Thursday, January 25, 2007

Love Your Enemies

At times, as a pastor's wife, it can seem like the congregation is against you. Often, this is not the case, but it can seem it. It can seem like people are unfairly criticizing your kids, assaulting your husband, judging your life...the list goes on and on.

Sometimes it is the case. So what do you do? Often, you can't fight back. It only makes it worse, makes your husband look bad, and is often sinning.

In either case, you love them.

It's hard to do. It really is hard to do, and I know there are times that my soul fights against it. So I pray....in the end, that is the final solution. I pray. I pray that God changes my heart so that I can love my husband's flock, and those with whom I am part of the Body of Christ. I pray that he makes the situation better and that He brings peace when there is a situation. I pray for strength.

But most of all, I pray for them. Each and every one of them as many as I can. I've found that in both congregations that my husband has served, my heart and the situations have changed drastically when I remember to do this.

One thing I love about how we do Communion, is that everyone goes up to the Communion rail, it fills up, and then everyone kneels and takes Communion. Then, the next table goes up. We don't do it "assembly line style" or pass the elements down the pews. So as everyone goes up and kneels before the altar, I pray for them. If I know something about their life situation, I pray for that, if I don't, I pray that God blesses them. If they are one of the ones whom I find difficult, I pray about that and pray that God heals the situation and eases their pain. If I don't remember their names, I pray for them anyway. If I see them kneel as if they ache, I pray for their health. If they are widowed, I pray that they are not lonely. etc.


In my own heart, my anxiety softens. Over time, and really not too long a time, I've seen things become better, or at very least, easier. Even if it doesn't seem like the other person's relationship toward me improves (and often it does), my heart has more peace.


It helps, it really does.

15 comments:

Susan said...

Amen to that! And if you'll have patience with the "broken record," the other thing that has changed my heart in those situations is confessing my irritation or my grudges. The absolution changes hearts. And then when you pray for your brothers and sisters along with private confession/absolution, God certainly remakes attitudes.

Rebellious Pastor's Wife said...

Keep going with the broken record, Susan. Amen. While I have not sought out a father confessor (someday...), I know that when I do confess those to God or to my husband, it certainly does reshape my attitudes.

Favorite Apron said...

Lora - I'd venture to say that people are not thinking critically of you nearly as much as you think they are.

Lisa Cullen said...

Hi there. I'm a staff writer at TIME magazine, and I'm working on a story about how pastors' wives are connecting through the Internet. I've been reading and enjoying your blog. I'd love to interview you, if you're willing. Please contact me at lisa_cullen@timemagazine.com and let me know if and when I may reach you.
Lisa Cullen

Mumme Mom said...

what a great reminder Lora - thanks I needed to hear that today, especially. I'm going to try that - praying for the people during communion - although I'm also singing - so maybe I'll get out the facebook and try it that way too.

Marie N. said...

Wise words for those of us who are not pastor's wives too.

Rebellious Pastor's Wife said...

Polly,

I am very sure that people are not as critical of me as it seems like. As a matter of fact, I think in the last year or so, I don't feel it as much anymore.

When I first got here, I did. Maggie was just over one year old and it was Fall and the congregation was in its most active time, and it seemed like whenever anything was going on....I was confined at home with Maggie because if she didn't get her nap, she'd be miserable -- both to herself and to all subjected to her. It seemed like I couldn't do ANYTHING because Jeff was obligated to do his thing. It took a long time to overcome that and to not feel isolated from some of the other people in the congregation. We've had a couple of places where we've butted heads though, and it was a very tense time. I think we've gotten to a place where the congregation is more comfortable with who we are, and it feels like home. That helps a lot.

But I don't think I got there before I remembered that I used to pray for the people at our previous congregation (I remembered when we were visiting there on vacation), and I wasn't doing that here. A lot of things seemed to click when we got back.

You are right, people probably weren't as critical as it felt like, but there are times when it sure can feel like it. Sometimes I have to assess whether or not that is a reality.

Emily said...

Just moving to a new congregation and having a baby is a full plate! (I know since I did the same thing!) On top of that, there are different customs and even ways of thinking depending on what geographical area you've moved to. It can be easy to tread on some toes, but I think the congregation mostly expects this and immediately forgives.

In my case, I think it was helpful to have a new baby. Even though I didn't get to "do" a lot of things, when I was able to try to get to know some of the people better, my new son was a great "ice breaker".

To be a pastor's wife is to bear the cross along with our husbands and I can only be amazed that God finds me sufficient enough (for I usually don't feel that way!).

Cool Mama said...

I don't often leave comments, but I do read your blog. This post, hit home, as I've been blogging a bit about how hard it is as a pastor's wife, to handle some of the negative stuff that comes at you, thru the congregation. You're post on what communion does for you, softening your heart is awesome. A wonderful reminder - that it's not about the other person changing, it about 'us' finding peace in God, to let it go. Good post! Keep it up!

Unashamed said...

