by Jeanette Bidne
“Just because you disappointed someone does not mean you did something wrong.” I have reminded myself of the truth in this statement several times in the last couple of years. I do not recall exactly who shared it with me, but I do recall how I felt when I heard it.
I remember my mind pausing and saying to myself, “What?! But we’re not supposed to disappoint people!” Whatever your reaction, the original statement is indeed true. Just because someone is disappointed in us does not mean we did something wrong or have made a wrong choice.
I am a pastor, a new mom in her late thirties, and someone who identifies as female. I am amazed at the strength and persistence needed to set healthy boundaries for myself in my work, home life, and community, especially in the world in which we live. In this digital age, we are surrounded by the expectations of others.
Our phones buzz in our pockets with demands to respond to this or read that. Our email inboxes overflow with messages. Notes from loved ones and important work emails drown amid promotions and alert messages from organizations carefully designed to grab our attention. Like the freeway littered with billboard ads, our lives are filled with demands for our eyes, our energies, and our input.
We can barely absorb it all. We cannot address it all. We cannot respond to it all thoroughly.
Yet sometimes, we are fooled. Fooled into thinking we need to please all who ask for our attention. To not do so would be a disappointment and a misstep. Certainly, the best solution must have a positive result for all involved. I have learned, not always.
Have you ever felt you made the wrong decision simply because someone was upset with your actions? Perhaps your decision was in regards to how you spent your time, used your finances, or even what you did with your own body (comments about what is appropriate dress for one’s age or occupation come to mind…). In the constant struggle of navigating others’ expectations while journeying in my walk with Jesus (while being who God created me to be) I have come to realize that to follow Jesus sometimes means stepping on toes.
Jesus stepped on toes too
We have good company when it comes to stepping on toes while trying to walk this journey of life. Jesus stepped on toes as well. There are many examples in scripture, but the rural town of Nazareth’s rebuke of him comes to mind (see Matthew 13:53-58). Here Jesus is in his hometown, his words are changing things, impacting lives. Those around him feel he is a bit too powerful for his humble upbringing. The crowds eventually do not approve.
We, too, experience people’s disappointment. However, it does not mean we are not following where God wishes for us to go. In my office, with its unapologetic pink and teal decor, hangs my letter of call.
Printed on this framed eight-and-a-half by-eleven sheet of paper above my desk is my job description as a pastor; “. . .to preach and teach . . .to administer Holy Baptism and Communion, to lead us in worship. . .” As I work at my desk, my eyes have scanned over those words, often, when I feel like there is too much on my plate when the demands of the world seem so huge, and I feel like just one person in the midst of too much. Those words remind me of what I am supposed to be doing. I also take comfort in what is not printed on this piece of paper. Nowhere in my letter of call does it say those I serve have to like me or agree with me.
Pleasing people isn’t what I am called to do.
This is Good News. I am called to be faithful, to love those I serve alongside, and sometimes being faithful may lead me down a different path than another pastor, another member of the congregation I serve, or even my own family. Have you ever sensed that pleasing people was an expectation around you? Has someone made you second guess your choices because of how they felt? Too often society can impress on women that we are somehow responsible for the happiness of others. This is simply not true.
As a pastor, Friday is my Sabbath. This is something I guard. Unless it is a community tragedy or something pre-planned, my Sabbath is spent with my family. Not all pastors or parishioners would agree to this schedule. Perhaps you, reading this article, feel such a designation is a bit too rigid. It is okay for you to feel that way! As a wife of a clergy couple with a nine-month-old son, Friday is Sabbath. Period.
This boundary works for us. I have disappointed people with this decision.
This is especially difficult when a funeral arises and I already have plans with family. The grieving family wishes for me to serve but I remember, I have a family too. A family and a personality that is flexible and nimble many other days of the week so that we can treasure the days and times we have together. Those Fridays remind me that the world does not revolve around me. My Sabbath is a testament that I am a follower of Jesus and a child of God deserving of rest, respect, and dignity.
Those Fridays remind me to enjoy the blessings God has given and hopefully, even those who I may disappoint will be able to rejoice in that for me as well.
May we tread carefully but confidently where Jesus calls us to go.
“do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be afraid, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you; I will help you;
I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.” Isaiah 41:10
1. Have you asked yourself what some of your boundaries are? Why are boundaries important as a follower of Jesus?
2. Are you afraid to disappoint others? How does that affect your boundaries?
3. What boundaries do you need to protect for you, beloved of God, to walk where Jesus is leading you to go? Are there ways you can help strengthen the boundaries of others in their walk with God?
Creator God, we give thanks for the boundaries you offer to us in Sabbath and all parts of our lives. Give me good courage to strengthen those boundaries which assist me in following you. Guide my steps, wherever I may go, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
The Rev. Dr. Jeanette Bidne serves Trinity Lutheran Church of Blue Earth, Minn. She is a wife, new mom, scrapbooker, crafter and interested in helping people connect Scripture to daily life. She enjoys a good cup of coffee.
Excellent article. Keep those boundaries.
We’ll said – and I think the questions are super helpful to reflect on for all, including myself.
Thank you for this inspiring message!
Thank you for your message! This is true of lay volunteers as well! I am slowly learning how to say no and to not try to ‘do it all.’ I am 74 years old, so guess you could say that I am a slow learner! I am trying to spend more time at home and with my husband of 55 years!
I plan on forwarding your message to our Vicar. This is certainly something we want for her as well. She has a husband and three children and is in her second year of seminary.
Thank you, Pastor Jeanette for your faithfulness to all of your vocations and for helping the rest of us set clear boundaries with your example.