Do you remember when we used to be able to have discussions that revealed differences of opinions and we could still walk away as friends?
The ability to reason with one another respectfully seems to be a thing of the past. I’m not sure that we can pinpoint one catalyst for this cultural shift, but it is one that deeply saddens me especially as I consider the world my kids are inheriting.
The isolation of 2020 was difficult, but now I find myself longing for the solitude and for a quieting of the cacophony of voices. Turns out that there were some positives to our forced sheltering-in-place. Everyone has an opinion on everything and if you aren’t loud or obnoxious about it then do you really care? As I’ve watched the hostility grow, I have found myself growing quieter and quieter. There is great wisdom in James 1:19 when he says, “Let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” ESV
I value having friendships with others who disagree with me. Their voices cause me to pause and to reevaluate my own opinions. There has been a softening in my perspective through the years as a result of these friendships. It’s why I rarely enter into the political realm or talk about my opinions on issues.
It doesn’t mean I don’t have an opinion, but it does mean that I would rather sit with you on Adirondack chairs by my favorite lake and have that talk with you in person.
I won’t call you a disgusting murderer if you are pro-choice and I won’t threaten to egg your house if you are pro-life (both of these are responses that friends of mine have received for sharing their beliefs).
I won’t write you off if you’re a registered Republican OR if you’re a registered Democrat. I know why you vote the way you do and I appreciate the way you have wrestled with the difficult choices we have faced in our country.
I get why hearing “All Lives Matter” makes you cringe and even seethe and I understand the reason why you can’t let go of this statement because if you believe that all of humanity was created in the image of God, how can you NOT say “All Lives Matter”?
There are so many other issues that have played into this great divide in our country, but as I watch things play out, I am convinced that we are less concerned with bridging this gap than we are are with winning the debate.
I love football. Anyone who knows me even a little knows this about me. When my team is playing, I cheer like crazy and I have been known to smack talk with friends. I have been gutted when my team has lost (and as an adult, I have had to temper my feelings knowing that I have four pairs of eyes watching my responses!).
When I consider the current values of our society, I can’t help but think that we have turned all things into a giant football game. Everyone is expected to pick a side and then to support their side with the same frenzy of a football fan. Trash talk is not only acceptable, it’s expected. You must celebrate your side with memes and social media posts aplenty. When your side wins, you are giddy with excitement. When your side loses, you find comfort in attacking and demeaning the opposition.
But this fight is not about a trivial football game. It’s a serious fight for a country that has thrived on its unity, but is now threatened by its own people.
And so, I find myself on the sidelines, not wanting to pick a side, because I long for peace and stability. If you were enjoying a cup of coffee with me, taking in the views of the water, the trees, the mountains with me, I would tell you that I have solidly decided that I am pro- Jesus. That’s it. I want to know him more and more and I desire for my responses to cultural issues to reflect his heart, not the opinion of the day. I believe that Jesus is the answer for all of the struggles that we face, but not in a hit you over the head until you believe kind of way, but in the “I have come that you might have life and have it to the full” kind of way (John 10:10).
Every opinion and stance you take, he understands. He knows your heart and the reasons why you feel the way you do. But if those values are not bringing you hope and joy and peace, might I suggest that you seek him too? He is the only thing that will not change. He will never leave you or forsake you. He holds all things together. He is always with you. His love for you will never fail. He will not write you off or cancel you.
There is great hope in this. I have found the sustaining love of Jesus to be the one constant in my life. He truly is an anchor for my soul. I hope you know this hope, this love, this security. If you don’t, there is always a seat open beside me. I’d love to have a chat.
I wonder what was said to you to make you turn away,
to leave a depth of friendship and act like it’s okay;
What lies must you believe to turn your back on me,
I didn’t do the things they said, oh, friend! Can’t you see?
I’m still the one who cried with you when your life fell apart.
I’m still the one who prays for you and cares deeply for your heart.
I stand here with my arms wide open to welcome you back home,
why do you run the other way and face your fears alone?
We all are on a journey, the paths we take diverge,
will they intersect again or are we doomed to ne’er emerge
from the road we’re traveling on of heartache and despair?
We need to take a deeper breath and come back up for air.
