Everybody Loves You When You’re Easy

Everybody Loves You When You’re Easy April 26, 2006

The words to Sarah McLachlan’s song Black and White keep echoing in my head today. You know them? “ . . . everybody loves you when you’re easy, everybody hates when you’re a bore; everyone is waiting for your entrance so don’t disappoint them . . . everybody loves you when you’re easy so don’t disappoint them . . . don’t disappoint them . . . .”

Life’s hard at the moment. All my hang-your-hopes feelings about the healing power of the community of faith have proven to be rather . . . uh, pollyanna-ish, these past weeks. (That’s actually very surprising, as I am a very committed pessimist who can expertly find the negative in most anything. It’s a gift.)


But the thing is that I take my role as a leader who models healthy community very seriously, so when cracks appear it feels disheartening. And I’m the one who is supposed to be carrying the banner of hope and optimism, so when I feel disheartened I find it difficult to do my job well.

Specifically I’ve lately been finding it such a dismal curiosity that situations completely untenable in “normal” life are acceptable within the church. I think it’s because we church folks sometimes promote the fallacy that “healthy” means “conflict-free”, but the reality of human interaction means conflict is part of life.

And when you’re supposed to be in charge, sometimes you have to manage conflict.

And NOT be easy.

In fact, be rather boorish, as Sarah would sing. Then everybody DOESN’T love you, which is a violation of the basic (admittedly misguided) quest of preacherdom: Everybody like me! Everybody like me! Everybody like me!

It’s true that one of the hardest parts of being the preacher is taking the criticism. I sometimes think that we take more criticism in our positions than in any other profession I have ever heard of (whenever I am fielding a comment about my hair or a suggestion about my preaching I always wonder if the person speaking would ever consider offering the same to their doctor . . . lawyer . . . dentist?).

Such a challenge . . . to be loved by everybody all the while being a ready target for criticism in doing our jobs. Can we do it? Can we pull off the impossible?

So far no luck.

Here’s the good news. My mother in law says that some days are good and some days you have to remember that not everybody loved Jesus.

I guess he wasn’t easy.

And even though it’s likely I’ll disappoint them, today I hope I’m not either.

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  • Onajourney2b

    Lay me to waste…my heart…my life. The confusion of being so much to so many boils down to Jesus.

    We do nothing to be loved by him…and everything that would rightfully cause him to stop. and yet…there were these nails…splintered wood…and a deepening sense of faith that calls us.

    so you know what…let there be cracks..say hey here is this brokeness…because it is in my experience that to be broken is to be human and to be perfect should be left for God.

  • Concerned

    Your blogs are usually very self-centered (count the number of times you use the “I” word) and I’ve been surprised your church supports their posting on their webpage. This one takes the cake.

    If your community of faith is not feeling the power of healing it could be the result of the very ideas you put forth in your blog. The fact that you need to “be in charge” may be a problem. Maybe you need to rethink your role in the community from “being in charge” to that of “leadership” – by word and deed and example. There’s a big difference in how your community will respond. Everyone in a leadership (not just control and command) position at various times need to manage conflict – how that is effectively done is a reflection on the person’s abilities and maturity.

    I like to think of a senior pastor as being an orchestra leader, with the responsibility to make sure all the players (staff and congregation) are on the same sheet of music and working together as a whole….all playing different instruments, playing different notes, at different times….this apparent “disharmony” reflects a “healthy” organization thanks to the leadership of the conductor.

    Sorry….you don’t need to be liked constantly for all you do….(and worry about your hair? please!)….but you do need to love others and project that love to your community. And you need to be quick to forgive – that’s probably the hardest part of being a minister. You need to sometimes be the first to take that deep breath and take the hard first step.

    Have you reached out to whoever has caused your life to be “hard at the moment”? Have you shared feelings of love and forgiveness? I doubt it.

    But you have talked to your Mother-in-law who gave you incorrect and unfortunate advice. Because he was perfect not everyone loved Jesus. I don’t think the same can be said about you or me. And it’s obvious from your blog that your community has criticized you for something you’ve done….and I doubt it was for being perfect.

    Jesus wasn’t easy – but he was loving and forgiving. He would never have wallowed in self pity and written this blog. It’s a blog only a mother-in-law would appreciate.

  • Leigh

    Amy, you are doing a fantastic job. . .a minister’s job is never an easy one. Thanks for all you do. . .and I LOVE the blog!

  • Leigh

    Thanks for the encouraging words. Life does seem like a flood sometimes, but I know your commitment and love for those around you is evident in all you do. Thanks for the honesty in your blogs. I love reading them!

  • Bil

    Well, I’m not her mother-in-law, and I appreciate the blog.

    Some people not only don’t love Jesus, they don’t get the whole “tongue-in-cheek” thing. I wonder, are those two things correlated?

    If one is writing a blog about one’s life and calling, it is possible that the blog might be just a wee bit self-referential?

    Say, Mr. Snippy, remember that verse about “judge not….”?

    Carry on.

