Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Relationships are Risky Business...

This blog was brand new the first time I went to a retreat with women from the church we had pastored  for twelve years, along with the women I was just getting to know, women from the church we had just merged with our church.
I chose to do all the speaking at that retreat, wanting this group of women who were just getting to know me, to know my heart.
Wanting them to, yet not wanting them to.
Fearful of what they would think of me.

I think it's that way with us women.
Like Anne of Green Gables, we go through life longing for a bosom friend, yet terrified of the vulnerability it takes to form such a friendship.
We all have history with friendships gone bad, betrayal, hurt.
We all have good excuses to build walls of self-protection that keep others from getting too close.

In the fall of every year we have our church's annual ladies' retreat, and every year it's the same.
I sense that some of the women are hesitant,  I ask them if they're coming and they say, "I want to, but..."
And I understand completely.
I want to but...
  • it's frightening to be thrown into an intimate situation with other women
  • I'm afraid of what will they think of me
  • it's safer to stay to myself
  • what if I'm excluded
  • what if I open up and no one understands me, or worse yet, rejects me
  • what if I'm expected to open up, and I don't want to
and every year, those exact same thoughts run through my mind.

I'm the leader, the pastor's wife, and every year part of me is excited for retreat, and every year part of me is afraid.
Opening your heart is risky business.

The thing is, I've never had one instance, in all the years and years of planning and attending retreats for women, where anyone regretted taking the risk.

Have I had women say they didn't get enough sleep?
Their roommate snored?
They ate too much?
Yes, again.

But no one, ever, has complained that they laughed together, cried together,  prayed together, worshipped together, and played together with other women and came away disappointed.

Since that retreat three years ago, those women I was just getting to know, are now family.
My church family.
We are no longer them and us, old church, new church, north and south.
Together we have experienced struggles and victories, highs and lows, and seen each others strengths and weaknesses, faults and failures, repentance and recovery.
Maybe what a woman really needs is a family that loves her when she's at her best as well as when she's at her worst.
Maybe that kind of family is even better than a bosom friend.

Some of the faces at that retreat three years ago won't be there this year, and there will be new faces there for the first time. 
Such is the life of a pastor's wife, people leave, new people come in.
My heart is continually processing simultaneous grief and joy as relationships come and go.
That's hard on a sensitive heart like mine.

However, I can't embrace the joy if I don't risk the grief.
I have to accept that that's the way it is in any relationship.
Relationships are risky business, but I've made up my mind to take the risk.

Still following,


  1. You said it so well here:However, I can't embrace the joy if I don't risk the grief.

    Learned something new about you: Pastor's wife. You expressed the feelings of many women so well in your post. Thank you, Elizabeth :)

  2. You have no idea how this resonates with me right now. I'm surrounded by women who are sorting out the value of the risk--those who want to risk but feel like no one cares, those who are becoming cynical about risking because of past hurts, those who are experiencing both feelings at once! I am broken-hearted for them. Good words, friend.

  3. That is all so true. Now you not only feel like you have to guard your heart but that stranger you befriend just might be a serial killer (exageration but maybe not really that far from todays real life).Sad also to get to know a little bit about someone in their blog and wish you were neighbors and friends but can't really know them and know that you live on the other side of the country. Heaven, now that is where we will all get together and have the best time.

    1. Just think of all of the wonderful blog sisters in Christ we'll be able to be with forever and ever, even if we never get to meet face to face in this life.

  4. It's so worth any of the risks! I'm going to our Ladies' Bible Study for the first time since we began attending our church twenty something years ago. My work schedule didn't allow me to be part of it. I had all the thoughts you expressed before I walked in that first day - friends who had been in Bible Study for years together welcomed me with open arms. We miss a lot when we don't take a risk to build friendships that are precious.

  5. You summed it up so well. I'm glad to know someone else feels the same way! much should I open up, will they like me...etc. I'm sure you'll have a wonderful time! I think I would love to go on a ladie's retreat.
    As much as we've had to move, about every two years, I have found making friends a challenge sometimes. I don't always put myself out there enough, because I know my situation is temporary. I need to remember the Lord can use me in every place I'm at. Okay, I think I'm rambling! Good post.

  6. Ah, yes, the desire for a bosom friend!

    I've seen women in my church reluctant to attend retreats for any number of reasons--don't think they can spend the money or afford the time away. I think that, too often, they don't think they are worth the investment--they don't recognize God desires to give them a beautiful gifts of refreshment, time away, teaching, and community.

  7. Taking a risk is always the hardest part. Especially when one is more 'quiet' and introverted. Our ladies retreat was a month or so ago and I went alone. There were ladies there but 'no' buddy to chat with, it forced me to sit and visit with others. The seniors who I was grouped with, the young moms with babies, it was my 'time' to reach out and visit. It was also a very quiet, time for me to walk and just listen to what God wanted me to take home from the time away.

    1. Your blog isn't letting me leave comments. The word verification won't let me. :)

  8. I love retreats -- the temporary getting-out-of-the-world to focus on Jesus with a group of friends. We have a gathering of High Calling editors next month in Texas, and I can't wait.

    1. Sometimes I think a retreat with people I don't know might be refreshing. In my case, being the pastor's wife, a retreat with our ladies means work in a lot of ways.

