I am a mall walker. There, I've admitted it! You know, the old people who go to the mall every day before it opens, strolling around in groups, and spending lots of time in the food court drinking coffee. Oh, wait, I'm not to that point yet…I just go to exercise. It's a great place, no rain, no cold, no heat, no hills! For over two years, a friend and I would meet at 6:40am at the mall, walk as fast as we could for 40 minutes, and then go to work. I can't tell you how many problems we've solved, projects we've planned, books and movies we've discussed, and houses we've decorated. It was a wonderful time and I even lost weight! And then, I moved away. Now I'm in Springfield and I've tried to walk the mall by myself, but it's just not the same. There's no incentive, no encouragement to get out there and keep moving. I miss my friend!
When my friend and I started our weekly routine of walking, we were just casual friends. She and her husband attended the church we were pastoring and we were always at church events together. Occasionally we went out to dinner with them or in a group of couples. I knew she had lots of other friends that she socialized with on a regular basis. But somewhere along the way, we both decided we needed to get some exercise. A plan was formed, we took action, and a great friendship blossomed.
You know, I've heard many a pastor's wife say they just can't have friends in the church. "We have to be a friend to everyone and a close friend to no one," they would say. What a lonely, miserable existence that would be. As a pastor's wife, I have had to ask God to send good friends into my life. I desperately need those female relationships. My husband is my best friend, but he will tell you that he can only go so far in fulfilling my need for "girl time".
Being friends with the pastor's wife has it's unique challenges. One question I have asked myself is, "Who is really my friend?" Christine Hoover has put the question this way in her blog, Grace Covers Me: "Each week, I spend time with various kinds of people in various situations, both official ministry events and informal social situations. Many of these people attend our church and, often, we talk together about intimate things. But sometimes the lines between ministry and friendship become blurred. Am I having coffee with a friend or am I having coffee with someone who needs counsel? Is this a person who desires to know me or who desires to know the “pastor’s wife”?" I don't know about you, but I want a friend who allows me to be myself and likes me in spite of being pastor's wife, and doesn't use me as a private counselor or a status symbol. I want us both to be encouraged, inspired, happy, after spending time together. I want us to be able to trust each other with our conversations, our hurts, our concerns, and our hearts. There are many types of friendships that God has allowed in my life: "the must friend, the trust friend, the rust friend, the just friend," as Gretchen Rubin says in her Happiness Project blog. The "must friend" I'm talking about here doesn't even have to go to my church, but she can…and our friendship must have talked out, and agreed upon, parameters. She knows I have to be friendly with everyone at church, so she is agreeable to just say, "Hi," and leaves me to give my attention to others. She's as careful as I am to be inclusive, letting others join in our friendship, and not let our friendship become exclusive. Our conversations with others at church do not revolve around us and our friendship. We are discreet in our relationship and do not flaunt it in the face of others. We also have agreed to monitor each other as to what we say about the church and the people. I think she has to "give" more in our friendship, allowing me to be free in my role as pastor's wife and free to be myself.
What do you think? Do you have a good friend relationship in your church? How do you make it work? Or have you been burned so bad, you would rather go it alone? How's that working for you? We're going to be talking about this issue of friendships in the life of a pastor's wife all this month. We'd love to hear from you!
BTW, my walking buddy and I are still good friends even though distance keeps us apart. We have to work at keeping in contact, but it's well worth the extra effort. Sometimes we talk on the phone while she's walking in St. Charles and I'm walking in Springfield. Is that commitment or what!
Lisa Harris helps in the office of the Refresh Ministry Women Department of the SoMo District Council AG. She is a pastor's wife, mother and grandma, and a new transplant to Springfield MO. She is actively pursuing new friendships and welcomes any opportunities to connect with the pastor's wives of SoMo District AG