What if instead of defending ourselves tooth and nail against every barb of criticism and attack that comes our way, we became obedient to death. And no, I’m not being dramatic. Those mean comments and deceitful schemes from hurtful people are not going to kill you, no matter how much they hurt. The kind of death I am talking about is death to self, death to ego, death to the need to always be seen in the best possible light. It is a death to our need to assert our rights in every situation, and instead submit to suffering for his name’s sake, entrusting our heart, our reputation, our vocation into God’s hands. This can be particularly challenging for those of us who have walked the often long, difficult road to finding a place to serve as a female pastor. It is easy to feel defensive over something for which we might have struggled so deeply and personally to receive.
The imprecatory psalms offer us wisdom in this regard, as they call us to trust in the Lord to bring about justice for the unrighteous, to commit one’s way to the Lord, and to rest in the knowledge that God will make our righteousness shine like the dawn―even if it takes a long time. If you need a physical act to help embody this death to a personal need, take a post-it note, and write down the specific “right” you are surrendering. Pray over it, and either shred it or put a pin through it and keep it in a sacred space for later reflection.
3. Model what it means to pour your life out to your congregation.
In the same manner we are called to pour our lives out as pastors for our people and the world, so too our people are called to pour out their lives for the world―at home, at work, and in the grocery store. As consoling as it is to imagine that pastors are the only ones who are treated unjustly, lied about, and misused, it is a self-serving, self-pitying lie. Your parishioners often experience the same thing in their jobs and even with hurtful family members. What they need from us is not a lesson in martyr-like victimhood, but an example of a Jesus-follower who, when treated unjustly, chooses the self-emptying way of Jesus. One who doesn’t fight for her rights at the expense of others, and who will humble herself even when it is hard and the payoff isn’t immediate.