Put Up Guardrails But Not Walls
I recently wrote a blog on trusting God. A day after I wrote it, the question came to my mind “who do you trust in this world?” As a woman in ministry and a pastor’s wife, I have often thought about this. I have talked with other pastors’ wives about who our people are.
Back when I was a newly married pastor’s wife, I didn’t fully comprehend the complexities of ministry. I was young. We moved to a place I didn’t know anyone and I wanted friends. I didn’t understand the importance of having guardrails in my relationships with people in our church. Having women friends to confide in is important. But there is wisdom in having boundaries. Over time, I learned to build friendships in the church but not talk about church inner workings. I learned if those things came up, I could tell them I didn’t want to talk about it and move on. Those who truly want a friendship with you will respect that.
Thinking back to those early days, I get the chills about certain situations where I had no guardrails. I remember one cringy situation like it was yesterday. I was a 24-year-old pastor’s wife. I worked for a woman in the church. She was someone I looked up to and really wanted a friendship with. One day we were having a company meeting and most of the people there also attended the church. She started talking about an event that took place at the church the week before.
She told us how poorly it was run and how it could have been a good event. I felt awkward. Right there in the meeting, I asked “why was the event done poorly?” Yes, I did actually ask that. With a room full of people, she looked squarely in my eyes and said “because of your husband”. Whew. My entire body froze. This was the beginning of learning guardrails in friendships. Not having these can cause division in your ministry. This story actually ends well. My husband had a hard conversation with this woman and it led to growth for all of us.
Trusting someone and having that trust broken is painful. It is like a betrayal. It stings.
Eventually, I learned to build friendships with people in a safe way. I had confidants about my ministry struggles who were not people in my church. I also carefully invested in friendships with those at my church. To this day, I am still great friends with a handful of people from the church we served 20 years ago. If we didn’t have boundaries back then, a true friendship would not have been made and would certainly not last 20 years. I used to think that if someone was truly my friend we could talk about anything and expose everything. I learned that is completely untrue. Guardrails protect a friendship.
Guardrails also protect your relationships with the other pastors on staff. To this day, I love the senior pastor and his wife from our first church 20 years ago. Sometimes we saw things differently, but there was loyalty and respect for them that my husband and I greatly protected.
There were times I wanted to be friends with a certain individual while missing out on the gems God had placed in front of me. We all can miss a friend right in front of us because we want the one across the room. Look to the one God has placed before you. You can be a source of life to them and they back to you.
Several years ago, I tried so hard to be friends with someone who worked closely with my husband. I gave her little gifts on Sundays when she was serving. I encouraged her and invited her out places. She wanted no part of being friends. I felt hurt. I wondered why there was this rejection. She became cold toward me. Instead of being so bothered by it, I should have just moved on. Not everyone is going to be friends with you. And you won’t always know why. Looking back, I think God was protecting me. This would not have been a safe friendship.
When we left a church that we served in for almost 4 years, I didn’t want to build relationships in our new church. Going through a painful separation made me angry at myself. I regretted building relationships with people and investing in people who seemed to easily walk away. Looking back I realize God blessed me with a precious friend that has stood by my side even through this loss. My friendship with her grew because of this experience. She is a powerful prayer warrior and encourager who always has my back. She is a rare gem.
Church friendships are hard because sometimes you must walk away and start all over again. I felt the need to put a wall up. Don’t trust again. I will minister and serve but I will not build friendships. I was protecting myself. Unfortunately, and fortunately, I am terrible at putting up walls. I feel like I am trying to make myself into someone I am not. I have always been someone who wants to be best friends with everyone.
So after 4 years, I felt I was back to square one. I decided to be friendly but have no friends. Then I met the senior pastor’s wife at our new church and loved her immediately. I told myself not to love her, but I wouldn’t listen to myself. Again — I am terrible at walls. She has been a source of refreshing over my wearied soul.
Her quiet strength and wisdom have spoken to me. She has been an example of the kind of pastor’s wife I want to be, soft-hearted but tough in the best possible way. She has taken me out to many meals and let me talk her ear off. She listens graciously and answers all my curious questions about her journey in ministry. Her friendship is such a gift.
I don’t know about you, but when someone I respect and look up to invests in and loves me, it boosts my spirit in a powerful way because it makes me feel like I am someone who has something to offer. If I had put up a wall to protect myself, I would have missed out on this life-giving friendship.
This has challenged me to tear down the walls I put up for protection. I am so thankful for the relationship I have with the senior pastor’s wife. I am learning that not having a defensive wall up might expose me to some pain in my life. But having the wall up could make me miss out on so much more. There is a risk in investing in friendships and trusting people. But if I let that risk make me retreat then I am risking something even greater. And that is a lost relationship that will yield great fruit in my life. Will you take a chance with me and open your heart to friendship once again?
Remember, guardrails but not walls.