Don’t say it can never happen to you. It almost happened to me. I was in a particularly vulnerable time of my life, feeling emotionally distant from my family, betrayed and confused, without a safe place to unburden myself. I was questioning my ministry, wondering if I was really having any impact, and needing to connect deeply with someone. Plus, I really had no clue that I was so vulnerable.
I had been tempted before, but had been pulled back from the brink by circumstances. This time, I became attracted to a mature young woman in the church, eager to grow. I knew all the cautions about not dating someone you ministered to, but it was easy to rationalize because, of course, we were not dating . . . never even dreamed of dating! But we began meeting, often, to share . . . share hopes and dreams . . . share what we were learning spiritually . . . share prayer needs and personal needs. People began to notice and even those close to me began to whisper and then to warn, cautiously, respectfully.
“But we’re not doing anything wrong,” I rationalized. “No one else understands me as much as she does. When you’re in ministry, you need spiritual friends to support you. We would never cross the line. I know better. I know where to draw the boundaries.”
At the time, I had every justification in the book. “Even spiritual leaders have legitimate personal needs.” “God would not have put this person in my life if it wasn’t His plan to meet my needs.” “I am helping to meet their needs, too.” “As long as we haven’t crossed the line physically, our connection is not a moral issue and does not concern the church.”
The truth is, I was sincere in my desire to serve God but I was saved by His grace and mercy from not making what could have been the biggest mistake of my life. Burning out in other ways, I could not see the danger I was walking into.
The truth is, I had legitimate needs in my life at the time that I was trying to meet in illegitimate ways. I needed spiritual friendship and companionship, but overlooked the appropriate sources for that. I had a major family issue that I needed some professional help in sorting out. I was weary from sustaining a ministry schedule that no one could keep up long-term. I was seriously overdrawn on my spiritual bank account from not making enough deposits.
The truth is, I had to take an extended break from that ministry setting and get some counselling and spiritual feeding to replenish my soul. Now I see that the line I walked would have led right to destruction. I am grateful that I got out just in time . . . this lesson could have been much harder and more painful.
The truth is, I have learned some valuable things from this experience. I am very careful of opposite sex friendships now. I include my spouse and/or inform her of all meetings with other women. I am much more self-aware of my needs for rest, spiritual input, recognition of my limits, companionship, friendship and support and I find ways to nurture my soul in all of these areas.
If you find yourself walking a fine line, ask yourself these questions:
The truth is, you can trust Him. He wants to meet your needs. Don’t let a dangerous spiritual substitute stand in for the real thing – an intimate relationship with God Himself! That is what you tell the people you minister to. Don’t fail to hear the message yourself!
- What do I stand to lose if I continue on this path?
- Am I meeting legitimate needs in illegitimate ways?
- Can I trust God to help me find His ways of having my needs met in ways that will please Him and bless me?