I don’t have stars in my eyes when it comes to those in leadership. I don’t know why; it just seems to be how I’m wired. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I come from a long line of very strong-minded, independent women, which can be hell on earth during holidays and hot flashes, but otherwise is a legacy for which I am usually (but not always) thankful. We don’t let anyone do our thinking for us, and I think it’s what has saved my life on more than one occasion. I’ve always had a very strong mind, and a very strong sense of identity and purpose. I know I am often not perceived as a strong or confident person, but, as someone very wise once pointed out, there is hidden gold in being both under-valued and under-estimated. It gives you freedom that those in the limelight seldom get to enjoy. I think very clearly (more so when I’m angry, or feel very strongly about an issue) and would rather stand alone than compromise what I believe to be right and true in order to be accepted by a group. Or an individual, for that matter. I do not think I should have to apologize for this.
I do quite often have to apologize for how I say it, though.
The diamond dust surrounding leadership lost its glittering effect on me way back in the early 1980’s. While I enjoy and appreciate good teaching, I’m not mesmerized by it. I grew up in the local church and have been involved in it for many, many years. All my life, really. I have seen church leaders at their best, and also at their worst; the human side, that few in the pews ever get to see. They are people, not gods, or even demigods, except in the sacred space between their own two ears. They are certainly not celebrities, although quite a few of them have an affinity for red carpets and paparazzi, especially in Western culture. Rather, they are the very human individuals who make up our spiritual family. Their role as leaders does not guarantee them immunity from the consequences of being human, but only serves to heighten their responsibility. They have the same faults, problems, desires and dreams as the rest of us. They bleed real blood and cry real tears. They struggle with the same issues everyone else does, whether it’s controlling their tempers, or feeling nervous and awkward in front of a crowd. Some people marry into leadership, but are never truly comfortable living in the spotlight, and some people are just born into it, as in the case of the stereotypical “Preacher’s Kid”.
I have often thought that church is like high school all over again, but with better clothes. (And cars). In high school, you have the in-groups and the out-groups: the cliques, the clique-less, and the generally clueless. The athletes, cheerleaders, brains and bullies all grow up together. There are the ones who demand all the attention from the teachers, and the ones who fade into the background and try to disappear. But most of them grow up and go to church, and the more charismatic ones are quite often chosen to be leaders. More often than not, this has more to do with their ability to attract attention (and therefore a following) than it has to do with their sane and stable character traits. The drama queens and cheerleaders in high school are the drama queens and cheerleaders in the sanctuary. Those who use their size, money, looks, and/or popularity to exert power and control over their peers in high school will do the same as adults. They become well-dressed, smooth-talking bullies.
There are those who call me stubborn and those who call me steadfast. I think they’re two sides of the same coin. I can tell you neither one goes over very well in therapy. When I was going through my divorce, I went to a pastoral counselor; I knew I needed to talk to somebody and not have to keep everything inside, because doing so was quite literally making me physically ill. The counselor drew a picture of a pressure-cooker with a tiny little stick-figure person on the edge of the lid, and said “This is you, and you are going to blow up if you don’t open up and talk.” I knew when she said it that she was right, and it’s why I kept going, week after week, to the appointments. I carried that little scrap of paper with the picture of the pressure-cooker in my wallet for years, to remind myself not to let things build up in my head. Life as a single mom is unbelievably stressful; even the happy moments are frequently tinged with worry and sorrow.
People think a blog is a tell-all space where all of your life is out in the open for all to see, but that isn’t the case. Like all writers who write about their own lives, I get to pick and choose what I decide to write about. While I may at times regret having written something, please don’t think for a moment that I’m saying everything here that I feel like saying. Believe it or not, I do hold back a lot. I have a very busy (and therefore often very tired) mind. Something about turning 50 last year made me extremely irritable. My doctor assures me this isn’t hormones, as I no longer have any. I am just too old and have been through too much to be manipulated or bullied by a church or anyone else. Women who have suffered and survived abuse can smell manipulation a mile away. After a certain age, you’re no longer afraid to say so.
So here we are.
There are two things I will not write about on this blog – no, three:
- I will not write what I do not believe to be true, and if God shows me otherwise, this is the place where I will say so.
- I will not write embarrassing things about my family, mainly because I have to eat with them on Christmas and Easter, but also because I love them. Their stories are their own to tell.
- Like all of you, there are personal aspects of my life that are only appropriate to share with God and my counselor. That isn’t denial, it’s discretion.
It’s entirely possible that more than a few people in the church are not happy with me at the moment, but I had braced myself for that accordingly after my last post. Life has well-prepared me for flesh wounds, and I am not easily dissuaded, discouraged, or defeated. Although I never intended to hurt or offend anybody, I am aware that I offended at least one, and for that I am truly sorry, and I do apologize. If this mess is ever straightened out, I can assure you I will write much happier posts. As icicles will probably form in the lower regions of Hell before that happens, however, I will continue to hold the conversation here. As I said, sometimes we have to settle for a partial healing.