There are some lessons you learn from books or teachings, and then there are some lessons you must learn the hard way. One of the lessons that I thought I had learned from teachings, I ended up actually learning the hard way when I implemented that learning. There is this ugly little thing called “familiarity”. I call it ugly, but it can be a beautiful thing when used in the correct context. Like when you are so familiar with your husband that you can finish his thought or the punch line to a joke. Or you are so familiar with your sibling that you can pick out clothing for them and they love it. But familiarity can get you into a lot of trouble when not used correctly.
When you are in leadership, whether it is your position or your spouses position, people are watching you. And they put together a picture in their head of what you are, whether it is accurate or not. Then when they get to know you, often their image of you comes crashing into the reality of you. They see your flaws, they see the booger in your nose and the runs in your hose, and sometimes they don’t deal with it well. They begin to chip away at their respect for your position. Like, “Oh yeah they say that, but I know what they really think.” When someone becomes familiar with you and doesn’t handle that information correctly, they can have a really hard time living under your delegated authority.
I learned this lesson the hard way when I first stepped into leadership. I was 18 or 19 and I was made a leader in the youth church. The issue I had was that I was still friends with many of the teens I was supposed to be leading. They knew how I had acted (I had a big come back to Jesus meeting with myself when I was 18), they knew what I had done, and so it was hard to establish any influence with them (because leadership is simply influence). And this caused several issues. And I really struggled to find my balance. I wanted to stay friends and hang out and have sleep overs, but I wanted them to respect and submit to the authority I now had. Trust me, I didn’t handle that struggle well. I have a tendency to jump from one ditch to another, so the conclusion I came to after one too many broken relationships was that I just wasn’t going to have any friends. Sure, I had friends that were fellow leaders (haha, I married one of them!!), but I kept everyone else at arms length. And when Jamie got ordained and I came on staff at the church, the struggle only got harder. Now not only did I reflect myself, Christ, and the youth church, now my every action reflected my husband and the ENTIRE MINISTRY and our senior pastors! Yeah, no pressure there! I struggled and pleaded with God on this issue of “friends”. My closest friend was and still is Tammy. And believe me, she knows me without me having to say a word, and I know a lot about her, but there is still a respectful distance because she is still my leader. I can go to her with anything, and have gone to her with everything, but I know I don’t know everything about her. And I shouldn’t. She is my leader, I don’t need to know about her marriage and the details of her relationship with her children. I know enough (I’ll talk more about establishing this respectful distance in a later post). I love her dearly. But still I struggled with this thing called friends.
One afternoon I was at Pastor Connie’s house for a meeting of some pastors wives and other women in ministry. After the lesson (which was awesome, I LOVE learning from Pastor Connie!!!!!!), we were all standing around chatting and the subject of friends came up. One of the ladies said, “when you are in the ministry you just can’t have friends.” And oh that has been my motto for a long time, but it still hurts. I have shed many tears over the issue of friends. But then Pastor Connie said something that totally rocked my world. Sure people always say stuff like, “God will always be your friend.” But really? I understand that concept, and I appreciate it, but sometimes I just need someone with skin to hug, a girlfriend to cry with, someone to giggle with. But Pastor Connie said, “God will always be there with skin on… but He doesn’t always wear the same skin. And you can’t mourn when the skin changes.” Wow. I don’t know if you understand how profound that is. I had always felt like I would have a friend for a little while, then something would either happen or we would just move on, and it always hurt. This statement totally rocked my world. God doesn’t always wear the same skin, but He will always be there with skin on. I have to keep my eyes and heart open to the skin that He is wearing for that season.
This has been a long struggle for me, and its not over just yet, I’m still learning. But if someone had said that to me 5 years ago, I would have spared myself many heartaches. So I hope that helps you as much as it helped me. God will always be there with skin on, but He doesn’t always wear the same skin.