I know what you’re going through…it’s okay. Just tell me what’s going on with your parents so I can pray and support you through it.”

My parents were long-term senior pastors of a large church in the Atlanta suburbs and their marriage had hit a big, messy, and very public wall. In the midst of all the “he said, she said” accusations and conclusions, church leaders approached my 12-year-old self with what seemed like unconditional empathy for what my family was caught up in. It felt right to pour out my heart and accept the support of those who professed love for my family and promised confidentiality. Maybe you can guess the result? My words were twisted and used to slam the gavel of judgment down on my parent’s frail marriage. I, too, was crushed—and thus began decades of deep trust issues.

Since then, I’ve walked through a lot: three church splits, my parent’s eventual public divorce, countless destructive rumors, and a long dysfunctional working relationship with the church that finally ended with a shame-filled, gut-wrenching termination.

So what do you do when you’re faced with hurt caused by the body of believers?

I knew I had some major soul-searching to do. The moment had arrived to begin the massive and messy journey (one that I am still on) of starting over.

One thing I have learned and am still discovering is there is such sweetness and glory in the struggle.

Unfortunately, somewhere in my journey, my beautiful became broken. Maybe my brokenness began the moment I witnessed my parents grapple with a lack of grace-filled support. Maybe, just maybe, God allowed this path of struggle in my life so that I may ultimately discover deeper mercy, kindness, and endless love. One thing I have learned and am still discovering is there is such sweetness and glory in the struggle. I’ve never looked back. Receiving His grace has produced resilience (spiritual grit) and turned my sorrow into transformational lessons and my pain into profound progress.

Here are two critical lessons I’ve learned through my soul-searching:

 

Substitution isn’t an option.

There isn’t a ministry, organization or position that could EVER substitute your relationship with Jesus.

Somehow I pacified my need for Him with countless hours of doing, building, and believing. Often, I would leave after Sunday services feeling spent, burdened, and inadequate. In the midst of all the doing I stopped just simply embracing the reality of being a daughter of God. I stopped letting His presence wash over me. I stopped hearing His sweet words spoken to me and over me. I had forgotten how nothing could ever compare to those moments when I used to sit on my floor, cross-legged, Bible open, letting God’s love embrace me and remind me that, because of what He did on the cross, I was enough.

Serving others was exhilarating but it became the sugary substitute to the nutritional feeding of God’s word and prayer. Whether your role involves praying for people, preparing a message, leading a small group, building a team, serving on Sunday, or serving behind the scenes, none of them can ever compare to a deep, intimate relationship with Jesus Christ.

 

Perfectionism leads to nowhere

Holding ourselves and others to a standard of perfectionism robs us of progress.

The dynamics of being a pastor’s daughter, the wife of a pastor, and working in full-time ministry enabled a type of paranoia to develop in my life. When a dose of cynicism and a pinch of pain are added to the mix it is inevitable that a full-blown fear will emerge. The fear that everyone is watching your every move and waiting for you to fail becomes ever present. Sometimes my fears were founded in reality…as the saying goes, “it isn’t paranoia if they are really after you.” However, allowing that belief to invade and affect my perceptions of people robbed me of precious and authentic relationships. Whether I realized it or not, there were still many people who weren’t like that.

Somehow the standard of excellence that had become so important to me devolved into unrealistic levels of acceptance and a constant hustle to discover true worth. Living this way too easily slips into a life of hidden sin and brokenness. It involves the futile pursuit of a fashioned image that we hope can be worthy of God’s favor.

 

We must never forget that the miracle and wonder of life includes growing and progressing through messy, unlovable, and inadequate moments. Moments like these are often there to remind us of our desperate need of a Savior every day, every hour, and every minute. The best thing you can do to experience healing from any past hurt from leadership is to also go through a process of soul searching. Find out what the Lord is teaching you and grab on to those truths. They’ll be the best foundation to build on.

Have you endured pain caused by fellow believers? What helped you pick up the pieces and rebuild?

Jessica Huffman
Jessica Huffman

Jessica is a wife, mother, and coffee drinker, living each day in the grace of God with a dash of style. She has over 20 years of working church experience and is currently a business relations manager. She has a love for people, creative vision, and enjoys blogging about beauty and style.

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