By JL Bernard
Some years ago I stepped into an empty church for some solace. The pastor was there. It was awkward I suppose for him. He was accommodating and kind but maybe a little suspicious and unsure.
He told me the church times and platforms to see their services. We had never met and he asked if I attended a church. I told him I did, but shared nothing else.
The church was well decorated and ornate, the life-sized ‘first lady’ picture posed next to her husband dominating a corner was so very beautifully depicted, yet it was nothing that related to me.
I realized again this isn’t what I ever wanted to be. I did not want to be a visible heavy presence that everyone ogles at like a glamorous church mascot. No, God is enough. If there is any real lasting beauty, let it be His. Let us be mandated with bringing Him glory.
I’m a wood and stones kind of girl, barefoot and basking in the elaborate beauty of life-giving conversation and well-adjusted hearts. And as such I always felt compelled to share the good things in my life AND to be honest about the hard times wherever I am safe enough.
And here I was in one of those hard times. Trauma has feet and teeth and given the chance it challenges your thriving by kicking and biting. Sometimes you need a moment to recover and keep on living. Honesty before God is the victor against the unauthentic pictures of ministry. Perspectives and ill-fitting notions will try to barricade the wife of a minister. It seems to rise up from nowhere the day one becomes a pastor’s wife, and was much of the reason that my one-hour walk led me to nowhere. Speaking to no one. Sitting in the silence of God’s presence wondering how on earth I could think of not one physical person I could fall into when I was most broken.
But I love this superhero, Jesus. Time spent with Him tears down anything that is not like Him; lies, expectations and counterfeits. Because the truth of living for Him is enough and brings Him glory.
There are pictures of ministry that others compare themselves to that sadly we create or perpetuate, knowing they do not best reflect us. And I never wanted to do that. Yet honest spaces for us are so rare and can be harshly judged and so we become isolated.
In order to break these things we must aggressively come against them with unaggressive simple honesty, and by choosing to listen to the voice of God when He bids.
As the moments in God’s presence turned from solitary confinement to a welcome solitude with Him. When God said it is not good for man to be alone, He meant it. And so I determined two things.
My prayer would be for God to show me the like-minded hearts with which I should connect. And the good news is, He has.
And also that by God’s grace the spaces I occupy will not be filled with pretense. With safety and good boundaries being my guide, I refuse to portray colors of a hue that are not authentically mine.
God has prepared us for meditation and alone time with Him so that when we emerge and are engaging with others we reflect the genuine time we spend in His presence in order to bring Him honor and glory in our lives.
And that was my prayer in that little safe church. May it ever be fulfilled.