A couple of years ago, someone very dear to me accusingly pointed out that I have a tendency toward closer friendships with pastors than most people have.
And sure, he was sort of right.
At my first church, my pastor got me a job working for him. He was a radiologist who read the nighttime E.R. images for most of Tucson. He worked out of his house, and he needed a reading room assistant to deal with faxes and phone calls. It was a sweet gig, because E.R.s aren’t always busy at night, so there were nights when I didn’t do much of anything. I’d read or nap, and there were quite a few times when Mr. Bossman Radiologist would come and talk with me while we waited for work to come in.
Then, there was my second pastor, who I’ve written about quite a lot because he has become a dad to me.
Then, there was my third pastor who became one of my closest friends.
So… now that I’ve moved on to a newer church, I find myself hesitating. With Pastor Pete, he’s got quite a lot going on with a newish church plant that’s growing, so I’ve been able to fade into the background pretty well. However, we’ve now got an interning pastor who is also my Bible study leader, and he’s taking a special interest in me that I’m irrationally fighting.
And yes – it’s stupid. My friend should not have so carelessly passed judgment. Without thinking much about it, he implied an impropriety that didn’t exist, a warped ambition in my heart, and any number of other unfounded and hurtful judgments. I believe that if he knew how much his comment tortured me, he would rescind it immediately and tell me that each of the relationships I’ve had with a pastor was a gift from God. But a broken heart isn’t easily mended, and discovering his true opinion of me certainly broke my heart.
And yet, broken heart or no, Andy, my interning pastor has been kind and generous with me, in using me as an example when advising others, in pushing my name forward as someone who might be perfect for this or that, and now, by going out on a limb to set me up with one of his friends. So it seems that regardless of my attempts at anonymity with church leadership, Andy and I will be friends, unless…
Well, the blind date set up thing is one of the more awkward obstacles that can happen to any friendship, because there are terrible pitfalls that could lead to any number of bitter regrets by everyone or anyone involved. What if it doesn’t work out? What if it does? What if I have to stop going to the only Bible study my church offers that I really like? What if it gets awkward and ruins my friendship with Andy’s wife? What if… what if… what IF…?
So there we are, at church, and Andy walks up to me and offers an exaggeratedly tentative, “Hiiiiiiiii.”
“You’re going to ask me to do something,” I say.
And he launches in to a highly prepared speech about someone named Ethan (I think that’s his name). Andy has mentioned Ethan to me a few times before, because when Andy and I met, he immediately identified me as a good match for Ethan. He goes to ComiCon and is a delightful, God-fearing nerd… as am I, evidently.
So… in spite of my awkward prediction that the set up would ruin all friendships involved, Andy will be giving Ethan my number, so wish me good luck with Ethan and Andy. I pray that I will be a blessing to both regardless of what the future holds.
And Question: How close should the shepherd/sheep relationship really be? I tend to believe that pastors should have personal relationships with everyone they lead, but then there’s the whole mega-church thing that makes pastors into inaccessible celebrities, and I don’t believe there’s anything inherently wrong with that. Thoughts?