In a recent newsletter, a missionary friend commented she and her husband spent Thanksgiving Day with two couples whom they regard as “breathing friends.” Listen as she explains it.
“Breathing friends.” You know the ones where you can just let go and breathe comfortably? You feel secure enough to share the deep and shallow, and there’s no expectation that you will be a certain way?
One of the tensions of ministry is the pressure to always be “up” or “on.” You are always expected to be in “ministry mode.” You are expected to know the right word to say even when there are no easy answers. People expect the pastor to be transparent but they don’t want him to confess too openly. They want to know he is “real” but that he has it all together. They want to know he “struggles” but still has all the answers to the mysteries of life.You are expected to bite your tongue and respond kindly even in the face of biting criticism.
The expectations can lead a pastor to hold his breath a great deal of the time. It is not often he can exhale and be himself, not worrying whether his off-the-cuff remarks, candid assessments, flippant humor, shallow opinions, TV viewing habits, or secret heresies will get him an appointment with the executive committee. It is not often you can let down your guard and not worry about meeting others’ expectations.
Breathing friends. I like the idea. I could use a couple more.