Sorry, We’ve Never Heard of You!
Week 6 of Cultivate Book Club Fall 2016
Chapters 9 & 10 of Uninvited by Lysa Terkeurst
A few years back I was invited to attend an event specifically for pastor’s wives. I was beyond excited because at the time I didn’t have any relationships with other pastor’s wives, and had always prayed for them. I desperately wanted others I could reach out to and ask “have you ever had to navigate this type of situation?, how would you move forward with this?, or have you ever had this happen & if so how did you recover? I didn’t grow up in the ministry world and felt like I didn’t know what I was doing so when this opportunity came up I just knew it was an answer to prayer.
I arrived at the event to find that most of the women already knew one another. I awkwardly stood back trying to assess the room and figure out a way to enter into what felt like a high school reunion for a high school that I didn’t attend. The only person in the room that I knew was the pastor’s wife who was putting on the event. She spotted me and invited me to sit at her table, which I was so relieved because the other tables were filling up quickly and people were “saving seats” for their other pastor’s wives friends.
There I was sitting at the head table with the event host, who just happened to be the pastor’s wife of one of the largest churches in the state~ so naturally everyone was exceptionally kind to her, greeting her, wanting pictures with her, the whole deal. She was so sweet to me and began introducing me to all of the “big deal” church pastor’s wives at our table. Towards the end of the event my host friend said to me, “I want you to meet so & so, she’s put together a network for pastor’s wives to connect once a month online to be able to ask each other questions about ministry, and be a support to one another.” This was it! This was what I’d been praying for.
I met the woman who was extraordinarily sweet to me while I was with my host friend, who remember is a really BIG deal, she gave me her email and said to email her and she’d get me connected in this community of pastor’s wives of church similar in size and dynamic to mine. Great! I left the event on cloud nine. I thought to myself “I found my people, these people know what it’s like, I’ll have friends who understand ministry.”
I played it cool and waited a few weeks to email of course… I didn’t want to seem too excited, too needy. I emailed just like she’d said to and then I waited. And waited. And waited. Finally the response email came from so & so’s assistant and here’s what it said…
“Sorry, we’ve never heard of you!”
I kid you not, that was it. That was all the email said.
I emailed back explaining who I was and that I’d met so & so at the pastor’s wife event, the one I was at with my BIG deal friend who connected us and said this was the “perfect” set of women for me to connect with. And again, the response email…
“Sorry, we’ve never heard of you or your church.”
And that was it. I was rejected from being a part of this group. Rejected from “my people,” other pastor’s wives.
The conversation that followed in my head for years was not good. “Ohhhh I see…. only ‘heard of’ (aka famous) pastor’s wives matter. Only BIG deal church’s ministries matters. Only ‘heard of’ people are allowed in the club.” AND SO since I wasn’t allowed into the club that must mean… I don’t matter, the ministry I do isn’t significant because they’d never ‘heard of’ it. What I thought was going to be an answer to prayer became the beginning of a downward spiral of identity for me. Those women I’d met who I thought were going to be my people… I now wished I’d never met them at all.
In the spirit of being REAL… this encounter with these women wrecked me. I felt embarrassed, not enough because literally I was not ‘heard of’ enough to matter, and completely uninvited… which wasn’t a feeling at all~ I actually was uninvited. This one event with this one group of women caused me to completely invalidate my purpose & value in ministry. What I once prayed for, other pastor’s wives friends, I now avoided at all costs. And like salt in a wound, good old social media constantly displayed for me all of the wives that were ‘heard of’ enough to get invited into this group. Each time I’d see their happy pictures from retreats they’d taken together with long posts about how they’d encouraged each other so well blah blah blah… WRECKED! I was wrecked all over again. With each social media post I’d see… the wound was cut a little deeper, and I began feeling like only ‘heard of ‘ (aka famous) ministries mattered, or were significant. Of which~ mine was not… SOOO what the heck am I doing?!?!
God & I wrestled. “I feel like ALL of us should matter God!” “I feel like ‘Christians’ shouldn’t discard people who aren’t ‘famous’~ that’s what Hollywood does… not the church.” These kinds of prayers and conversations went on and on between God & me. I couldn’t shake what happened, I found my prayers being ones of complaining and not listening, my head was a jumbled mess and so… I finally got brave enough to bring others into my head. I had to bring others into this because it was eating me alive from the inside out. And it was through others that I was finally able to hear from God. Community (safe, trusted, spiritually mature & wise) has a way of doing this. It was through others in community that a different perspective was brought to the discussion in my head. What if those women and their priority on ‘spiritual celebrity’ isn’t a representation of God’s heart at all? What if those women have it all wrong and you actually have it right… that we all matter? What if God wants you to only seek his invitation, his approval, his belonging to validate the work you are doing? Hmmmm, these were new ideas for me to wrestle through. Why does them including you or not matter? Who are they to decide who’s important or not? What if… they’ve got it all wrong? Is that how Jesus behaved… did he only include the ‘heard of’ people? NO! None of this is how Jesus decided if people were worthy or not. Jesus didn’t only connect with and include the people that were most ‘heard of’, in fact he did quite the opposite.
