#TellHisStory: The Hard Work of Getting Along

October 30, 2013 | 39 comments

The phone rang. My friend’s last name flashed across the caller ID.

When a friend dials you long after the sky sings itself to sleep, you know it’s probably a distress call.

“Hello hon,” I whispered into the phone from the darkened living room. “You OK?”

The wobble in her voice betrayed her tear-soaked distress. But I didn’t know yet that my husband and I were the source of her pain. Moments later, she told me how she disagreed with a hard decision we had made as leaders of a church ministry that she loved as much as we did.

She dropped her anger on me like a guided missile, while I sank deep into my chair, with my legs curled under me — like maybe I could sink into the dark, hidden. But I couldn’t hide: It was a direct hit.

She told me that she had never seen such poor leadership in all her years in church ministry. She questioned our decision, our commitment to prayer, our faith in Christ.

I said almost nothing, stunned. Silent tears streamed down my face. I couldn’t breathe, and ran my hands along the arms of the chair; I groped for a lifeline in the threads.

That painful torpedoing happened several years ago, but the heart-bruise is still tender when I touch it.

Moments like those? Those are the moments when you are tempted to run away from leadership, from the church, from community. You want to retreat into a foxhole and never peek your head out, except when the delivery guy brings pizza.

You want to send a missile back to the accuser and a missive back to the church: “Look, if you think you can do this job better, by golly, you can have it.”

You want to quit. 

But the thing is, battles won’t end while warriors hide in foxholes. And peace is never made on the missile-launch pad. It happens only when people lay down word-weapons and gather at tables for the “hard work of getting along.”

My heart-sister Lisa-Jo and I were at a table last weekend in South Carolina, sipping Tazo tea and coffee, when she quoted me verses about what it takes to build community in the midst of conflict. She read the words from her iPhone, but you could tell by her conviction, that the words were already written straight onto the curve of her heart.

Listen to her closely:

You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor.

~ James 3:17-18 (The Message)

Lisa-Jo leaned across the table, looked into my eyes and said it true: If it’s hard work, it doesn’t mean you’re doing community wrong. In fact? The hard work might be a sign that you’re doing community as God designed. 

Community is messy and difficult and strenuous and back-breakingly exhausting. Sometimes it can feel mean and missile-launch-y and nasty, like you want to resign from the committee and race for the nearest foxhole and order pizzas for the rest of your life.

But there’s more: Community is also luminous and breathtaking and smashingly beautiful. But it will need to pass through the Refiner’s Fire.

Hard work isn’t an option. It’s a prerequisite. 

Sitting at the table with Lisa-Jo, I silently remembered that painful encounter years earlier. I remembered how God didn’t fully heal the relationship between me and the woman on the other end of the phone.

But even more? I remembered the people devoted to working hard. I remembered how people had gathered with us week after week to come to a solution that would serve God’s purposes.

As Lisa-Jo talked, I also thought of Upper Room, and a 12-member community of rabblerousers, doubters and betrayers. I imagined the baggage those men brought to the table, and how they once argued over who would sit beside Jesus in Heaven.

I thought how the disciples might have rolled their eyes at Thomas, with his incessant questioning. And how they must have been irritated with Peter’s impulsive behavior. And the way they probably seethed with jealousy when “the disciple whom Jesus loved” was pulled aside for one-on-one attention.

But they had to work hard to get along. And Jesus took that hard work all the way up a hill, to Golgotha.

So don’t believe for a second that community is crumbling around you, just because it feels hard right now. Know this instead: Because it’s hard, you have proof that community is coming to life. 

 

So, what’s your Story? A #TellHisStory is any story that connects your story into the story of God.

For details on the #TellHisStory linkup, click here: https://jenniferdukeslee.com/tell-his-story/. Be sure to find someone (or two) in the link-up to encourage with a comment. Come back on Friday to visit our Featured #TellHisStory, in the sidebar.

Your words matter to God. They matter to people. And they matter to me!

