During the years when my family had an extremely busy social calendar, I had a competing example that helped me not run off into the woods and build a treehouse fort for one or obsessively google small islands for sale at rock bottom prices. I had a ministry opportunity to serve a woman who was completely isolated - some of it circumstantial, other factors were self-inflicted. Always introverted, no one would have ever accused her of being the life of any party. But after months of isolation her social skills were pretty rusty, making social interactions even more difficult. I served on a visitation committee and in that role I would visit her once a month. After doing this for a couple months, I began to dread the visits. WHY I did so became apparent one rainy spring day when I showed up with soup for a visit.
She talked incessantly for 40 minutes, which I attributed to her isolation and loneliness. I was startled when she said, “I have a bone to pick with you. I find you very difficult to have lunch with. You never share anything personal about yourself. I share all this personal information about me but you never return my overture to connect.”
In the moment the only thing I could think about was how she NEVER STOPPED TALKING-how could I get a word in? I never figured it out in real time. She left the church soon thereafter when the church was not willing to pay her utility bill every month. Today, I think I understand that the problem was not her incessant talking, her demands for financial support or even my unwillingness to share my most intimate thoughts. The real issue was confusion over the appropriate love arena we operated within. One of the prickly issues in this scenario is that this woman was acting as if we were intimate friends (I want to know everything about you) and the church was in an intimate relationship with her (pay my bills). From my perspective and I think the church’s, this was a ministerial visit within the context of community. We were willing to be community, but it was beyond healthy boundaries to take on the role of intimate relationship with her, either individually or as a church body. When we do not appropriately match up our needs and wants within the appropriate context for addressing them, we have issues. Can you relate?