“I thought Hell would freeze over before she spoke to me.”
Those were the words spoken about me by a lady in the church where Jason and I first served. She told another lady in town, and that lady told me.
I'm certain she genuinely felt ignored. I was truly crushed. I had indeed spoken to her, and to the best of my ability, I had spoken to everybody else. Besides our brevity in having arrived at that church, I was twenty-four with a three-year-old who’d tried to do somersaults during the children's sermon.
Every Sunday, I would welcome people in the sanctuary, careful not to be so brief in my greeting that I seemed like a politician; smiling, waving and kissing babies. I genuinely wanted to talk to people, something that's fairly easy for me.
The truth is, the act of simply behaving in a friendly manner at church can be overwhelming, especially for pastor's wives. People want engagement, not lip service. Some don't appreciate being bypassed. This doesn't even take into account the fact that pastor's wives have little time for friendliness if they're playing the piano, teaching Sunday school or making sure their children aren't rolling under the pews. Close friendships aren't easily fashioned through church alone.
For some of us, forming and keeping friendships outside the church can prove complicated too.
Approaching a recent pastor wives retreat, a questionnaire was sent out requesting topic ideas. Most every pastor’s wife desired conversation and advice surrounding the loneliness and friendlessness that accompany our job.
Pastor’s wives relay stories detailing rejection. One woman was told that her attendance at a Girl’s Night Out would hamper the lively conversation they were seeking. Another felt that ladies would come to her, divulging secrets and seeking counsel, leading her to believe she’d been considered a trusted friend after she felt avoided. Some have felt avoided by women, without opportunity to have earned rejection. Many of us have been introduced, both inside and outside church, simply as the pastor’s wife, seemingly sealing up an identity that conjures an impersonal image.
We must keep on our toes to behave in a manner befitting a pastor's wife, but feel an expectation to be real. We try to give good counsel while desiring a secret-keeper concerning our deepest struggles. We try not to be too preachy, too loud, or too quiet because we perceive we’re being watched whether or not we truly are.
Every church I've been a part of in my family's ministry has been full of incredibly friendly and generous people who’ve treated me kindly. And every community I've lived in are wonderful women. I'm guessing (and hoping) you can relate.
So why do we feel friendless?
We're outsiders. Most of us haven't spent the years in a church or community that it takes to grow roots. In a strange way, we’re insiders too, making some think we’re unapproachable.
In attempt to be inclusive, we use up our time reaching out to all we encounter, often excluding opportunity for deepening friendships.
We're understandably guarded.
Our fixed position and personality doesn't always mix. And sometimes that's off-putting.
Oh. And what if we're nothing like the previous pastor's wife?
What do we do?
Continue to love at all times as God commands a friend to do.
Come back for the next blog that reminds us of what it means to be and have friends.
Kristi Burden and her husband, Jason, currently reside with their three children in Nederland, TX, where they serve at First Baptist Church. She's a professional pillow fluffer, a Dr. Pepper and Facebook junkie and a collector of unexpected beauty. She's so grateful for grace that she wants to share it.