  • Katie Harvey

    Amy,
    I am glad that you use the “I” word! This blog has been a gift for me and the congregation. Knowing how your minister feels and understanding her as an individual is a gift. On Sunday mornings you wear a robe to identify you as a representative of the faith and not as an individual. BUT you are not on the pulpit when you are writing your blog. I know that you are still a representative of the church and leader in our faith but this is YOUR forum and YOUR opinions and they are expressed as nothing more than that. If a minister cannot ever focus on themselves then how can we trust them to focus on us and God. Even Christ took a day off for self reflection and cleansing. I believe that if he could have had a blog he would have embraced the opportunity.
    Having a blog and other such forums is essential to the Baptist tradition. We are not an orchestra we are a family. I have been in orchestra and yes you make beautiful music with the person sitting next to you but unlike a family in an orchestra you are asked to express the feelings that the composer wrote on the page just as a conductor interprets them. There is very little room for self expression. As a Baptist church we encourage individuality and love individuals for their individuality, even if they do play sour notes. With independence comes conflict of opinion and sometimes all out war. You, Amy, do a fantastic job of listening to the things that everyone has to say and I believe that your feeling of being entrenched can be taken as a very twisted but real complement. You encourage us as a congregational family to know lots about each other. We know each other’s faults and opinions and out of that discord we make very beautiful music. If you are not free to express your opinion and your angst or joy then how can we trust to share ours with you? It is our responsibility as a family to bring about love and comfort not yours as an individual.
    Even though we are a family we do need a leader, someone that we can look up to and follow. I do not believe that anyone who is not a minister can even begin to understand what it is like to live in your shoes. As I work to become a doctor I am continuously asked how I am going to find the time and energy to care for all of the people that need healing. Sometimes the very thought is overwhelming. I cannot imagine what it must be like to care for Spiritual and emotional as well as physical (though I know that a good doctor must take those things also into account). You visit people who are sick in the hospital, hug weeping mothers, identify bodies in morgs, help people through their spiritual journey, endure unending physical, emotional, and spiritual criticism, and love those who others would rather ignore. Your job description might as well list superhero as a requirement.
    As a congregation member I can whole heartedly say that I do not expect a superhero. If only superheroes could follow God then where would the rest of us mere mortals be. Thank you for being human and sharing that humanity with us. We take comfort in your suffering even as we seek to comfort it. I love you Amy!
    Katie Harvey

  • Rick Goodman

    Amy: I am a little confused by “concerned” as the person seems to point to a loving Jesus in a very unloving manner. Oh well, I don’t know the anonymous person’s situation, life journey, so on to why I am blogging today.

    I very much like your style in these blogs. It is not mine, at the ripe age of 50 I am not much up on blogs, but I find those of you who plunge into them to be very refreshing. You enable others to enter into your world and thoughts, and this breaks down barriers. I find your blogs to be engaging and conversational, much like your sermons, by the way. Thanks for sharing so openly with us and others in this manner. I admire the vulnerablity and the strength of character it reveals. So, blog on and even I who draw the boundaries of interpersonal dialogue in a more conventional manner will do my best to learn and grow, and once in a great while share. Rick Goodman

  • Channah

    I’m not a memeber of your congregation, tho I would be if I lived in DC. Your writing is honest and self examining which is what makes you a good preacher and a loving friend to those in your company, I’m sure. I think it’s always tricky to set yourself up as a judge of another human being. We dont know their truth or their anguish so I’m holding back on making a judgment about “concerned” But I can make a comment about his or her comment. It was pretty darn self righteous. And that is a pretty slippery slope, if you ask me.

  • Fellow Struggler

    Amy:

    I would like to think of the senior pastor as conductor of an orchestra, too, and that metaphor would probably work if members of the staff and congregation came into church, sat down in their seats, tuned up their instruments, and waited for a nod from the senior pastor. More often I feel that I am chaplain of a mental hospital, where everyone is running amok and it’s my job to see that they don’t hurt me, themselves, or each other. I’m not always successful.

    You are a gifted and capable pastor, and you have learned to hear the music in the cacophany of congregational life. God bless you for it.

    p.s. Please notice how many times I used the word “I” in the paragraphs above.

  • Anonymous

    I do not live in DC, but I do read your blog daily. I am quite surprised at the number of comments this page has received. I do agree with everything that “concerned” has stated. I believe in forgiveness. I believe you cannot succeed in your walk with Christ without forgiveness. Although, I also agree with Katie Harvey when she typed, “We are not an orchestra we are a family.” I believe this whole-heartedly. You should write “I” because it is “your” blog, but I disagree with the connection your blog has with the church. A blog is a personal typing place, but yours is linked to the church website. Are you an accurate representation of the church body you lead? I don’t know. I haven’t been to church there, but I’m firm in my belief that they shouldn’t be linked.

  • Anonymous

    Yeah, I agree with the last comment. I attend the church and I think it would be best if the blog wasn’t linked to the web site or posted in the bulletin.