Who Gathers You?

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“She is a friend of mind. She gather me, man. The pieces I am, she gather them and give them back to me in all the right order. It’s good, you know, when you got a woman who is a friend of your mind.” — Toni Morrison, Beloved

J_Diana

Who gathers you? Who are the women in your life who see you—all of you—the ones that help you to stand straighter, walk smarter? Who are the women who are “friends of your mind?”

We all need friends like that, don’t we? But man, they are hard to come by. I’ve been pondering why that is and have quite a list of contributing factors. But I keep coming back to this one: We are in a perpetual hurry. Friendships-of-the-mind require time, intention and attention.

But we’re so busy. We’ve got so much to do. There are deadlines to meet, crying babies to tend, demanding bosses to deal with, and astronomically high expectations on top of it all.

It’s no surprise that we are habitually tired. In the midst of chronic fatigue, who has the space or emotional energy to build relationships that gather us? I am writing this in the middle of December, smack dab in the clutches of all things crazy. I am feeling a sense of loss in the center of me as I try to navigate it all. My husband was sick last week and I had two tickets to a Christmas concert. I could not, for the life of me, come up with someone to call and say, “Hey, can you join me?”

So now, as I carve out a few hours to be quiet and attentive to this particular writing deadline, I wonder: how can I do my life differently in the year that is rising before us? How can I become a woman who “gathers the pieces” of others and who finds friends who can gather the pieces of me?

That first part I’ve become pretty good at. I was a pastor for a lot of years and I’ve been a spiritual director as well. I know that I have been a gatherer-of-the-pieces for a lot of people, both women and men. I am grateful for each of those relationships and experiences.

But here’s where things get a little bit murky: most of those relationships are, by design, not mutual. I am someone “official,” sometimes even “expert” (saints preserve us!), and always, the-one-who-listens. I love that part. I’m grateful for my years as a pastor and I continue to enjoy my work in spiritual direction.

But there is a flip side, and this is it: most pastors are lonely. Did you know that? Something about the title tends to make people wary and careful about intruding too much. No matter how hard you try to avoid it, the voice of a pastor carries a strange kind of weight in any meeting or gathering.

The people to whom I feel closest, the ones who know me the best, are people I knew before I became a pastor. Which means almost all of my friends-of-the-mind live miles away from me. The busier I am, the less space there is for me to connect with them in ways that are meaningful.

The parameters around your own search for such friends may not look like mine, but I’m willing to wager that the search is as real for you as it is for me. One of the joys of this internet world is the sense of connection it has given me to people all over the place. I hear echoes of my own sadness from voices of all ages and stages of life. I’m deeply grateful for the real and strong friendships I’ve made through blogging and social media, but I am keenly aware that I need in-the-flesh friends, too.

Skype helps! I’m told that Voxer is also terrific, maybe because both of those kinds of media provide a taste of encounter—voice to voice, even face to face. That is exactly what is needed if we are to gather one another’s pieces and them give them back to each other in “all the right order.”

So I’m studying my calendar these days, prayerfully and intentionally. Where can I make more room? Where can I schedule in some gathering time? Who would God have me trust and invite? How can I build a more balanced life, one with less push and more space? One with room for friends-of-the-mind. Maybe you’ll join me?

_____________

Dear SheLovelys, I’d love to hear:

– Do you have a friend who helps gather the pieces of you?

– What do you think keeps us from connecting more closely with each other?

– What’s one of the best ways you’ve learned to build strong friendships or stay connected?

______________

Image credit MikeKniec

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Diana Trautwein
Married to her college sweetheart for over 40 years, Diana is always wondering about things. She answers to Mom from their three adult kids and spouses and to Nana from their 8 grandkids, ranging in age from 3 to 22. For 17 years, after a mid-life call to ministry, she answered to Pastor Diana in two churches where she served as Associate Pastor. Since retiring at the end of 2010, she spends her time working as a spiritual director and writes on her blog, Just Wondering. For as long as she can remember, Jesus has been central to her story and the church an extension of her family. Not that either church or family is exactly perfect . . . but then, that’s what makes life interesting, right?
Diana Trautwein

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Diana Trautwein
  • Anne-Marie

    Oh Diana, you’ve touched on a tender spot. It was easier to connect with other women while gathering to pray, study and support one another with small children. I’ve tried other groups in intervening years, but they’ve not quite fit. And the fatigue! I will be mindful of sifting through that to see the threads floating about me from others that I might just grasp anyway. you are a wonderful friend here. Hope you find physical versions soon! much love.

