We’ve talked about HAVING friends and TYPES of friends, but what about when you have found a true heart-friend and then feel betrayed? Please know that I use that term very carefully. Betrayal does NOT have to be deliberate or with any sort of evil intent. In fact, it is also defined as “to reveal or disclose in violation of confidence; to be unfaithful in guarding.”
I love the character of Jack Byrnes that Robert DeNiro plays in the “Meet the Parents” movies. And I especially love the whole “circle of trust” that he is constantly dangling in the face of his future son-in-law. But for those of us in ministry, that circle of trust is a very real thing.
Ryan and I want to ALWAYS be authentic in our relationships, in the church and in the community. But we ARE human. We fail. We fight. We disappoint. We battle temptation. Our kids aren’t perfect. WE aren’t perfect. But there seems to be a fine line between being authentic and divulging more of ourselves than people REALLY want to know. Does that make any sense? It’s not that we EVER try to hide things. We have just learned that sharing our everyday battles in life is not necessarily beneficial to the kingdom of God.
So we unknowingly create this Circle of Trust where we can feel completely safe and can be the most vulnerable. Our sphere of influence and friendships of various kinds is broad, but this special circle is very, very small. Just as someone coming to Ryan or myself for counseling or advice should expect confidentiality regarding our interaction, THAT is the type of trust that we place on those within that circle.
I guess I sort of look at Jesus’ life as affirmation of this. We watch Him minister to the multitudes and yet still have a personal touch with individuals, like Jairus the synagogue leader and the bleeding woman (Luke 8:40-56) or the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:1-42). Though He was available to all, He also chose only twelve to surround Himself with on a regular basis. And of those twelve, we know that He had three: Peter, James and John, who He often pulled aside to share some of His most intimate and vulnerable experiences with, like His transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-9), the healing of Jairus’ daughter (Mark 5:37-43) and His time in Gethsemane when in overwhelming sorrow and distress He cried out to the Father regarding His impending death (Mark 14:32-36).
In some of those moments, Jesus even “gave them strict orders not to let anyone know…” (Mark 5:43). Some things were just not to be shared. That is the type of betrayal that I see most pastors’ wives torn apart by. No set of friends is EVER going to agree on everything! But when words or actions shared with those within that circle of trust are repeated for those outside that circle to manipulate and use against you, it hurts. In fact, there is nothing more cutting and shocking than to hear your own words spoken back to you from someone who you did not share them with originally. And I’m not talking about bad words, simply YOUR words.
In ministry, we all know that there are MANY words that you and your husband speak that are repeated and shared, sometimes even years later. We know that. We expect that. We are even surprised when people remember our words! But those words spoken in that special circle feel like words spoken in the bedroom. They are private. They are intimate.
One minister’s wife has even said that a breach of confidentiality is an immediate deal-breaker in her friendships. “Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends.” (Proverbs 17:9)
So the question is, how do we heal when this happens?
Well, for me it has been a process. I never thought I would experience that type of betrayal of trust, but I did. Just a couple days afterwards, I was cleaning gunk off of a samurai sword-sharp paper cutter with Goo Gone and a piece of paper towel. Distracted by my thoughts and not thinking about the present, I swiped that paper towel right down the sharp edge of the blade. I knew immediately that was a huge mistake. The soft tip of my middle finger was gushing blood like a faucet. After an hour we finally got it to stop with a butterfly bandage.
Days later it was still so incredibly tender that there was absolutely nothing I could do without feeling pain. The blade had actually cut into my nerves. If I bumped it, a wave of fresh pain washed over me and took my breath away. I had to consciously work to protect that finger from touching anything.
A couple weeks went by and the outside really started healing well, but inside, those cut nerves were still delicate and sensitive. In fact, it was several months before I reached a healing level where I wasn’t constantly aware of my dumb finger.
I thought I was finally healed and would go weeks without thinking about the injury. But then out of nowhere I would catch the end of my finger on something and this deep crazy pain would shoot through me once again. It took over a year before I was completely pain free. And that was with something as simple as a half-inch cut on a finger.
That is how the healing process has been for my heart. At first, I almost couldn’t breathe from the pain, and there was nothing that I could do to get away from it. For awhile I only went to church on Sunday mornings and attended nothing else because being there was a constant battering of my wounded heart. It was like ripping open a scab.
It took several months to even begin to interact with anyone at church. But I was careful. Certain people or situations brought on fresh waves of pain. And sometimes it would catch me off guard and I would emotionally stumble for days.
It’s been a couple of years now, and I can assure you that there IS healing. Like it or not, there IS “a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance.” (Ecclesiastes 3:4 HCSB) And there IS a “time to heal.” (Ecc. 3:3) Sometimes TIME is what it takes.
Months go by now when I really don’t even think about it. Every now and then something triggers those feelings, but it’s not often anymore. I’ve even started rebuilding those broken relationships. They are different and probably always will be. Sometimes it makes me mad at myself that although I can forgive, I just can’t seem to completely forget. But then I happen across Matthew chapter 1 and am reminded that even years later, Bathsheba is still referred to as “Uriah’s wife” (vs. 6) and not simply as David’s wife. I guess God doesn’t forget either.
So take heart, my friend, life WILL go on and you WILL heal. The biggest part of that healing process though is to spend an enormous amount of time in prayer and study of the Word. Put yourself at the feet of the Healer.
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With over 20 years as a pastor’s wife, Tracy openly shares her life–combining humor, raw honesty and a passion for God’s Word to touch today’s women. If you would like to read more of Tracy’s blogs, go to her website at tracy-mccarty.com