PPerhaps, the best (and worst) thing about being a pastor was the people. Probably, everyone could say the same thing, not just pastors and church-going folks. But pastoring a small church is a relationally intensive endeavor. I loved so many of the friends I made in those years as a pastor, and still do. But a small church is a family, and all families have a weird uncle.
Churches attract weird people, some relatively normal ones, too. But some people go to church with unrealistic expectations of having their needs met, or with the unexpressed desire for some well-intentioned people to enable their unhealthy behavior.
I have had people in my house after midnight, people consuming hours on the phone, and people lined up at my office door late at night, all telling me about their problems. Some people were stuck, trying to figure out their marriage. Some were looking for someone to take their side in a relational dispute. Some were experiencing chronic emotional issues, but didn’t want to do what they needed to do to get better. Some just wanted to just complain about something. I could tell you some stories about people that would make you laugh and cry, surprise and shock you, but I don’t want to get sued, so I will move along.
Sometimes pastors and church people feel they have to not only love, but like everyone. Big mistake! Some people are asses. Sometimes, I am an ass! It would be ultimately disrespectful to ourselves, others, and God himself to try to like everyone. Unfortunately, we tend to feel guilty when we can’t pull off this “sweet Christian who just loves (and likes) everyone” act.
I am feeling a bit like an ass as I write this. There are times to go out on a limb for people who have nothing to offer because we love them. There are times, even whole seasons for selfless service and sacrifice. That’s what love does, but it needs to be balanced by reasonable expectations, and the realization that we also need some true friends.
People are beautiful, and ugly; delightful and messy. It’s a good idea to protect our own psyche, and hang out we people who build us up, and are soul companions on this journey called life.
In recent years, I have given myself freedom to not like everyone, not trust everyone, and not want to be marooned on a deserted island with an ass. It’s okay!
Photo Credit: Otmar Lichtenwörther. Creative Commons.