Every Saturday morning after breakfast with the kids alongside us, Ben sweeps, mops and vacuums the floors. I dust the house and clean the bathrooms. It seems like a fair division. Except sometimes, one of us notices something the other is missing. Ben has this thing with the ceiling fan blades. He says they get dusty along one edge. But I never think to look up when I’m dusting, so I don’t usually think about it. I do, however, think about the hairballs that are underneath and behind the couches that he misses on a regular basis.
One Sunday morning, as I was getting ready and mentally preparing for the service and sermon and everything, Ben came to me and said, “Hey, you know how when someone showers, it gets misty in the bathroom and sometimes there’s residue that builds up on the walls? It starts dripping down the walls and makes these gross streaks. Maybe when we’re in the bathrooms and we see that, we could just wipe them off.”
Did I mention that this was a Sunday morning? And I’m pretty sure that when he said “we,” he meant “you.” He didn’t say that, but I knew that’s what he meant. So in my continuing journey of sanctification, this resulted in what I’ll just call a “discussion.”For which I ended up apologizing an hour or so later. Praise the Lord for forgiving spouses.
The point is, there are some things around the house that get messy—little things, most of the time—and I just don’t see them.
I think my heart is like that sometimes. Whether it’s my personal spiritual journey or my pastoring skills, I’ve found I need people to have a look around my life and show me where the hairballs are.
About two months after I was elected Lead Pastor at Southwood, I found myself dealing with an unstable staff member, a married couple in the church on the brink of divorce, and another congregant who was threatening a lawsuit against the church. I realized I needed some wise counsel. So I contacted my district leadership and asked for a mentor. I was given some options and selected a man who’d been pastoring his church for over 30 years. The first time I called him (he lives an hour away), I felt like I was dumping a load of mud at his feet and then asking him to help me clean it up. Four years later, I still call him every month and he asks me questions about ministry and marriage and sanity. He has my permission to tell me the hard stuff—to point out the dusty edges in my life and ministry. And then he shows me how to clean them. Receiving his wisdom during crises has been a source of affirmation and relief for me.
Several years ago, one of the Church of the Nazarene’s General Superintendents spoke at our District Assembly and exhorted us to look for a person to disciple us (as well as to find people that we ourselves would disciple). I could not think of anyone to approach about discipling me, so I prayed for the Lord to show me someone. A couple of years later, my attention came to a man in my church who was a “retired” minister, for whom I had deep respect. I asked him to disciple me. And you know what I mean when I say he’s “retired,” right? The man still travels the world speaking at revivals and retreats several weeks or months every year. So a few times a year, I call and ask if I can come over. I’m still Pastor to him and his wife, so I’ve tried to learn the balance of ministering to and praying with them, even as I receive encouragement, wisdom and prayer from them. They have been a source of hope and refreshment for me. I’ve found that as much as I need people to point out my dusty edges, I also need people like them who will show me some of the shiny, beautiful places of blessing that God allows me to experience…occasionally I have a hard time seeing those!
Then about two years ago, I became aware of a need I felt for accountability. As a pastor, I suppose people might assume that I spend time studying my Bible each morning, sitting patiently in quiet prayer, and maintaining a strong marriage, with children that smile delightfully at me every day. It sounds lovely, doesn’t it? And also maybe a little unrealistic. But I have a desperate need to cling closely to Christ, and to maintain faithful authenticity in the depths of my soul. And more than anything else on this earth, I want a solid marriage. So I looked around me and found a few other ladies (all of whom are also pastors) whom I asked to enter into a commitment with me to study Scripture together and to hold each other accountable to the most important things in life. For these past two years, I’ve been beyond grateful for their willingness to ask me the hard questions, to show me those gross streaks in my life that I won’t see if left to myself.
These relationships have taken time! They take time both in the sense that they’ve taken years to develop and also they require me to create space in my schedule. And I’ve found they are vital for me. I believe there is a good chance I would no longer be in the ministry if I didn’t have those people around me. The Lord has blessed us to live in community with brothers and sisters in service together for the Kingdom. I am so thankful for those who will walk the journey with me in grace, and in a spirit of love, point out the hairballs as we go along!
Deanna Hayden serves as the lead pastor of Southwood Church of the Nazarene. She lives in Raytown, Missouri, with her husband Ben and their two children, Josiah and Hannah. Deanna is an ordained elder, born and raised in San Diego, and has spent time living and teaching in South Korea. She loves culture and coffee shops, being silly with her family, and serving the Lord in the never-dull adventure of life in ministry.