Remember all the truth you know, let it settle deep,
Renew your mind, restore your soul, let your sad heart weep,
Let go of all the angst you hold, the lies that you’ve believed,
Surrender to the only One who truly knows your need.
Let His love wash over you, return to learn from Him,
Seek hope, seek truth, pursue His peace and let His story win,
Stop running after lesser things and let His love hold you,
He’s never left, He’s by your side, and dear friend, I am too!
When Dave was a youth pastor in Indiana, our then senior pastor went on a sabbatical. He did all of the work necessary to pursue a grant and had the support of our church family. I watched all of this and saw the benefits to it. Our pastor had served faithfully for years and years and the sabbatical was meant to honor his service and also to give him an opportunity to be renewed for the work God had for him to do. He did indeed come back with new excitement and purpose. I knew then that I hoped my husband would have that opportunity if he served at a church for longer than seven years.
When we hit the seven year mark at our current church where my husband now serves as a senior pastor, things were going very well. Our church was growing numerically and there was an excitement among our body for what God was doing in our midst. We were in the middle of a church renovation project. It was a busy time and I didn’t think about the fact that it might be time for our church to consider offering a sabbatical to my husband. It also felt extremely awkward as the pastor’s wife to suggest that my husband might need a sabbatical. Wasn’t that a selfish request?
I know now that it is not selfish at all. Instead, it is wise. The truth is that if a church doesn’t have a sabbatical plan set in place for their pastor(s), it is likely that a pastor will get burned out before a sabbatical is granted. I’ve also learned that a sabbatical should never be used as a punishment. The whole point is to encourage the pastor to rest and to be renewed in their calling. It is meant to be a time to come away and connect with God, but if there is any insecurity about having a job when you return, the sabbatical will not have its desired effect.
Years eight and nine of ministry turned out to be the most difficult years of ministry for us. Without going into detail, I watched as my husband struggled until I realized that I needed to be an advocate for him. While I found this an obvious thing to do for my kids, I somehow felt inhibited as a pastor’s wife. It felt wrong to ask for something that would benefit my husband even though I knew he needed it.
There were days when my husband wanted to leave ministry all together. My prayers were desperate during this time. I knew that God had placed a call on my husband’s life and I knew these feelings were not from Him. And so I begged God to accomplish His will in our church and in my husband’s life. Things got worse before they got better. But through it all, we held tightly to Christ and to the Word of God. We were willing to leave if that was God’s will for us, but the tougher choice was a willingness to stay if that is what God desired.
Ultimately, God kept us where we are. In His goodness and kindness to us, my husband was granted a six week sabbatical that he took soon after our ten year anniversary at our church. For his first week, he just rested at home and worked on a coding project, something that excites him, but that he never has time for. I was still involved with our normal activities, so one day I shared with him a decision that our property team had made. He lovingly told me that he needed to not know these things. He needed to completely disconnect. For me, that was the beginning of understanding what my husband truly needed from sabbatical. He set his emails to auto respond. He turned off notifications. It was a true break from all of the pressures and the trauma of the previous years.
The second week, our family went on a trip of a lifetime to Kauai. In our entire married lives, I have seen my husband relax the most when he is snorkeling and so I wanted him to have this opportunity. For our family to be able to share those memories together was truly incredible. We are so grateful for the support of our church family. It’s what I had hoped for all of those years before as the youth pastor’s wife. God is so kind!
We celebrated Thanksgiving with family which was another gift for us. We have several family members who are in pastoral ministry and the opportunity to encourage one another and spur one another on was exactly what our hearts needed. My husband ended his sabbatical with a week alone at a cabin in the woods. It was the perfect ending to his sabbatical, an unhindered, extended time alone with God.
I have no doubts now that every church should have a sabbatical plan for their pastor(s). Don’t wait until your pastor is falling apart! The week in, week out preaching of the Word, the pressures to be all things to all people (and the corresponding criticisms that come when you inevitably don’t meet all the expectations), and the sorrow and heartbreak that you deal with on a daily basis is a heavy load. If you are a lay person in a church that does not have a sabbatical plan, might I ask you to advocate for your pastor?
We all need times of rest and renewal whether we are in vocational ministry or not. Uninterrupted time with God is part of our growth in Him. We should all seek these times for ourselves, but we should also make sure that others are having and taking those opportunities as well. It’s crucial for pastors and ministry leaders!
