“Ministry would be easy if it weren’t for people, but then it wouldn’t be ministry at all!”
I have said this phrase over the last 10 years more times than I can recall. It’s true, ministry is not for the faint of heart, for so many reasons. If you and/or your spouse have been in ministry long enough, then you know that being on the receiving end of hurt OR being the one dishing out the hurt, even unintentionally, is inevitable. Why? Because we are all just broken people on this journey, trying to find our way together.
I don’t know what type of hurt you have experienced being in ministry and, if you haven’t yet, then hold on, sister. Chances are you just haven’t been in ministry long enough. I wish that I could sit across from you, maybe over some coffee, and hear your story of pain and hurt. To listen as the sideways glances or the murmurings of gossip that you aren’t who you say you are, cut you to your core. Or the “behind closed doors” meetings where slander was spewed towards you and/or your spouse, that became like a cancer in your church, thus altering your trajectory of ministry. I wouldn’t try to take the pain and hurt away, but I would want to assure you that I see you. I truly see you in the sea of pain and I’ll sit here in it with you, for as long as it takes.
I’ve been in ministry alongside my husband for 10 years now and I’ve learned a thing or two about hurt. Today, I specifically want to share with you things that have helped me rebound from hurt in ministry, albeit imperfectly at times.
Turn. Shake the dust off your feet.
In case you aren't aware, as someone in ministry or married to someone in ministry, your actions will always come under other's scrutiny, even well-meaning people.
Let me give you a personal example…
Being a pastor’s wife is not something that I gracefully accepted, not in the least bit. It was a fight, an internal struggle and sometimes an outward pity-party. When I finally accepted it and decided to join my husband in his calling and this journey of ministry, it was baby steps for me. It wasn’t until we moved back to South Carolina from Ohio almost five years ago that I decided I was ready to come out from behind the shadows and start leading in ways that I felt like God had called me to.
But even then it was with much hesitancy. I was content with staying behind the scenes--of being the visionary and dreamer, but not the one in the spotlight. I was encouraged and all but thrust into the limelight of a budding women’s ministry. We were growing by leaps and bounds. Women were excited and getting connected. They were going deeper and growing together. And then…then it happened. My integrity was called into question, my intentions were scrutinized. Is Lindsey just all about the numbers? Is she all about the spotlight?
Can I be honest? This crushed me. If these handful of women knew what a journey it had been to get to where I was; if they knew all the ways I had fought this, but ultimately surrendered in obedience, would they have said those things? How do I pick up the pieces of my confidence and move on? How do I rebound from this hurt?
One morning, as I was journeying through this hurt, during my time of silence and solitude with Jesus, I clearly heard him say… “Turn. Shake the dust off your feet.” I knew it was a reference to a place in Scripture so I started Googling it and trying to find the reference. Sure enough, this phrase “shake the dust off your feet” appears four times in the New Testament. In Mark 6:11 Jesus says, “And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, leave that place and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.”
So what does it mean to “shake the dust off your feet?” We figuratively “shake the dust off our feet” when, under the Holy Spirit’s direction, we surrender those people to the Lord and emotionally let go. We have the freedom then to move on. Jesus’ instruction to “shake the dust off your feet” reminds us that we are only responsible for our obedience to God, not for the results of that obedience.
...we are only responsible for our obedience to God, not for the results of that obedience.
So friend, if you have found yourself reeling from hurt in ministry, I encourage you to “Turn. Shake the dust off your feet.” And I am going to take it one step further: shake the dust off your feet, but don’t let it settle on your mind. Don’t let others' critique and judgement of you embed itself in your heart and mind.
Release and Let Go.
During this season of hurt and pain, I came across a Proverbs 31 Ministries podcast episode featuring Lysa Terkeurst entitled, “There’s Always a Meanwhile."
Essentially this podcast episode was all about forgiveness and she taught from the story of Joseph in the Bible. But before she deep-dived into Joseph’s story she shared about a time when she flew to Connecticut. On her way from the airport to wherever it was that she was going she noticed that there were a bunch of trees down everywhere. She said it looked like a tornado had just come through, but she knew that wasn’t possible in a place like Connecticut. So, she asked someone what had happened. Someone told her that an early snow storm had come through in the fall before the leaves had a chance to fall off the trees. They said that when trees release their leaves, they then can take on the added weight of snow, but this time the snow came before the trees had a chance to release their leaves. They couldn’t handle taking on the burden of snow in the winter season when they hadn’t released their leaves from the fall season. A breaking happened as a result.
Lysa went on to say that “when you transition from one season of life to another, it’s a really good time to let some things go." Then she asked the listeners, “What do you need to release?”
This story of the trees, the early snowfall, and the branches not being able to withstand the weight of the snow struck me and I knew I had a choice to make. I could hold onto the hurt and even carry it into a new season with me, but then I ran the risk of not being able to bear all that weight. Or, I could release and let go. Release and let go.
Release and let go.
Whether it’s yesterday’s disappointments or hurts that we have carried for some time, you and I cannot embrace a new day or a new season of life unless we release and let go. When we have been hurt, we can look at Joseph’s story and as we mature we can start releasing some of those things, so that we can take on the beauty of what God wants to entrust us with in the next season of ministry.
Finally, sweet friend, here is what I want to leave you with, so lean in close...
Ministry is a sacred privilege. There will be pain and hurt. You will have times where you fluctuate between tears and anger. Lean into the pain. Don’t try to run from it or pretend it’s not there. God wants you to know that "You do not need to do more, fix yourself, or hold anything together." You just need to fall back into His grace and trade your trying for trust. Where you are broken and bruised is exactly the place, not in spite of that place, that He wants to show you: you’re beautiful.
Finding Beauty in Broken Places is Entry ONE in Sanctuary's September series, On the Rebound || Rebounding From Hurt in the Ministry. Join us weekly as we share insight from guest bloggers who have sustained the injury and rebounded from hurt toward healing and hope. Share your thoughts below with us in the comments. What are your takeaways from Lindsey's post?
Lindsey Cunningham is a small town girl who gets a lot of strength from her deep South Carolina roots. She is the wife of a pastor and is stepping into a calling to encourage other pastors’ wives. Her three kiddos keep her on her toes and are her greatest teachers. For Lindsey there is nothing better than a house full of people and a table full of finger foods. She has a terrible green thumb, but loves the outdoors. Most mornings you can find her in her sacred blue chair with her nose in a book and her heart open to God. She has a growing passion for helping women bloom where they are planted and not shy away from the “hard and holy” things. Follow her on Instagram @confessionsofapastorswife and Facebook, and check out her connection through Open Door Sisterhood.