That’s me. Seriously lacking in social skills. Particularly when it comes to two important things here in my ministry at a Christian school.
1. Welcoming new people. 2. Being gracious to people who decide to leave. In both categories, I get a “D-.”
When new folks come to OBI, it takes me weeks to really start seeing them as members of the team. It’s like they are just visting, and I expect them to be gone in a few moments. There are folks here right now who have been at work for over a month, and I still haven’t met them. (Of course, not ever seeing them makes that easy!)
I’ve concluded I am operating on some kind of agenda of self-protection. In many ways, I am afraid of people. I am afraid they will demand too much or expect too much. I fear rejection or too much intimacy too soon. Being the campus minister, everyone has a lot of assumptions about what I am all about, and I don’t fit many of those. I protect myself too long from new friendships because of those fears.
It’s uncomfortable to have to say, “Well, I really haven’t read Jabez,” or “No, I’m not really a big fan of Christian music.” It’s avoidance, and it’s not fair, not loving and not good. I’m sorry folks. I need to do better. These folks came here needing friendship and encouragement from those of us who are here. I can’t be stingy with my friendship and support. An air of aloofness was never a characteristic of Jesus.
I’m even worse when it comes to saying good-bye to fellow staff who quit, but it’s simpler to understand. Usually, I feel betrayed and abandoned. I want them to stay.
Many of these folks are leaving over problems that we faced and overcame in our time here. It frustrates me to see people leaving over those very solvable problems. Others simply aren’t cut out for this kind of work, and I ought to rejoice in that. But it’s a bit like war. Even if I am glad they are going back home, I’m feeling left out here a little less defended and supported than before.
Every departure isn’t a rejection of the ministry, even if some are. God has his own time schedule, and I need to help people feel good and useful in the time they have served here. It’s the right thing to do, and pragmatically speaking, it makes sense. These folks are still contributors, supporters and word-of-mouth advertisers.
Things change. People come and go. I need to be better at offering myself to them as friends, and better at expressing thanks for what they have contributed. I have a ministry, and that isn’t about protecting myself from awkward feelings. The experiences I’ve had in life that made me like this don’t have to keep me captive. God has given me a love for others, and I need to express it.
Being a social hermit is something I’d like to change about myself. I’ll never be Mr. Gregarious, but I could do better. I’ll make it a matter of prayer in the future. My real apologies to those treated shabbily in the past. Practice at being a servant of God can sometimes be so bad, I wonder if I will ever really get in the game?