Today I am wrestling...yes, still. I don't feel as though I am kicking against the pricks of God's plan but just wrestling with the woman who seems to keep hijacking my body, mind, and spirit. My gut keeps labeling her peri-menopausal and unstable. Truthfully, I hate "her". "She" isolates me and causes me to question what I'm doing all the time. "She" makes me feel like I'm simply existing, wishing I could just snap out of it and get back in to life.
A menagerie of advice is flowing my way continually, most of which is conflicting. "Be content to rest during this time of your life--it's a season." "Get up and keep moving; don't allow yourself to surrender to its weight." Ultimately, the statement left my mouth today: I've never felt this alone.
The sentiments above flowed freely from my pen onto my journal's pages just a few short years ago as I found myself on the cusp of 40 years of age, grappling for some sturdy ground where I could be safely balanced hormonally and content in my station of life. I wish I could tell you I've officially kicked "her" to the curb and never hear her taunting voice in my head occasionally. The truth is, I've known "her" all my life. I don't recall a season of my life where I didn't feel just a little alone, even in a sea of familiar faces. Bridgette Greene Tomlin has always been out in front, reluctantly leading in one capacity or another, and has undeniably felt a little stronger about most things than her peers.
In many ways, alone-ness comes with the territory of serving in leadership. But is loneliness a prerequisite of the call to ministerial leadership? While it may not be a prereq, it is often the trap. The trap of loneliness can creep in, taking its victim captive with a slew of lies, tragic experiences of broken trust, the perception of potential risks that accompany vulnerability, or the temptation to isolate ourselves on that proverbial Loneliness Island.
Once loneliness has a choke hold on an individual, it seems all the more difficult to break out of it. Often ministry wives begin to take in the lies of the enemy and, really, that's where we all have to fight the temptation. Really? It's tempting to be lonely? Absolutely! Sometimes loneliness is safer than companionship. And sometimes there just doesn't seem to be any other choice.
Sometimes loneliness is safer than companionship.
Let's talk about a few of the lies associated with the temptation of loneliness.
Lie #1: No one truly understands why I am going through something. While it is true that few understand, there are indeed others who do get it. Why? Because others have been called to step out in front and surrender their lives to the Call of God for centuries before us. I'm sorry to say this, but the reason this lie is so prevalent is because very few have been willing to take the first step and actually show up when a fellow ministry wife needed someone in her corner. Someone understands. Someone gets it. But will someone please take the first step and pick up the phone? Call that girl! Yes, the girl who doesn't look like she needs anybody. I assure you: my experience is that the girl who looks like she's got it all together is usually the one who may be working awfully hard to just keep it together.
Lie #2: No one else has ever felt this way. Oh, sweet girl, while most of us don't want to admit that we have had impure thoughts about how we would really "lay hands (suddenly)" on the sister who made advances on our preacher husband or the husband who perpetually puts God's work before his own family's well-being, it doesn't mean that we didn't take those thoughts captive! As I've told my girls often, the sin is not in the hurting or the temptation. The sin comes when we fail to take those things to the Lord and place them at the Cross. You may not have heard the war stories, but they are so countless that no book could contain them. Someone else feels your pain and will help you process it if you're ready to take the risk.
Lie #3: If I were a true believer on the Lord Jesus Christ, or if I were actually called, I wouldn't be lonely and wouldn't need support, friendship, or connection. If this were true, Jesus Himself was disqualified. Jesus needed and craved companionship. And when it came time to send out the disciples to spread the Message, He didn't send them out alone. He paired them off. Paul reminded the Galatians, "Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." (Gal 6:2)
Support, friendship, and connection are Scriptural and the foundation of the Church. We are the Body of Christ.
Lie #4: Loneliness is normal and the plan of God for those serving in ministry. Unfortunately, part of this lie is not untrue and that is this: Loneliness is normal for those serving in ministry. But it is most definitely not the plan of God. I'm just gutsy enough to believe that if there was one thing I was put on this planet to accomplish it was to contend for authentic friendship. I have had a vast number of connections throughout my nearly 43 years of life. There has never been a time I was not in ministry as I was born into a minister's home. And while I've had some precious friends, those who became authentic, kindred spirits were few. And those kindred spirits were the result of a beautiful equation made up of authenticity of character, geniuneness of heart, and time.
Perhaps your mom, like mine, taught you, "In order to have a friend, you have to be one." That principle lines right up with the law of sowing and reaping, as well as the timeless Golden Rule. I read recently this sweet little quote from the talented yet controversial journalist Rebecca West: "There was a definite process by which one made people into friends; it involved talking to them and listening to them for hours at a time."
Whether you have set up camp on Loneliness Island or recently escaped, consider that if we are to boycott this known normal of those in the ministry, it will indeed take risk...and time. And yet I am quite certain that the trap of loneliness has no allure in the presence of authentic friendship that is free of competition, ulterior motives, and prideful dismissal. Are you ready to throw out the life line?
The Trap of Loneliness Island is ENTRY TWO in this month's series, Life on Loneliness Island. What is a lesson you have learned in a season of loneliness? Let us hear from you by commenting below or joining the conversation on one of our social media platforms.
Bridgette Tomlin, founder of Sanctuary, and her husband, Chresten, have been married and in full-time ministry for 21 years. 20 of the 21 years have been spent in evangelistic work, both stateside and overseas. The couple has two beautiful blonde babies--ages 14 and 9--and base out of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Like many ministry wives Bridgette often feels like a red flag on the tug-of-war rope with the children on one end and her husband and the ministry on the other end! When she finds time for personal hobbies, Bridgette enjoys entertaining, blogging, singing, browsing the local antique shops, and sipping on a cup of hot tea for a few precious quiet moments. Her heart is to lead others to the authentic presence of God--through worship, through Word, and through one-on-one connection.