~Jennifer

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by | October 30, 2013 | 39 comments

39 Comments

  1. Nannette and the Sweetheart

    My life is all over this…not to mean I have conquered, or that I am anybody, but that I am continually striving. As a pastor’s wife I have had many similar stories like the one you told and they still hurt to this day, years later. But we keep working…all for the sake of the Kingdom. ♥

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Nannette, As I was writing this post last night, I thought of pastors’ wives in particular. My heart ached as I considered what you might go through. I have heard so many pastors’ wives’ stories of being hurt by the church. And then where do you go? God, of course … but what friend can you talk to? How do you handle these situations, Nannette? And what can we as laypeople do to better serve the spouses of our pastors?

      Reply
  2. Elizabeth Stewart

    This one hit me right where I live, as a pastor’s wife….the direct missile hits, the wanting to quit more times than I can count. Yet, there’s beauty in the middle of this mess we call church/community. The women from our church all gathered last month for a retreat using (in)courage’s in real life dvds about community. We talked about the hard things, the hurtful things, we laughed together, we cried together. It was hard work…but so, so healing!

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Elizabeth, I had a feeling this one would resonate with pastors’ wives in particular. I would love to know more about what we as laypeople can do to better serve our pastors’ spouses. Much love to you…

      Reply
      • Janet from FL

        I am married to a former church minister. We served together at a small church a few years. Mostly we looked for support at another church. This means we had people praying for us, and activities we participated in at other churches. This avoids a lot of jealousy, gossip, etc. For me, one of the most meaningful things was getting a card from someone who thanked me for doing something specific for them. It made me feel like I was doing good and useful things, even if I heard mostly complaints from others. It is also a good practice to give the minister and wife a weekend off on a regular basis. Some time away is so helpful to rest and renew and come back the next week re-energized. One really helpful thing, is to realize that the minister was hired by the church, but his wife was not. She should not be expected to serve the church, but to be thankful for what service she chooses to do. Some churches treat her like a slave, which can be demeaning and hurtful. Of course the another useful thing is to follow the old saying “If you don’t have anything nice to say, just say nothing at all.”

        Reply
        • dukeslee

          Thank you for your helpful suggestions, Janet. It’s seems like all of that should be common sense, but somehow, we’re missing it.

          Grateful for your comment, and your service to your church community.

          Reply
  3. Mia

    Dear Jenn
    This is so true. Every relationship to work requires commitment from both parties involved, even our relationship with our Lord. But I think the hardest work of any relationship is that forgiving seventy times seventy times and that from the heart. I cannot to that and is no supposed to be able to forgive this way; only our Lord Jesus enables us to forgive from the heart by His grace!
    Blessings XX
    Mia

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Yes, the hard work of getting along AND the hard work of forgiveness — only through Jesus. Thank you Mia.

      Reply
  4. Simply Beth

    “Because it’s hard, you have proof that community is coming to life.” Oh I needed this. So good. Many blessings.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Thank you, Beth.

      Reply
  5. Kristin Hill Taylor

    I’ve been there. And it’s a hard, hard place to be. It’s a place that can only be redeemed by the One who is truly building community. It’s such a blessing when His peace meets you in the hard place. These words here are so good and true. And they encourage mightily.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      I’m so glad, Kristin, that these words were an encouragement to you. As I was writing this, I realized how I still harbored some bitterness in my heart toward the woman who called. I still have some hard work to do on the inside of me.

      Reply
  6. Shelly Miller

    You know, I almost gave up on community because we’ve had so many of these moments . . . until I met you and the other friends I wrote about in my post today. I just realized that reading this. Thank you Jennifer, for being part of a group of Godly women who have restored my hope in community. I’m grateful.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Third pastor’s wife in the comment box. I’m sensing a theme. Why are laypeople especially hard on you guys? What are we doing wrong? And how can we better serve you, Shelly? How can I better serve and love and wash the feet of my own pastor’s wife? My heart aches for the ways that community has torn down your beautiful hearts…

      Reply
      • Daniel Farrow

        As someone who is called the biblical definition of pastoring, I believe the reason laypeople are so hard on our pastors is because we’ve been taught to idolize our pastors. We see them as having ALL of the answers and some kind of theological superstars instead of asking God ourselves for the answers and trusting that Holy Spirit really knows scriptures and knows how to lead and guide us.