    • pastordt

      It was easier back then, in some ways. And I’m grateful for your friendship, and that of so many others here in cyberspace. Some of those relationships are truly gathering ones.

  • Pingback: Gathering the Pieces – SheLoves()

  • Emily

    1. I do have friends who gather my pieces! I am young, so I also have named them my spiritual mentors. I don’t know what I could do without them.
    2. I think business and not being willing to accept help and support keeps us from each other.
    3. I do many things. I usually ask first. If I need to talk to my ‘gatherers’ I ask for some time to chat. I ask questions, I keep in frequent touch, and I never stop thanking them. It is exhausting being on that side of the relationship. I make sure they feel loved and appreciated and that we understand each other.

    • pastordt

      Great skills you’re developing, Emily. Thanks so much for answering the questions so thoroughly. And good for you for building those relationships early on – they will serve you well all through your life.

  • cheriwhite

    I am a pastor’s wife and I DO love listening to others, and in the past have also felt the loneliness and sometimes “one-sidedness” of relationships. In recent years I have found those who gather my pieces and am so very thankful for them in my life! I don’t know what I would do, nor who I would be without them. What a great post! Thanks for writing.

    • pastordt

      Thanks so much, Cheri – and I’m glad you’ve found such friends in your own life. Because being a pastor’s wife really can be a lonely place!

  • I do have long time friends who “gather my pieces” but like you , we have all scattered and it takes such an effort to maintain these friendships. I have been needed “piece gatherers” who live close geograhically. Gradually, I am finding them. For so long I had no emotional energy to put into any new friendships, but that is slowly changing. I actually reached out and asked a newish friend to meet with me for coffee. Such a gift.

    One of my dearest friends is also a professional business/life coach and at first, I was hesitant to share my life with her, because i was afraid she would think I was trying to get free coaching!. She dissuaded me of that notion readily…however, she is a great listener!

    Also, sometimes in this life stage where my commitments are less – no business to run, it can be tempting to fill it with just more and different activities, but I am determined to not be one of those retired people who are the most busy people around, who never have time.

    • pastordt

      It does take energy, doesn’t it, Carol? I totally get why there hasn’t been much of that for you in recent years. I’m glad to read things are shifting, however, and am grateful with you for new friends.

  • That Toni Morrison quote is perfect + I love it, Diana! This is beautiful.

    • pastordt

      I loved it when I saw it, too, Idelette. Thank you.

  • Handsfull

    I identify with this so strongly! I love listening to others, and am honored when they let me in to their hard places… and have often felt the loneliness of wondering why most don’t seem interested in returning the favour. I have a few ‘gatherers of pieces’ in my own life, and I treasure them. I haven’t the faintest idea how to go about finding more, so any clues you have would be appreciated!

    • pastordt

      I don’t have a lot of clues, I’m sorry to say. Except to pray for God to open your eyes and heart to others in a new way. That’s where it usually starts for me – recognizing my own need, talking to God about it and then being willing to be surprised by who might show up. Blessings as you wait!

  • Jeanne

    Being at a busy life stage of being a “professional gatherer (counsellor, pastoral supervisor and counsellor educator”, mother and Nanna, I am somewhat challenged by the suggested tweet of how do I become a gatherer to more people! However I do know that I couldn’t survive all the ‘hat changing’ my life entails without the support of my own pastoral supervisor and church small group. I often say, when speaking about the exponential growth of the counselling profession over the past 40 years, that this has partly come about because of the fragmentation of western modern life: there is too little ‘pieces gathering’ happening over cups of tea in front rooms/on front verandahs and over the kitchen table with family, friends and neighbours.

    • Jeanne, It sounds like you’re already doing a wonderful job of being a gatherer. Take a closer look at the tweet – the word “more” isn’t in there. Be encouraged – I don’t think God is asking you to stretch yourself farther. I love that you mentioned the support of your small group. It’s not always easy to get into (and stay in) a small group. I’m so glad you’ve been able to do that and are reaping the benefits.

