I remember a few years after we started Watershed a young pastor moved to town to also plant a church but in the suburbs of Charlotte. They needed a place for their band to rehearse and we gladly shared our small, humble rehearsal space with them. We were happy to partner with them. A few years later, as they were exploding by the thousands and that same worship band who shared our rehearsal room was topping the iTunes charts, they decided to open what must have been their 10th campus only a block from where we meet on Sundays and never mentioned it. It’s not that we owned Uptown, it was just that it would have been nice to “partner” rather than all bark up the same tree on the same block. It hurt my heart. I understood that we were a small fish and all that,
but every time I’d see a sticker from that church on someone’s car I wanted to throw a casserole at it.
And somewhere in this process, as people come and “stick” and grow and go deep and we watch God transform people from “hey, what can I get out of this” to “hey, God, how can I be your hands and feet in this city”, we fall to our knees in gratitude that we get to have a front row seat to this taking place. One baptism in our makeshift tank ruins me and reminds me.
I began to start praying the prayer “God, give me a soft heart and thick skin.”
That’s the only prayer I can think of some days. It's an honest prayer and one of survival. It’s the prayer I’d implore any pastor’s wife to utter. Or anyone.
I’m so unfit for my role. I’m not sweet enough or southern enough or pastory enough most of the time (or ever). I make the wrong comment on Facebook. My nose gets out of joint with frequency. I talk too much when I should be listening. I am easily swallowed up by my fear of us not measuring up or meeting expectations.
But God’s soft heart overcomes my casserole aversion and rough edges and He toughens me for this people pleaser’s undoing called leading the local church.
My husband calls church planting “sexy”: I’d call it skin-thickening. But either way, I’m admitting to you and asking God to help me have a heart not only for those homeless students and their families in the school where we work down the street but also for the churchgoers who I felt belittled by or made me feel defensive of my husband and our church. Remember, this whole church is irrevocably entwined with our family and the mama bear will come out sometimes. But...
Soft hearts don’t grudge hold. And thick skinned get over it.
Soft hearts tell their spouse "I'm in" and support them in their dreams even if the pay sucks and even if it involves pushing sweaty chunky babies around nice neighborhoods you'll never live in.
Thick skinned move on from the constant comparison to local mega churches, Nashville musicians who song write instead of juggling sweaty babies and those who seem to be "making it" when you feel you're hanging on by a thread. Blessed are those who handle staff transitions and disgruntled staff spouses, continual parting of ways of congregants, and constant location moves because you don't own a building.
Soft heartedness finds contentedness with and gratitude for what I DO HAVE and where I AM RIGHT NOW..no matter who approves, stays or leaves. Blessed are those who can embrace entrances and departures. As Ingrid so beautifully wrote..... "open hands are hard to hold onto". It's true. I have to let stuff AND PEOPLE go.
The SOFT HEART/THICK SKIN combo carries the mantra of NOT MY WILL BUT YOURS BE DONE.
Dreams dashed or realized, Dodge Stratuses and all.
That's how the kingdom comes, you guys.
So, on Sundays, I have inched my way up to sitting in the second or third row (we don’t have pews) but the whole being considered “nice” thing, well, like I said, I’m in process.