October has been set aside for appreciation of our pastors. I encourage you to pray for them and their families.
Within our personal issues of vulnerability, there are usually great problems. These are tender areas: Alcoholism, drug abuse, mental illnesses, homosexuality, sex addiction, porn and chronic depression are all substantial issues of pain and conflict. But as defeated strugglers we are often intimidated by leadership in the Church.
It seems all we can see is their authority, and we are fearful. Typically, in our fellowships, our pastors and elders are men. And that alone can sometimes create issues in hearts looking for a tenderness that will heal.
Rather than opening our brokenness up to our shepherds, we fabricate illusions of sufficiency and invulnerability. We are afraid, and our pain still resides in our hearts. (We were never designed to carry this.)
As strugglers with great pain and confusion, we often brand ourselves as hopeless and completely defeated. Some of us secretly believe that they have committed the unpardonable sin. But this is a lie, as God forgives every sin.
They’ve heard they are going to hell no matter what they do, so they are permanently separated from God. They need to know this is a lie, because when “we confess our sins, the blood of Jesus covers them ALL and cleanses us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
Many of us who struggle have a ugly and a twisted sense of our leaders in the Church. We get “really weird” whenever we meet them– an intense paranoia. Typically, we sense avoidance of those who try to pastor us. As a result our flaws and weaknesses will only grow us away (not towards) the Church.
Cellulitis is bacterial infection of the skin and underlying tissue. While I was in the Army, I developed this inflammation in my right forearm. It started as a very small spot. My arm quickly ballooned up, and within days I couldn’t bend my arm. The infection just continued to grow and spread. But I refused to see a physician. When I finally did, they had to drain the wound, and I was put on heavy-duty antibiotics and bedrest. I could have easily lost my arm.
Often we try to live a life separated from outside intervention. We avoid people who could really help us. But we are sick, and need a pastor or elder to work through these things. But they intimidate us, and we expect to be rebuked, reprehended and rejected. Certainly that there is often a need for scriptural correction, but always in love– and even some tears.
An Open Note to All Pastors and Leaders:
There is almost always a definite frailty that is common in the hearts of us strugglers. We have fought for our spirituality, sanity, personality and even our sexuality. We have very few relationships, and the ones we do have are seldom healthy. We are intimidated by authority and afraid of any kind of transparency. We live under a enormous pile of shame and nasty guilt.
We need “good shepherds” that can be deliberately gentle and tender. Pastors and elders ought to reflect the astonishing grace of God. We need His deep love, and you must show us what that’s like. Please show us. Verbalize it. We need to know that we have been forgiven, over and over. Make much of the Grace of God.
You may already know this, but some in your flock have broken walls. Our boundaries are down; they are crumbled, and we are in true danger. We need you to help us, and share His love and acceptance, and yours as well. We need to be immersed in the atmosphere of spiritual kindness and forgiveness. It’s not you being a perfect pastor, but us together knowing a perfect God, who flows through yours (and my) imperfection quite willingly.
“We don’t forgive people because they deserve it. We forgive them because they need it–because we need it.” ― Bree Despain
We are not like the “norms” in your congregations. It is highly unlikely we will be completely healed in this life. Also, many of us are gifted by the Holy Spirit, but we are flawed and we struggle a lot. Pastors must grow in their gifting, so maybe we will grow together. But please consider this; perhaps you need us as much as we need you (?).