        Reply
        • dukeslee

          Ah yes … Thank you, Daniel. We are setting pastors up for a crash, perching them high on those unsteady pedestals, aren’t we?

          Reply
  7. karyn

    Tough.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      Indeed, Karyn. In your one word, I sense you’re in the middle of the hard work. Praying.

      Reply
  8. Daniel Farrow

    I ran from genuine community for so long that my life ended up locked in a religious spirit where I could very rarely trust any Christian with my very real emotional pain. It took one man who didn’t treat me as Job’s friends treated Job to get me to participate in a small community, open up about my pain, and confront the ugliness of who I was in that season. God is so merciful and so very worthy of our trust when He leads us to confront our pain. The Lord showed me through this painful 15 years of confronting verbal and emotional abuse in my life that forgiveness is the ONLY option.

    Thank you for sharing Jennifer!

    Reply
  9. Amy

    Hard work indeed. How do we forgive ourselves when we feel like we’ve failed at the hard work of getting along? And how do we forgive others who choose to hide instead of walking through the fire with us? All questions I’ve been asking lately. Tough stuff.

    Reply
  10. Kris Camealy

    yes. hard work. This is beautiful truth, that it IS worth the struggle, and the struggle doesn’t mean we’re doing it wrong. Thanks, Jennifer. Looking forward to hugging your neck tight. XO

    Reply
  11. Dolly@Soulstops

    Jennifer,
    Amen…yes, hard work…and necessary…love your beautiful heart, my friend 🙂

    Reply
  12. Sheila at Longings End

    Hard work is not an option…YES YES so very true, Jennifer. Relationships, whether between two or 20, always take hard work, yet so often we can run from that because it can hurt our hearts. And I’m thinking the only way to keep on keeping on is by continuing to fold ourselves into the freedom of His love…Thanks for sharing. Great story.

    Reply
  13. Bonnie

    This post was for me, Jennifer. Going through this right now as part of a committee in our church who had to make a hard decision. We are being abused for it. And it is hard not to say, “I quit.” So these words are washing over me today. I pray I am strong enough to stand.

    Reply
    • dukeslee

      I am so sorry, Bonnie. Hard work is required for community to work, but friend, abuse is absolutely intolerable. Is your pastor aware of what is going on?

      And Bonnie — don’t let these words about the hard work of getting along, become a chain on you, like you’ve got to tough this one out. You should not put up with abuse.

      Email me privately if you need to talk to someone, pray with someone.

      Reply
  14. lynndmorrisseyL

    Powerful, sad, and true, Jennifer. It’s so easy to criticize when you do so from the pew, where you have a steady seat from which to lob missiles. Leadership comes with its liabilities. I’m so sorry that that happened to you. So sorry! When we receive blows like that while we do God’s work, I do believe that it draws us closer to the Savior, who suffered the greatest blow of all. He loved us, and He tells us to love one another. He tells us to get along. We can, because of the grace He gives us. I note that pastors’ wives are commenting here. I have worked for pastors several times in my life, and I am so empathetic to all the hits they endure. People judge them, for one thing, because often they do not have the full picture of why they (or other leaders) make the decisions they do. And I have often found that those who lob missiles are miserable themselves. It’s not right whatever, but I have sometimes tried to get past their anger to understand the cause of it……..and that is another aspect of getting along. Such a wonderful, powerful post! Thank you!
    Love
    Lynn

    Reply
  15. Nancy Ruegg

    Response from Pastor’s Wife #4 (!) : Your post brought to mind a difficult situation in a former church. Those at the center of the controversy had no interest in getting along–only in stirring the pot of trouble. I spoke to no one about it, not wanting to add to the problem. Looking back, I can see: carrying that burden made my dependence on God stronger and built up such character traits as self-control, perseverance, and resilience. We are now serving in a church that is exceptionally loving and friendly, truly striving to be a godly community. What a delight!

    What can church members do for their pastor’s wife? One suggestion: Take her for coffee. Ask about her background, her family, her dreams. Get to know her. Then be her advocate in conversations with others.

