Minister’s Wife Monday | Loneliness in Ministry Part 1: I Don’t Have Any Like-minded Friends!
Last week, I shared here on the blog and in our Facebook group for pastor’s wives, that I wanted to tackle the topic of loneliness in ministry. Ladies, your response blew me away:
I do not have any close friends and my family lives three hours away. I cannot even get a babysitter when I need one sometimes! Having a child with special needs also makes it difficult without support. I am not perfect and my kids are not perfect.
Sometimes I have feelings of loneliness because I feel like I have no one I can trust and talk to. Being a ministers wife it seems you’re the target and your life has to be perfect at all times.
I’m not a minister’s wife, but see a lot of loneliness in the church community. I see a lot of activity in the church, but sometimes relationships are lacking. It seemed like it was hard to find people who want to share life with me.
I feel like some of my casual friends are intimidated by me, thinking (wrongly!) that I have it all together, or that I’m on some different level.
Do you have any tips for reaching out to others? If we are all on the loneliness scale then we also need to reach out to another (lonely) minister’s wife.
Let me start of by saying, I am not the wife of a pastor; I am the Christian Education Director and our church and I am REALLY struggling with loneliness right now. I feel like I don’t have any “true” friends. It’s very difficult when your job is at the place where you’re supposed to be fed spiritually. Often, I’m bombarded with questions, issues, crises, etc. when I just want to pray or worship like everyone else. I can’t just hang out with my friends from church, because talk always goes back to something involving work. I love love love my job, but sometimes I feel like I can’t just be me.
The ministry certainly is a place of loneliness, not only for the wife, but also for the children. I would also like to see that addressed – how we as Mom’s can help our children.
Ladies, the feelings and experiences you expressed here at the blog (and the many other comments shared in our private Facebook group) opened my eyes to how deeply so many of us- ministry wives and laymen’s wives alike- struggle with this painful thing called loneliness.
I told my husband last week, “I have no idea what to tell these ladies. I think I got in over my head with this one. What can I say that will possibly help?”
“Just tell them how the Lord helped you,” Jeremy replied.
I can do that, ladies. I can share my own heart and experiences.
I haven’t cried your tears or lived your life or woke up to your challenges. But I have lived my own challenges, and I will gladly share that with you.
Here are my thoughts on loneliness in ministry when you don’t have many (or any) like-minded friends:
I felt like an outsider looking in.
As a young pastor’s wife in a rural community and a very small church, I often felt like the one just outside “the circle.”
Women in our church had their families and life-long acquaintances (in small towns, everyone has known everyone else for generations!); I was the new kid with no roots and no history to tie me to anyone.
My friends from other churches had their own circle of companions, so when I fellowshipped with other women’s groups it felt awkward. Part of that was my own insecurities, but it felt awkward just the same.
Even church fellowship meetings and church camp could feel lonely at times, since our family lived so far away from other circles of church fellowships. Most of the time, we saw other ministry families only once or twice a year, so it was a challenge to feel like I ever “connected” with anyone.
I was afraid of being rejected or criticized.
Loneliness is a painful place, but fearfulness is even more painful. I have lived both, and one seems to reproduce the other.
As a young pastor’s wife, I struggled to keep the facade of perfection in front of me, mostly to protect myself from criticism. Maybe I assumed that people expected perfection, but most of my expectations were driven from within.
I could never meet my own expectations, so I assumed I wouldn’t meet other people’s expectations either. That was a very lonely and self-defeating way to live.
I struggled with being real, I struggled with hospitality, I struggled to build relationships with women whom I expected would get to know me and feel that I didn’t measure up.
It seemed easier to keep others at a safe distance.
I imagined finding a “perfect” friend, instead of cultivating relationships with the women around me.
As a pastor’s kid who grew up in a rural area and experienced a lot of loneliness in my teenage years, I always imagined finding this “perfect” friend. Kind of like Anne Shirley and Diana Barry from Anne of Green Gables; a kindred spirit. Someone who really “got” me and understood me.
I think I carried that expectation with me into marriage and ministry, because in my early years, I found both to be a lonely place.
As a pastor’s wife, it was easy to look around at the women in my life and think, I can’t be close friends with her… she is too different from me, or doesn’t understand me, or has no idea what I’m going through right now.
The “reasons” were endless, but no one ever fit the bill of a “perfect” friend for me.
Women wanted to talk when I felt like I needed a listening ear.
Women wanted me to pray for them and hardly ever asked if I had a prayer request to share.
Women complained about their husbands and never seemed to think that I might be struggling in my marriage as well, with no one to guide me through the issues.
Women fussed about their financial issues when I was silently wincing, If only you knew what our ministry salary feels like right now!
I felt like I was always giving, giving, giving.
As selfish as it sounds, sometimes I just wanted someone to pour into my soul instead of always draining it!
I assumed that friendship was the missing link in my life, and that a few like-minded, understanding friends would fill the deep emptiness in my heart.
I usually waited for someone to reach out to me.
As a twenty-three year old newbie pastor’s wife, I had a lot to learn. One thing that loneliness in ministry taught me is that I cannot wait for others to reach out to me, but that’s exactly what I did for many years.
By nature I’m an introvert and tend to be rather quiet in social settings, so pushing myself to be others-focused (instead of self-focused) was a long and painful learning process.
I think the Lord saw my heart and sent me a friend in the form of a fellow pastor’s wife: Sis. Leah McClure’s husband pastored a church in our community, and I met her the very weekend Jeremy and I moved into the parsonage at our first church in west Texas.
Sis. Leah befriended me, but most of all she taught me how to reach out to others. She taught me how to lead women as a pastor’s wife. She showed me what it was like to be a giver, to be others-focused.
I sat in her home and ladies’ groups often and just watched her live.
She was always reaching out, and that finally reached my heart. I remember the night I sat in our van on the way home from church, praying that God would teach me how to build relationships with the women in our church the way Sis. Leah did. That was a start!
This post is getting too long, but there is more I want to share.
Let’s do another post on this topic tomorrow… we’ll call it “Things Loneliness Taught Me About Friendship.”