Thursday, March 22, 2007

Honesty is the Best Policy

I cannot tell you how many people have commented to me lately about my honesty...especially in connection with our life in ministry. It got me thinking about the way leadership has changed in my mind over the years.

Our pastor's wife, growing up, was a remarkably complex person, but was nearly invisible. She was a smiling, soft-spoken, undercurrent...fully capable of making things happen, but not in a way you could see on the surface. She was internal...with enormous amounts of pain under an always perfectly coiffed head of hair. I knew her as my pastor's wife for 15 years, and have no idea how she really felt about anything. If she or her husband spoke of a struggle they had, it was always past tense..."We had this problem years ago, but we have conquered that and are fine now."

Being a pastor's wife is a weird job. I could write for hours about it. I'd like to someday chronicle my adventures in 5 states and 4 churches...if I could figure out a way to write it without getting sued for libel (or is it slander that is printed?).

Anyway, that being said, I guess I just came to a place where I began to believe that the best way for me to be a pastors' wife and a Christian and a human being, was to just be honest....honest about my fears and failures and hangups and quirks and loves and hates and mostly, honest about the changes that take place around and in me.

I didn't really put it together until just a few days ago, but that is pretty different from a lot of our backgrounds, which tell us that we cannot lead unless we are better than the ones we lead. We must be higher on the spiritual ladder, have conquered our character flaws, and must live a life that is unattainable to most other mortals. Thus the tiered church membership plans that have one set of standards for the pleebs (liked that word, Heidi) and another set of standards for the Leadership. We had "Platform" rules at our church, growing up...if you were on the platform, you had to live and dress a certain way. It has this way of seeping like sewage into everything...You can't be the nursery director because you're divorced. You can't be a musician because you knocked up your girfriend. You can't be an usher because you threatened to shoot your neighbor...oh, wait, no...that was one that should have happened but didn't...because after all, he wore a suit every week.

I wonder if this is how we get really screwed up sometimes. I mean, certainly, it would be good if your Pastor and pastor's wife didn't meet in therapy and she claimed to have multiple personality disorder ...oh shoot...that libel thing... anyway, yes, it would be good if the leadership was stable. But perfect? Really?

What if the leadership was just a bunch of screwballs who were learning and growing too? What if they weren't as disciplined as they could be? What if they are in fact, some kind of 80s Breakfast Club? We are as Switchfoot put it so very well, a beautiful let-down. But we are deeply committed to the church, are striving to know Christ better, and happen to be good at teaching, leading, administrating and just making church happen?

I guess that is how I feel we are different. We aren't great people. I'm not great anyway. I'm just on this journey. I'm only this far on it. I don't have all the answers. I don't live it the best way possible...I do try. And I love Jesus. I'm committed to following Him for the rest of my orienting everything we do to Him. But I'm a crank. I get PMS and really take it to a whole new level of ugly sometimes. I yell at my kids. I eat for comfort sake. I forget to pray. My house is a wreck. I'm a workaholic. I don't spend enough time with people. I'm shy. I'm sarcastic. My neighbors annoy me. I'm self-absorbed. I think about money too much. I'm...human.

Wanna follow Jesus with me? He's pretty much my only hope.


gerbmom said...

Great post. Sure resonates with me. I went to a women's retreat this weekend that just sat wrong with me. And, I posted about it. Honestly. And then I ducked. But of what benefit is it if I sugar coat everything? I have learned - finally - to say what I think. Heck - I'm 48. I've earned the right.
Great book to read regarding leadership is Leading with a Limp: Turning Your Struggles into Strengths by Dan B. Allender
It'll help you become a better leader - if it doesn't scare you off!
And finally, I am so, so, so, so tired of all the perfect people in all our perfect churches, whether they are judgemental or not. I want a community that's real. So we can walk together and learn from each other. One that accepts us all, no matter how messy, or where we are on the journey. Once people start feeling safe, I think they will start allowing themselves to be honest. One can only hope.

tammi said...

Excellent post. This topic seems to be following me around lately and it truly resonates with me, and I'm sure - with many, many other believers. Heck, it also makes me cringe to know how it resonates with non-believers, who have experienced "the church" in all it's ugly glory and seen the same thing.
My friend Amy, who stalks your blog (are you out there amy? amy?) just wrote about this very topic on her blog a few days ago. Eerily similar to your thoughts. Check hers out too:

tammi said...

Hmmmm...and as an afterthought - one of my highschool teachers (whom I still admire a great deal to this day) used to say "honesty is not the best policy -- it's the only policy"

and i like that.

sara said...

I've literally been following Jesus "with you" for about 6yrs now....

I'm totally in this thing.

Heidi said...

I wonder if this is somewhat generational. My grandparents went through the great depression and learned to deal with their hardships alone because everyone else was going through the same thing. My parents grew up seeing that and learned to put on a perfect show even if things weren't perfect. Our post-modern mindset seems to detest putting on a show...a challenge the traditional church struggles to deal with.

I've had conversations with our pastors wife about the fact that she's expected to be perfect. I told her we could never be in traditional ministry because we aren't willing to live up to many of the expectations that we consider a waste of time.

I think this contributes to why we've seen such a lack of depth in churches lately. Honesty is often just vulnerablilty. God forbid that your pastor actually be vulnerable!

akr said...

I am so there with you. Kevin and I are just trying to be real with these people and be honest and open about things. Kevin uses himself as illustrations at times and we are hoping it allows people to connect with us. Especially to bring in the younger generation. Kevin also shared this with them when we canidated so they knew what they were getting into.

I think the perfectionism came from the legalism that surrounded so much of our's easier to paint on a plastic face and pretend then admit you struggle with sin. And this attitude was passed down as a spiritual "heritage"

For me it is harder because I grew up in the ministry and I felt the expectations even more. They were sort of unspoken but it really "trained" me to be a people pleaser and almost a chamelon...adapting to every group I was with. It still pops up every once in awhile but I am learning to stand confident in who I am in Christ. I have learned I can't be anything but myself...God chopped up my masks and all there is left is just me!

I think our generation is tired of the superficiality and we are the ones rocking the boat...and that's a good thing!

Blogging tips