During this season of my life very few people knew of the struggle I was battling, of the rejection I’d experienced, or the identity crisis I was in. But the truth is~ I was completely undone in the private. It was in the private wrestle with God that He revealed more of who He is to me, and more of who I am to him. I questioned him, he answered me. I lamented with him, he let me be uncomfortable. It was in the private that he let me be messy and confused and loved me still. It was in the private discomfort and unrest that I was forced to find my way to him for answers to make sense of what I’d experienced. And here’s what conclusions I came to…
Jesus included everyone. He didn’t make special invitations to people that were ‘heard of’. He wasn’t about people who build his platform bigger. He didn’t just be seen with people who were the BIG deals. He was about everyone. He saw the crippled, the blind, the lame. He approached the ugly, the messy, the less than, the ‘unheard ofs’. No, Jesus said…
“But among you (my people… aka Christians) it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant…” Matthew 20:26
In her Uninvited book, Lysa Terkeurst talks about how the breaking of us in private will be the making of us in public and I love this because it was in private that God deposited this wisdom into me. It was a lonnnnnggggggg process. Longer than I care to admit, but in hindsight~ I’m thankful for it. Thankful for the opportunity and process, though difficult and messy, where my heart got to become a little more like his. For a while, and I’m ashamed to admit this, I let my heart be bitter and jealous. Jealous of the women who were invited into that group, jealous of their ‘fame’ that made them ‘heard of’ and so more worthy, jealous of their ministries, their circles (who of course look AMAZING & PERFECT at all times on social media), and jealous of their lives. They were ‘heard of’ (aka “someones”), I was not ‘heard of’ (aka a “no one”). AND jealousy morphs into bitterness. I was bitter at them for not recognizing me as “someone”, for not validating me, for not ‘picking me’ to be a part of the really important cool kids groups. AND guess what bitterness morphs into… Pride. Pride let’s me justify my mean thoughts, my bad feelings, my attitude, my judgment because I’d been hurt. Pride makes me feel they deserve my bad behavior because they’d had bad behavior first. Pride forgets to worry about my character because I’m so focused on theirs. Pride forgets to remind me to make allowances for each others faults.
Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Colossians 3:13
My heart was dark and ugly. Everyone once in a while it tries to dabble back into those wicked ways, but I remember how rotten to the core and miserable I was there, and my hate for that feeling trumps my desire to wallow in jealousy, bitterness, pride.
AND SO… that breaking of me in the private has led me to make some new habits in the public. For example, now whenever I attend a function full of BIG deals~ I scan the room for the woman who’s an outlier in the room and I make my way to her and introduce myself. I intentionally sit at the table with the woman who is sitting alone and has that look I had when I felt like a nobody in a room of somebodies. If a young (or younger than me in ministry) pastor’s wife asks me if she can email me to ask some questions… I say ABSOLUTELY! I try to keep just enough of that sting of rejection from those pastor’s wives with me so that I don’t repeat it to others remembering terrible it felt.
Most likely you aren’t a pastor’s wife~ but you’re something somewhere… a mom, neighbor, coworker, professional, you’re somebody somewhere. And chances are you’ve experienced some type of rejection that’s made you feel like a nobody… ‘unheard of’. Here’s the good news, although we may not be heard of by others, we are completely known of by God. Not cliche I promise~ absorb the beauty in this truth. Someday it will be the only thing that matters… that we are known, picked, and loved by God. Someday it will be the only thing that matters to ALL of us~ because there will come a day when we stand before him and he’s the holder of eternity. Eternity isn’t something that matters much to most in the here and now… which is why being loved by God seems cliche. And this is a scary truth. We’re more concerned about being loved, picked, ‘heard of’ by others than we are of God. Friends~learn from me… meet God in the private! Let him do a work in you, and let that work change who you are forever in the public. And in the public… point your life back to him. It’s here that your heart is cultivated to be more and more like his. Don’t let pride keep you from taking the rejection you experience from others and letting God use it to transform you into the person YOU’RE meant to be. Hold on to just enough of the sting to love others well, sparing them the pain and helping them live loved too.
Live loved friends,
p.s. If you’re wondering how long this “breaking in private” took… FIVE years! 5! Five long years! So don’t be discouraged when the making doesn’t happen over night. All in His timing. We’re all on the journey friends!
This week’s statement to hold on to:
I must learn to judge my pride, not justify it. I cannot be delivered from that which I defend.
This week’s small group discussion & journal questions:
- What were some of your biggest take aways from chapters 9-10?
- Why does humility often get associated with weakness and pride with strength?
- In chapter 9, Lysa talks about humiliation. Share about a time when you were utterly humiliated. What happened and how did you feel?
- Philippians 2 paints a beautiful picture of what humility looks like. Read through verses 1-11 together. What do we learn about Jesus through this passage? What can we apply to our lives?
- Read James 4:6. “God opposes the proud.” That is strong language. Why do you think pride is such a big deal to God?
- Spend some time praying for each other…for the strongholds of pride to be broken as we seek to cultivate humility in our lives.