Last week I shared from my recent sabbatical experience and the lessons I learned about the Top Three Reasons I reached burnout while reaching out to others in ministry. To review Reason #1, click here. Let's continue with the last two today.
2. Guarding. In my mind I knew I needed to love people. But loving people, letting them into my life, getting into their lives, and working through the muck and mire together was what led to the pain I was feeling. Several of these people left me and I felt myself backing away, guarding my heart, guarding my actions, guarding my words, feeling suspicious of every move, and it led to me being guarded with God. If God called us to start this church, then why was so much pain involved in the process?
The process was what I could not back away from. I had to stay engaged and love people regardless of how they love me back. Men and women have been brought into our lives for a season. If someone is standing in front of me who needs my help, I need to give it. I cannot expect their loyalty, their friendship, their commitment or anything else in return. I need to give of myself and allow God to do the rest. If God has brought them before me for this time then He trusts me to help them. He believes there is something I can give that will better their life. So instead of backing away to avoid pain and thinking only of myself, I have to dive into the process and embrace the friendship, and everything that comes along with it. Guarding myself leads to isolation and that is all the devil needs to strike--an isolated heart and mind.
Guarding myself leads to isolation and that is all the devil needs to strike--an isolated heart and mind.
3. People-pleasing. I have a tendency to remember the negative. You know that moment when I can have 999 people I just spoke to tell me what a great job I did and one person say something negative and I go home and obsess about the negative. It's the same with the church. People say some of the most unbelievable things to minister, ministry wives, pastors, and pastor's wives. I mean stuff you just can't even possibly imagine. I don't know why the public thinks the wife is the dumping ground. The place to come and complain about the pastor, a problem they perceive with the church, critique her clothes, her weight, her money, her car, her children's actions,..well, you get the gist. Remembering these hurtful words led to me altering my behavior, my clothes, and my actions to please multiple people who had said different things.
I never saw that as people-pleasing, I started out thinking I was helping the church and being a good pastor's wife. But in the process somehow I lost myself. I ended up being this person I didn't like very much because I was just bland, gray, non-adventurous, saintly Sheila. I allowed others to set the rules and I bent over backwards to follow everyone else's rules for me. I'm recognizing this and I'm trying to work out of it. I'm still discovering the areas in which I have allowed others expectations to rule.
These three areas are what I have pinpointed as my demise a few months ago. I don't like sounding so negative, like being a pastor's wife is all this and nothing else. The positive moments equal no other. Like when someone has been through a harrowing circumstance and they call for help because they trust you more than anyone else. That is a privilege that still to this day brings tears to my eyes. That moment never grows old. There are people who left a good, secure, church (the right way) and came with us to the unknown to plant a new church, and are still with us today. These people are our lifeline. They hold up our arms, they pray for us, they are trusted friends.
I could write a novel on the moments over the last eight years that I will treasure forever. What I know for sure is there will always be people I have to keep my mouth quiet about...there will always be people the Holy Spirit warns me to guard myself around...and there will be times I need to get over myself and please other people. This is life, and it's not all bad.
Recognizing these things in my life, and their out of control state, has helped me pinpoint my turnaround spot. While on this three-week adventure I read two books: Leadership Pain by Sam Chand and When Words Hurt by Warren Bullock and Troy Jones. I would recommend both books, but Sam Chand says, "You'll grow only to the threshold of your pain". Those are incredible words of wisdom. Time after time there have been examples all through God's Word of people who went through an incredibly hard, painful time that led to an incredible victory.
I know victory is coming! We can help usher in that victory when we stay focused on the moment we are in, and not constantly thinking about tomorrow, or next week, or next month. Right now this moment is pretty cool and I want to bask in it. It's freezing on this porch where I'm writing, but the cold mixed with the bright sunshine feels too good on my skin to give it up. My dog is sitting at my feet, I smell the fire in the fireplace waiting for me, and as far as I can see in front of me are mountains yet to be hiked.
Today's entry is Part Four of our December series, Bye, Bye, Burnout. Thank you for joining guest blogger and ministry wife Sheila Harper each week this month as she so authentically took us through her own journey to burnout and back. Join the conversation below to be entered into a giveaway to win Sheila's new book, Island Living. The book will be given away in January 2018.
Sheila Harper and her husband, Jack, have been in full-time ministry at SaveOne since 2000. The couple planted a church in 2007, so Sheila has been a pastor’s wife for 10 years. Sheila and Jack have two sons, ages 27 & 29. "Neither are married, but I am looking for wives for them so I will be one step closer to having grandchildren," quips Sheila. When asked what shaped her ministry philosophy, Sheila answered, "Pain. Plain and simple. I started SaveOne from a place of wanting to make sure others didn’t experience the same pain I did after an abortion. I wanted everyone to know the truth of what abortion really does to you." As far as the church, "what shaped my ministry philosophy was realizing, if I’m not healthy I could derail my husband’s ministry. As a pastor’s wife I am possibly the most vulnerable in the whole church. I have to take time for soul care, and the whole church remains healthier because of it." Sheila enjoys "hiking, drinking coffee, hiking, reading, hiking, hanging in my hammock in the woods, and hiking" when she comes across some free time. Sheila's greatest passion in ministry comes from seeing people be transformed from the inside out. "When a person walks in and doesn’t know Jesus, gives his/her heart to Him, lets themselves be discipled, and their life start to come together….I don’t know of a greater joy than that."