As a little girl I watched a lot of old black and white vampire movies with my Dad. I have no clue why in the world he let me watch those because I was always terrified of the dark and living beside a graveyard, I swore every night that I saw ghosts rise from those graves. Even as I look back and realize those vampire movies were a little moronic, I still developed a habit that has stuck to this day. I sleep with the covers up around my neck to keep the vampires away. It’s true. A habit I developed as an eight year old has stuck with me over 32 years and while I’m no longer “scared” of vampires, I’ve built up a lot of defenses along the way as I look back over my life. Going into being a pastor’s wife twenty something years ago, I went into it probably a little naive considering that was the only life I’d ever known, being the daughter of a pastor. I went into it thinking that everyone would like me and we would have the closest staff ever. About a year into in, it became clear to me that it wasn’t going to be this way. Our first church, and even our second, have both ended in heartbreak. While I wouldn’t want to go back to the actual circumstances, I learned so much about loving well and leading well from those two places.
1. It’s true. Not everyone will like you. How funny that we think they will when we are completely human and we probably don’t even like everyone. It boils down to it’s not about the liking, but it’s how well we are loving.
2. The walls eventually have to come down. After my reality checks in ministry, I built up some pretty sturdy walls from letting people in. I so hate to hear myself say I don’t let people in easily, but I don’t. It’s been lopsided for me. I have probably gained more ground in loving them, but the enemy frequently convinces me that I can enter their lives, but I have to “keep the covers up around my neck” when letting anyone else in. Over time, and truly in a place like LifeSong, Jeff and I have sought to create a culture of loving people NO MATTER WHAT the situation. This means walls have to come down and we have to be real with one another.
3. You cannot lead or love well if your head is stuck up your backside. I’m nothing if not brutally honest, and I’m equally as passionate about this one. We have to get in the trenches and messy with people (I know these visuals I’m giving are a bit much, but true). This demands we take focus off ourselves and never ask for people to be something that we are not willing to be ourselves. I cannot ask people to be real with me if I’m unwilling to be real with them. This is not a diarrhea of the mouth, tell every deep, dark secret to everyone, but this is a you know exactly who God has brought into your life to share life with, and that’s what you do – you share life! You can never lead or love others farther than you are willing to lead yourself.
4. Love speaks. Loves listens. And in case you weren’t paying attention above, it gets in the trenches. I think we’ve constructed a world around ourselves today that hides behind the LIKE button and assumes that people know we care. You never stop telling people you love them. Over time, I can 100% tell you that we function from the land of assumption. We just go around thinking that the people we share life with know we love them. Let me clue you in. They don’t always know and as much as we want to be reminded we are loved, so do they.You always need to show interest in each other’s lives. Just yesterday, I watched our services online and heard our campus pastor publicly tell everyone, in a nutshell, that he loved and respected my husband as pastor. As a wife, you want your husband to be respected, and even more as a pastor that loves the people we lead. Knowing you are loved and respected never go unnoticed. Love also listens. Sometimes the best love we can offer is no reply at all, but to just sit and hold the hand of another and really hear what they have so say. That’s hard for those of us that always have to be prepared to give an answer, but it is vital!
5. We are not leading or loving well if pleasing people is our motivation. From a recovering people-pleaser, this one is hard, but when I came to a place of understanding I can break my neck to please others, I still never will please everyone. When I focus on doing exactly what God is asking of me, then that’s all I’m responsible for. I cannot dictate that others will reciprocate love for me, or that they will follow my leadership, but I can lay my head down at night knowing I’ve been well-pleasing to God. I’m well-pleasing to Him when I love the lovable and the unlovable well. That takes the stress of running ourselves crazy to be everything to all people.
We are all leading someone. Let me encourage you today to take steps today to love others well. I don’t want to give up, shut up or quit on anyone God has given me to lead. Don’t lose hope today. You will reap a reward for simply leading and loving well!