    • pastordt

      I think you’re right on all counts, Jeanne. I’m glad you do have some folks in your own life who help to ‘gather’ you – you’ve got enough gathering of others going on!! Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  • Sandy Hay

    My friend Susan helps gather my pieces even though she lives in NC now. God brought us together during the season of raising our children. Fortunately our friendship grow beyond those years. God is now growing a “local” friendship with Pam and we marvel how He is weaving our lives together. Time and the prioritizing of it are my biggest hindrances from connecting. Technology gets in my way (as if I have absolutely nothing to do with that 😉 Laziness, inertia. I’ve been forcing myself to take time to build, to actually schedule connection time into my calendar. My word for 2015 is friendship so thoughts have been forming and I’ve been implementing connections intentionally..and it’s been wonderful. of course it helps when friends write blogs too 🙂

    • pastordt

      Oh, good for you, Sandy, for being intentional and thoughtful about this. It’s actually hard to do and it requires intention and an openness to it not working – and that can be scary and painful. So kudos to you – I hope this new relationship works out.

  • Excellent food for the soul, Pastor Diana. I’ve never truly pondered over the idea that pastors can and do experience loneliness too. Thanks for bringing that to our attention.

    I thank God – truly – for the Internet and its connections. Aside from the Lord, my parents and literature, blogs have helped the most in building my person.

    • pastordt

      I think these internet connections can be truly beneficial, Ganise. But I do encourage you to find one or two IRL folks with whom you can be comfortable and mutual. It makes a difference, truly.

      • I’m praying about it…Sometimes it’s hard for us believers to find those too…

  • Holly

    Oh Diana, how I wish I lived closer! I would love to sit and listen to you, walk with you along one of those beautiful beaches near you, laugh over coffee in your bright, sunshine filled house (I look at all those pictures you post, can you tell?!). It pains me that you don’t have folks closer with whom you connect like those friends of old but I so appreciate your honesty in sharing with us your loneliness. The irony, that the one who listens so well and leans in so gently can’t find another to reciprocate, isn’t lost on me. I pray that your life will swell in ways to accommodate such possibilities and that, maybe, you might be surprised by what presents.
    In the meantime, I will wait with anticipation for the next time that we might connect in real life. Grace and peace on your head, friend.

    • pastordt

      Thanks for these lovely and kind words, Holly. I do have friends here, people that I love a lot, actually. But my husband and I are trying to be more intentional about building both couple and individual relationships these days. We have become terribly dependent on our children – they’re the people we love to be with the most! – and something about that feels a bit out of whack to us. And I have learned TONS about enjoying solitude since our move here, too. So much so that now I find that I need much more of it than I ever used to need. I’ve talked with others in my age group who have also found this to be true. Thanks for your words of blessings – I’m grateful to know you, sweet girl.

  • As a pastor’s wife I certainly know what is to help and encourage others while not really knowing who to go to when I need someone. But, thank God, I do have one such friend in our church, and a couple of friends outside the church that have been that for me and vice versa.

    • pastordt

      Amen, Elizabeth – so glad you have found that trio. Makes a huge difference, doesn’t it?

    • Jeannie Pallett

      It is women like you Elizabeth that God has given me a heart for and so I am glad to hear God had given you just the right kind of friend you need. Safe.

  • HBurns

    Thanks for carving out the time to write this important and powerful post Diana. As a pastor I have met many lonely pastors/pastors wives who express they experiences as you have here today. Somewhere early in my journey of becoming a pastor I decided that i NEEDED & wanted friends though many people who were further along that me in the journey told me that ‘you can’t get too close to people when you are in ministry’. I am so glad I disregarded their advice as I have forged intimate, vulnerable and close friendships in my church, my community and beyond and I have desperately needed them. They have sustained me, taught me, carried me and brought the greatest joy & love through every season of life for the past 30 years. Much love xo

    • You do friendship so beautifully, Pastor Helen. xo #WaiterIwillHaveWhatSheIsHaving

    • pastordt

      I hear you, Helen. And I absolutely agree that those warnings get in the way! I have a few of those, too – mostly with women I worked with as staff, actually, but a few others as well. Thank you so much for sharing here in this conversation.