    So often we pastors’ wives are sounding boards for others. And that’s very gratifying, to be an active listener, offering encouragement and even a bit of advice now and then. But when someone offers to be the sounding board for us, it is a precious gift indeed.

    Reply
  16. livingrealblog

    Oh Jennifer I’ve had two similar experiences to yours, and I know the pain of it. Sometimes I think it hurts the most because it came from trusted friends. Community is definitely hard work; but well worth it.

    Reply
  17. Dea Moore

    Hate to say it but I have been on the “giving it to someone” side. It was a huge mistake. My hope that God will take what is broken and piece it back together as only he can. I am truly sorry BTW and I have made a formal apology but words.are.powerful.

    Reply
  18. Lyli @ 3-D Lessons for Life

    My old pastor used to say, “The best thing about ministry is the people And, the worst thing about ministry is the people.” I have met so many people who don’t do community any more because they were so deeply wounded by moments like this one… but, I am very thankful for women like Lisa-Jo who are still fighting for it. Thanks for sharing this with us.

    Reply
  19. aljung72

    This was encouraging for me to read. As a pastor’s wife (#5??), I too have had those direct hits more times than I can count. I just needed to hear again that the mess means there is more going on. There truly is a battle going on in our churches. It’s because Satan doesn’t want there to be beautiful loving community. I agree with Nancy above that one of the best things people can do in church for their pastors and their wives is to be their biggest advocate and assume the best instead of the worst. In fact–the best thing we can do for each other in the church is the same — assume the best and become advocates for each other. Wouldn’t that be beautiful?

    Reply
    • Nancy Ruegg

      Amen, Sister Pastor’s Wife!

      Reply
  20. alecia

    I always love coming here and reading your beautiful words. They always speak to me.

    Reply
  21. Amy

    Yes. Jennifer, as a ministry leader and missle-receiver~yes. We are all broken vessels just trying to let God’s light shine through us. I pray alongside you that we remember this. There is no perfection in those who lead and minister. Only flawed, called ones of HIS. May we shed grace on each other lavishly.

    Reply
  22. Dave Vander Laan

    Jennifer, you know my story – you know the depth of the hurt to the extent that I needed leave a church because I wanted to get well – and because the hurt made it hard to even talk within the Community about why I was hurting.

    Pastors and pastor’s wife are people, too. If those reading your blog and these comments are part of a church, I urge you to be a ‘safe’ person for your pastor or their spouse. Hold confidences, be trustworthy of things shared in conversation.

    But also be warned: If you are perceived as getting cozy with the minister or their spouse as an encourager, folks in churches can also be hurtful to you.

    There’s so much more I could say but let me conclude by saying I grateful for the healing that God has brought to my family and I.

    To God be the Glory.

    And isn’t it so very interesting that Christ refers to the Church as ‘his Bride.’

    Jesus loves the church. Most of the ministers and spouses I know that are serving churches also love the global Church as well as the local church that has extended a call to the pastor to serve this Bride of Christ.

    Maybe just this simple, common sense but gospel-goodness reminder to close my comments: Speak with the pastor and their spouse as you would like to be spoken to.

    Reply
    • Paula Gamble

      I’ve definitely can relate to being hurt by community and church. Both of your stories, Jennifer and Dave, really encourage me to not give up and to love the Church like Jesus does, and be a safe person myself for others.

      Reply
  23. Melanie

    yes, hard work it is. And like so many things it is the hard work that reveals the depth of beauty we don’t always get to see.
    And as so many other commenters, married to someone in ministry provides a front role to so much relational dynamics- both personally and those who confide in you. There is a layer there for me that takes trust a bit longer to build..

    Reply
  24. Alicia Bruxvoort

    Wow… I have so many “hard work” pains running through my mind- and this perspective brings hope that simmers above the hurt. Thank you.

    Reply
  25. SB

    As I finished reading this there was a deep sigh, a groan really that came deep from my heart. I am there right now. I want to give up on community. I will not, Christ calls me to unity, to love, to forgive no matter how hard, no matter what others do or say. I must continue on in Him and His strength doing what He calls me to do, but it feels good to at least be able to acknowledge that it’s hard and there are those here that understand.

    Thank you beloved for this word today.

    Reply

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