

Dang, girl. You're on fire. I love it!

amybhill said...

thanks for this amanda- "me too". i lead a lot of women's ministry activities and feel similar pressures. sadly, i do think those pressures are often stronger in the church… for me, fighting others expectations of me is hard bc i really like to please people - a false idol. God in his goodness often uses these very circumstances to remind me to keep my focus on Him. xoxo

cindi said...

As a Pastor's wife and one who has always enjoyed your blog, I am so glad you are writing again. Thanks you.

Elisabeth said...

BEAUTIFUL Amanda! Thank you!