It has been two years since our world turned upside down, but for me personally, I can trace the beginnings of upheaval in my life to a couple of years before the global shutdown. It has been a seriously difficult time that has rattled me and shaken me. I’m still trying to gain my footing.
A few years ago, a close friend shared some difficult things with me that shook me to the core. It turned out that my impression of our relationship was vastly different from my friend’s perspective. We had deep held opinions that were in stark contradiction. I was confronted with my people pleasing tendencies and discovered that I couldn’t bear the loss of a friendship I counted as dear. I was devastated.
One night, I was face down on our bedroom floor sobbing when my husband pulled me off the ground and told me I needed to stop. As I look back now, I see this as one of the most loving things that someone has ever done for me. I was completely undone, but my husband would not let me stay there. He spoke truth over my hurting heart. He reminded me to look to Jesus for my security. He told me that I could still love my friend, but not allow their opinions to define me.
That night was pivotal.
I learned to hold tight to what I know to be true. I discovered that it is possible to honor others without capitulating to their criticisms. I realized that I would still be okay even if someone I loved had a poor opinion of me. I found out that I didn’t need to prove myself to anyone; I could in fact allow God to work on my behalf.
These discoveries have changed me. I still care deeply for others and I can’t help loving others with everything that is in me. But my worth is no longer hitched on the opinions of others.
For some of you this may feel like a “duh!” moment. Maybe it should have been obvious, but this took a ton of heart work and soul searching. It still does. I wrestle every single day with letting the criticisms and disappointments I have experienced from others go. But this work prepared me for what was yet to come.
Not long after this heart work began, I was confronted by another heart rending conversation. It was along the same vein, how terrible I was, how I had let others down, how everything had to be about me. But here’s the thing: I had learned that when people criticize me, it’s important to look for the truth, but not accept anything beyond that. And a big clue about truth- if you know that your motivations and intentions do not match with the other person’s perspective, but they refuse to accept that, you can let that thing go. You can still love the other person and know that they are wrong about you.
In God’s goodness, at the same time that this new relationship issue was surfacing, the old one was being resolved and reconciled in a way that only God could have orchestrated. I had not changed my opinions simply to appease and satisfy my friend and now her opinions were softening and shifting. It was a beautiful thing to sit back and watch. It gave me hope in the midst of this new truly devastating time.
When I was a young girl, my parents gave me a sign that had my name and a Bible verse on it to hang on my wall. That verse was 1 Corinthians 15:58. “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the Lord’s work, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” This verse has become my life verse and now I know why. Remaining steadfast during the storms that came as a result of that friendship breach was the only way I made it through. I knew that I couldn’t convince anyone, but I also knew that I needed to hold firmly to what I believed to be true. Be steadfast! Keep being faithful! These were the words I clung to during the darkest days.
My Mom was a rock for me during that time, praying for me, crying with me, reminding me to hold firmly to Jesus. Her maiden name was “Lindsay” and our family has always been proud of our Sottish heritage. The Lindsay family motto is “Endure Fort” which means “Suffer bravely”. After the past several years of deep heartache, this motto holds even deeper meaning. My Mom was there for me through the most difficult months of my life before she went to be at home with Jesus. I was able to tell her before she passed that I believe that the Lord allowed her to stay a little bit longer on this earth because He knew that I needed her. We cried about that too. I know she counted it a privilege to be there for me. She suffered bravely and left a beautiful example for me to follow.
Life is hard. We’ve all faced that reality albeit in different ways these past few years. It’s why we need constants in our lives. The faithfulness of God. The unconditional love of a parent. A spouse who refuses to walk away in our worst moments. Friends who won’t believe lies. Bible verses to cling to. Family mottos that spur us on.
The Lindsay family history can be traced back to the 1100’s, but any family can establish a family motto at any time. I am so thankful for the significance of my family’s motto in my life.
Do you have a family motto or a life verse? How has that significantly impacted your life?
I would love to be able to tell you that there has been resolution and reconciliation in all of my relationships, but that is not true. Yet. But I believe that God can do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20) and so I continue to trust Him to work in my life and in the lives of others for our good and His glory.