‘You are only as sick as your darkest secret’
How is it that I connect with people everyday, providing guidance, spiritual direction, hope or just a listening ear yet I am so lonely? I am either keeping or hearing the secrets of the heart or am embarking on yet another round of development with a mentor spouting the same old church/family life balance as we dream of greater ways to reach the world, so why am I so lonely. I meet with the other pastors once a month, others with the same struggles but the conversations either float within the top 4 foot of the lake and never plunge to the depths or we end up in a ‘mine is bigger than yours’ match, done in a righteous and subliminal way. Why am I so lonely?
It’s not that I don’t want to connect but who do I connect with? I could find a counselor outside my town to discuss my deepest thoughts to but this again will be nothing more than another professional relationship, I think I just want a friend or two. I want the golf buddy where we can talk frankly about life while enjoying a round of golf, or the BBQ buddy who brings his family over and I don’t have to be on guard about what I share or be half relaxed and half on duty to listen to his marriage, kid or career problems…
Our very call brings isolation, brings an environment of secret keeping that just seems to foster our own secretive desires. This atmosphere of leadership that our culture demands requires us to be perfect, or at the very least project the image of perfection. We can admit in a sermon to a guilty pleasure like eating too much chocolate or desiring the latest technological toy so we can relate to the struggles of greed, self control etc, yet we must be careful not to confess something so bad as problems with pornography so to damage the façade of perfection least we cause the flock to scatter.
Where are the leaders, the ones who do not buckle to cultural expectations but set the tone, dictate a culture of honesty and build an atmosphere of truth, freedom and wholeness? I have found that the isolation of leadership is a tool used by imperfect people to keep from being seen as fallible, we use this isolation to our advantage and if truth be told enjoy the benefits it gives us of being seen as a shinning example of Christian virtue, even in our addictive mess.
Leader you need to unload the secret desires and actions of your heart or the weight of guilt and the way it slowly changes you will one day kill your ministry anyway. You need to break the walls you have built around you that keeps people at a distance so they cannot really get to know you. I have been there and it is not easy, you feel that all is about to be taken from you, you become vulnerable and it is uncomfortable. The price you pay to do this may be high in today’s currency, a loss of respect, job or even recognition in your particular denomination but the potential returns are absolutely phenomenal, not least for the freedom in your own heart. We as leaders must show the way of true Christianity, warts and all. We will have to take the ‘hits’ so that others can open up. Leaders we must become transparent and develop real relationships so that we can talk of the real issues of life that true healing may come. We believe leadership is difficult because of the process of vision, strategy, team building, preaching, … Yet the most difficult part for me is staying true, real and not become a false shell of consumer Christianity. To admit my shortfalls and allow others in, to have conversation where I am not the boss. We know and preach it, now we must live it. A Real God desires to meet Real People (not masked super hero’s) to bring Real Answers – even to the pastors.