  • Lisha Epperson

    Just yesterday I had a long phone conversation with a friend of the mind. She spoke life and holy encouragement. She knows me well and put all my pieces in just the right order. You know how good and right that feels so I won’t go on about it. But I do recognize I need more of that. Intentional time spent with people who know and love me well. By Gods grace it always seems to happen just at a time when I need it but I should work to not need those empty spaces filled so frequently. My daughter and I talked today about making Sunday night connection night. I’m not good with phone calls so we’ll see how it goes but a voice goes a long way. I’m looking forward to establishing a ritual of gathering and being gathered. Happy Sunday and birthday blessings Diana!

    • pastordt

      What an interesting idea – a connection night. I’d love to hear how it goes after you’ve tried it for a while. And Skype is a great substitute for phone calls. 🙂 Thanks for sharing this with us here, Lisha. I always appreciate your words.

  • Jeannie Pallett

    I love the word gathering…the first experience I had with it was when I attended an overseas women’s conference with a group of ladies from my church. The first night we were asked to look around and ‘gather’ someone. I reached out to a young lady who was by herself and who just happened to have been believing God for some very specific needs that I was able to provide. Friendship and time spent together was one of them and my other lady friends actually thought she was a long lost friend. Love flowed with sincerity and it was sad to say good bye to her. Who God has me gathering now are specific pastors wives and ministry leaders and it is truly a blessing to be a safe place for these precious women.

    • pastordt

      Love this story, Jeannie! And offering a safe place to women in ministry is a true gift – thank you.

  • I’m soaking in your wisdom, Diana 🙂 And grateful to know that sometimes loneliness is part of just BEING, and not something I’m simply bad about.
    I do have these friends. Sometimes, I wonder if loneliness is me a) not being content with the real, close friends I do have, and/or b) me not reaching out enough. Friendship takes discipline, that’s for sure.

    • pastordt

      And time, too. Both are sometimes hard to come by. And yes, I do think loneliness is part of life and it’s something that can teach us, too.

  • Nancy Ruegg

    Diana, you definitely gathered a lot of my pieces today: 1) As a pastor’s wife for forty years, I made it my mission to be a good listener for others, to pray with them, to demonstrate that I cared. But my circle of personal friends was always very small. 2) Steve recently retired and we moved 900+ miles to be close to our sons. We’re loving the proximity of family, after being separated for a long time. But finding a church home has not been easy, and new, face-to-face friends have not been found yet. One of the things that has held me back previously is a factor you mentioned: Everyone is so busy. I hesitate to say, “Hey! How about a cup of coffee?” And to be honest, there’s a bit of fear of rejection, too. The church we’re attending now may be the one where we plant ourselves. Involvement in a small group will be an important first step toward building relationships, I know. But I need God’s help to push me out of my comfort zone, especially without the role of “pastor’s wife!”

    • pastordt

      Oh, I hear you, Nancy. BIG time. And I’ll be praying with you for new community and new relationships – ones that are NOT dependent on you being anything other than a friend. (And I want to encourage you to ask — even if you get a ‘no’ or two. Believe me, I know it’s hard. It’s hard for me, too.) One other suggestion – something I have just started myself – if there is something you love to do but have had to put to the side because of family/church/whatever, explore possibilities for doing it again. I’ve joined a community choir and may join another one! And I’m loving it. I gave up choral music when we moved to Santa Barbara 18 years ago and it’s been delightful to try it again. Maybe it’s a craft or a book club. . . Think and pray on that. Maybe you’ll find some pieces of this in that way.

      • Nancy Ruegg

        Thank you, Diana, for taking the time to respond. I so appreciate your caring heart! As it happens, the church we’re attending has a writers group. I saw it advertised in the bulletin. They meet tonight, and I’m going!

        • pastordt

          Yay for Nancy!! Hope it works out well.

          • Nancy Ruegg

            I did enjoy the writers’ group meeting. Friendly folks, and top-notch writers offering worthwhile suggestions and encouragement. Thank you again, Diana, for your compassion and caring.

  • Atit Babu Rijal

    My best friend
    She gathers me
    She has made me the man, people respect
    She gives me the happiness i have always wanted
    She loves me more than anything else

    My best friend
    I will love her till eternity