I read this post last night just before going to bed. Today at work I had to deal with a really, really obnoxious client. It was tense, to the point that it left me shaking with frustration. Ordinarily, I stew and brew over that kind of stuff. Today I remembered this post. So instead I prayed; gave it over. And that's the end of it. No stewing! No brewing! Yay! Just wanted to let you know.

Rebellious Pastor's Wife said...

Thank you for sharing that. God bless you.

Marjorie Hall said...

Thank you so much for your post. I am excited to see that Time magazine wants to interview you. You will be a lovely representative for Pastor’s wives every where!

Certainly God uses our husband's flocks to strengthen our own faith. As we pray for them, God works in our hearts to help us forgive them and relate to them in Christian love, despite the past.

However, this week has brought new things to my heart and mind as I ask God to reconcile the things I thought I could not. It is not always loving to reconcile hurts without confronting them! Just as many misinterpret the word discipline and what that looks like, so I think we misinterpret the word confrontation. It brings to mind in-your-face yelling and overall pushiness, both things undesirable in a Pastor's wife or anyone!

And yet the Bible tells us if a brother sins against us to "go and tell him his fault" Matthew 18:15. Not, "go and tell him his fault if you feel it's really bad" or "go and tell him his fault if you've been praying about it for a long time and still feel hurt" or “go and tell him his fault unless you are a Pastor’s wife, then just pray about it and don’t say anything” or "go and tell him his fault so you can show him what a loser he is"...I could go on, but I'll stop there :).

But, I struggle with how to confront in love and to God's glory. I find it much easier to smile and pretend I do not hear them criticizing my husband directly behind my back. I find it easier to put unrealistic expectations on my children so as not to insult the members who think kids should be seen and not heard, especially Pastor's children. It is much simpler when someone comes to me and says, "Jane Doe is mad at you because of reason #432, but don't say anything to her because I wasn't supposed to tell you" to pretend I don't know and get to work praying for Jane Doe and her secret messenger.

But I wonder, are these things meant to be ignored except in our private prayers and confessions? Are we supporting one another in our Christian walk by feigning ignorance to these happenings? For the record, I am truly asking these questions, both of you all and of our heavenly Father.

Sir N said...

Obviously, I'm not a pastor's wife, but I am a PK. What's recommended if some of the congregation is critical and the pastor is greatly pressured or even unfairly pushed out?

Sir N said...

..I'm not trying to put you on the spot or anything, just think about it a fair bit since it happened to my dad.

-Aaron N
http://blog.higherthings.org/theologicopisco/

Rebellious Pastor's Wife said...

By God's grace, I've never had our congregational conflicts get to this (though there have been times where they have hurt), but I have friends who have. Having someone you love deeply be exposed to such hostility hurts a lot. In some ways, I think it hurts more because we know how good, how loving, how conscienscious the pastor is....more than anyone. And we know how much it hurts them. For me, it is harder for me to forgive in this situation, knowing that the congregation is hurting someone that I love deeply, as well as not even taking my kids into account in their behavior. And to think that their sinfulness means that a family's way of life, relationships, and possibly even security is jeopardized by such spite....I've been praying for your family since this happened, and I'm really sorry that it did happen.

But the answer still is pray for these people. This is what Jesus means when He says to love your enemies. The inverse, which we could wish on no one, is to want to see them damned. We can't hate like that. Satan preys upon Christians and feeds upon them and rejoices in this kind of strife. He leads people to become absorbed by their pride and hate. Pray that they repent. Pray that those who were righteous are protected from them. Pray that the congregation is still able to come to a place where they are once again faithful to God's Word and that they never, ever do this to another pastor. Pray that those who did act against your dad are not so engulfed by their pride and sinfulness that they lose their faith.

Pray for your father. He's a good man, and from what I know, acted with love and mercy. Pray for your mother, who hurts too. Pray for yourself that you can forgive and come to peace with it. I really doubt that you will ever have anyone come to you and say "I'm sorry we did that." But Christ gives the peace that passes understanding, and sometimes that promise that it "passes all understanding" is what brings me comfort, because there are times that things happen where we just don't understand and never will.

I came across this today, when I was reading. It's from the Book of Concord, in section XIIB (VI) of the Apology. Melancthon was arguing with the Catholic teaching that if you are suffering, it is because you did something that merited it....

"Indeed, terrified consciences should be taught that there are more important purposes for afflictions, so that they do not think God is rejecting them when they see nothing but God's punishment and anger in troubles. The other more important purposes are to be considered, that is, that God is doing His
strange work so that He may be able to do His own work, as Isaiah 28 teaches in a long speech.....Therefore, troubles are not always punishments for certain past deeds, but they are God's works, intended for our benefit, and that God's power might be made more apparent in our weakness."

Even in something that seems so against God's will, He is loving you and using this for His good.

Really, what your father experienced was a small sample of what God experiences when we rebel against Him, and the grief that God feels when His beloved children walk away from Him is even greater than what your dad experienced as his flock rebelled against him. Not that I am trying to minimize anything your family has experienced. I know that it hurts, terribly.

I hope this helps and doesn't come across as trite. It isn't meant to be. It isn't easy, it isn't simple...but it is what Christ does for us.