Two Sundays ago I did go to worship at a church in the evening but before that I took Gracie to a party for her preschool class- not a birthday party- but a getting to know you party. I was glad I could go to that because I didn't feel I could afford the big splurge of socializing at the local Cox Farms at $9/ person (2 and up)--especially when there are free places. I don't hang around and socialize with the other parents as much as I should on school pick up days... I should. I really should. And sometimes I do - but somedays I have to get somewhere. And some days- I just don't enjoy standing around and chatting when they are in the super cute work out clothes, with what seems like all the time in the world (I acknowledge that is not true... I believe whole heartedly that stay at home moms are amazing- Amazing! And I have my moments of thinking "wouldn't it be great if I could afford that" but then I love love love ministry to- and I do believe comepletely that my call as a mom and as a wife does not conflict with my call as a pastor. I also hate watching and worrying about my kids sticking their heads between these metal bars outside, or falling over bricks that are in the landscaping, or being run over by a car.... I would prefer to chat and have them play in a fenced in area....
ANYWAY- I went to the parent socializing party- and it was fun. I really had a nice time. I didn't completely feel wierd as pastor and working mom. There was at least one other working mom there. And I felt a buddy. I'm always worried I'm going to sound preachy or too churchy.... that I won't be able to be "normal." People started to complain at one point about taxes and I shared about a funeral I did for a woman who worked for the Federal Gov't for 64 years (31 at FBI and 33 at IRS) and I shared how incredible that was and how the people who came I thanked them b/c I realized that folks from the IRS most likely rarely get thanked- Thanks for roads, and schools, and EMTS, and libraries, etc. (seriously- I was not being political- I just thought they work hard and we all work hard and we can enjoy these privileges in our society). The conversation left the negative and that was nice. Hopefuly they didn't think I was too goody goody-- I didn't feel like complaining about the government or taxes... In general I just don't like to be negative...
So maybe they thought I was too Polyanna (wouldn't be the first time I've heard that)
The folks who hosted had a parrot and his name was Wendell. I said, "Oh cool- is it Mr. Wendell?" Everyone had a very blank face- and the owners said, "No." I was like- you know, like the song "Mr. Wendell-- by Arrested Development?" Okay - totally blank faces.
So maybe I'm weird hipster Mom-- or perhaps this is just saying- Beth- you're not in Atlanta or Detroit anymore--- no one got it. Really? Didn't we all grow up hearing "Mr. We-en-dell"? Apparently not.
Its all good though- In the end- my confidance, my understanding of me is stronger than what the others and other parents think of me.
It is hard to make friends as an adult.
Add being a pastor, being a working Mom, and that gets more tricky.
I am friendly- I meet folks at Costco! I met this one Dad recently waiting for pizza and we shared poop and vomit stories! We had just met and we're rolling with laughter over the parent/bodily fluid experiences we endure. I didn't even invite him to church (through conversation I knew he attended another) but I often do invite others to church. Its like I can't turn part of me off- I don't turn off the mom or wife part of me and I can't really turn off the pastor part of me either.
In seminary they say not to be friends with your parishoners. That you can't be pastor and friend. This is somewhat true- but not all true. Yes, you don't want to call them to vent about church or your spouse, whatever. But you can talk about your life, your kids.
You can be real. You can be authentic.
My church is not just the place I serve---my church is also my family--its part of my home.
They have held me through pregnancies, and births, through kids getting sick, and running through church, through my child throwing an all out temper tantrum. I have never felt a sense from folks at my church that "Those are the pastor kids- they shouldn't act that way." I truly haven't. Its pretty amazing. Because I have heard horror stories from other PK's (Preacher Kid's). I am friends with people at my church and especially with the other parents here at my church- I feel a particular bond with them- they have particapted in my children's faith development and my own, all the church made promises at my children's baptisms.
If and when I invite folks to church it is only because I want them to also experience this kind of joy and wholeness of having a community that cares. Yes, sometimes the church fails- sometimes people fall through the cracks- sometimes it doesn't work out -- but sometimes and I venture to say most times- there is an opportunity for real authentic friendship with others in Christ.
Somtimes I feel that so much- that it is hard to make friends outside of church. Not impossible, but hard. I still think its important. And its something I need to be better at.
I have a real heart for the unchurched-- I miss being out in the community more. And I want to be better at doing that. This is what church planters must do each day- they don't have a building to insulate themselve in- they must be out there. And I love that- I can talk to anyone anywhere -- usually-- but why- why is it hard to make small talk at preschool pick up? Its not hard so much as I don't always feel I fit in maybe...
They know I'm the pastor.... but that shouldn't make it hard...
Sometimes I think people hear "pastor" and automatically put certain labels on those of us who are clergy.
If you are a pastor you must be___ you have to _____etc. I have suffered this before. And lost a friend.
Those friends you have before you became a pastor are awesome. They know you- accept you- and sometimes are surprised---sometimes they say, "This makes sense." But they love you.
Or there may be those folks who knew you (not friends/ acquatinces, or even family) and then you go through seminary, etc. and they're like "who do you think you are? I knew you when..." Great stories on this in Mitch Albom's book "Have a Little Faith."
This may be true for others in other vocations too.
Either way-- no matter what- making friends as an adult is harder than when we were kids. Remember conversations like, "Do you like Spider man/Barbie/ He-Man? Me too- cool- we're BFF!"
College was the same. I met friends my first day at college in the cafeteria b/c we all ended up sitting down and having a long conversation around "Saved by the Bell" We could all relate...then there was rush-- but before we were all the same- all new- and all understood certain sacred things- like a crush on Zack Morris.
Today- you meet a friend and it can be more complicated. But not impossible.
At the core people want to be loved, wanted, affirmed, known, seen, and appreciated. We may not come together around the toys, tv, or shows we like (although we may) but we can come together around the fact that we are each made in the Image of God to love and be loved. We all want that and need that- crave it! We put up good fronts- but deep down that is our basic need- as much as food and shelter.
When they meet me they may think I'm a Polyanna- that I'm too bubbly- or that I have strange music tastes(a white girl who loves old school rap?)... those are true statments most likely-- but I'm also more than that. One of my best friends first thought, "Whoa- she is way too southern bubbly bouncy! But she loves me-- she even loves the optimism in me."
It is scary to put yourself out there- but you're worth it. You're loved.