  9. I really enjoyed how you expressed exactly how women feel. I thank God that I have a wonderful group at ladies at church who have been with me through my bad times as well as my good. If it wasn't for a couple of them, one has gone on to heaven, I would not be where I am today. I thank God for my awesome church family and for those ladies who loved me no matter what. Sometimes it is tough being the Pastor's sister because I want them to know me for me not who I am kin to. I've learned and so have those at church who know me, to keep my mouth shut about who I am and let the people find out on their own. Sounds kinda crazy to do but I've found people are more open with me and accept me for me not who I'm kin to.

    1. Hi Red! I don't really "get" how to leave comments with our blog layout. I'm smiling at the word "kin"...I love it, very southern I guess. I'm so glad you have wonderful friends. There's nothing like a really good friend.

  10. Awww, a women's retreat sounds like such a good time!! I'd love to hear more about what you do/where you go, etc. I wish the women at my church would be interested in something like this. I have tried to get people together for E.W. Conferences and a L.P.L. event before, but only a few went and it seemed instead of everyone going as one big group it kinda broke off into a few small groups with family members. It wasn't exactly what I had in mind and to be honest I felt a little uncomfortable/left out...for lack of a better word. =P I still have hopes of doing something in the future though. I attend a small church but I am the Women's Ministry Director (not a big job, mind you) but am responsible for organizing things throughout the year. I am easily discouraged though and because of a trial with my husband's job last year I have been at a stand still but need to "snap" out of it. ;) Wow, I sure shared a lot!! Didn't necessarily mean to. ;) Hope you have a wonderful, refreshing time with the women from your church and God shows up in a BIG way!! =D

  11. "Such is the life of a pastor's wife, people leave, new people come in.
    My heart is continually processing simultaneous grief and joy as relationships come and go."

    This. As a pastor's wife this is what we do...cultivate the relationships; weed out any bitterness. Thankfully we aren't called to do it alone and His grace is ever sufficient!

  12. I loved that you link-uped right under me at Ann’s...the perfect fit to my post...and I too am willing again to risk..and yes sometimes joy and grief have to accompany us on this journey...and really they are the great balancers of life. thanks for these words and i bet you are a great leader to these ladies...a safe place to land. blessings as we live our risky lives~

  13. Friendships such as these are what I long for. I miss. I ache for. We are in a unique situation where friendships like these are hard to come by. Mind you, we still need to find a church where we feel connected and where we enjoy worship and one that speaks to us and makes us not want to miss a Sunday. Few and far between right now. Still searching and this post made me want to search harder! ~Thank you

  14. I am still living with a guarded heart. I'm afraid of church ladies, still. Slowly, but surely I'm reaching out. I'm still having an easier time with men. I'm reaching though. I'm putting myself out there.

  15. Risky business indeed. We are having a church retreat in about a month. I am looking forward to it so much. Especialy now that I have read this post.
    Sometimes we do have to go off the path and take some risks. But we will be so much richer for it/

  16. Elizabeth,
    Thank you for this wise post. I have always been kind of a loner, and never really made time for friendships with other women. Now that I am working in our Women's Ministry at church, and even attending part of a retreat, I will remember these words. Blogging has also created relationships too.
    Back to re-read the post now!

  17. Thanks for the reminder to risk...I am a leader at our church...and I too feel vulnerable as God pushes me to take new risks...whether we have a visible or invisible ministry...we still have the same insecurities...thanks for being real...I know the women you minister to love you and appreciate your vulnerability. Blessings!

  18. One of the challenges of relationships is having the faith to trust God with your heart and the heart of the person.
    I remember my grandma holding me in her lap as she rocked me back and forth as a little kid.
    She would tell me about stopping and loving people, that every person has a purpose and sometimes they don't see it and we are to be a reflection of Christ so people can see their worth.
    All the fears, insecurities, unknowns, and personal list of walls to keep other women out all have validity until we apply the vulerability yet complete strength that Christ came to us in to call us friends.
    Jesus invested, prayed, feed, led, laughed, and cried with the man Judas, with complete foreknowledge to the plans of God. He still chose to open his heart to this man.
    With Peter, the man who denied him three times, swore that he never even had lain eyes upon the bound and chained Son of Man, still after His resurrection, chose to draw him back into intimacy.
    I believe their has been a spiritual battle over intimate and true relationships in general for the Bride of Christ.
    But we have the same Spirit, and we can worship in spirit and truth.
    I grew up with five sisters, and I have lived and heard much of what is being said in the comments. And honestly tears well up in the depths of my heart as I read this blog because it is so true about the fear of relationship.

    Their was a period of my life were I lost 17 close and dear friends in a very short period of time. I remember my heart starting to close off completely as a self-protection mechanism. I remember thinking to myself that I can never love again, because I don't want to risk having my heart broken again.
    I still remember the Lord coming to me in my dark room, my eyes still brimming with tears and my nose running a mile a minute as wave after wave of grief and brokeness washed over me. The sobs rocked my body as I buried my face into my pillow.
    And my Father asked me. "Are you willing to risk to love each person fully, and put that relationship into my hands and let me completely protect your heart?"


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