“The task of growth is to pursue an unflinching honesty about self, world, and God, no matter what the results compel us to face or give up.” = Dan Allender, Bold Love
Have you ever gotten frustrated with the healing process? Have you ever wished you could just hurry up and get there already? If so, I’m right there with you. Healing is hard, it takes time, and it takes God’s help and tender mercies. Healing does come if we are willing to be honest, willing to let go of the things that hold us back, and willing to forgive even the unforgivable.
I have to admit, I think speaking is far easier than writing. In speaking, I can use body language, tone, facial expressions and other senses to convey the story within the story. I can share tragedy in such a way that it’s okay to hear it. How does a writer convey a deeper story, without violating the sensibilities of the reader? I don’t know that I am fully there yet, but I’m going to give it a shot.
This is definitely one of those days where I regret deleting my former blog. Mentioning the “meanest pastor in the world” as I so unloving called him yesterday, doesn’t mean much if you don’t know the story. He was mean — most people who knew him would agree with that statement. God also used him to do great things for His kingdom. Being a pastor does not mean he was perfect. He was a sinner, just like you, just like me. He was also a good man in a lot of ways.
There are only a handful of trusted people who know the depth and breadth of my church work experience. Putting that experience into the acceptable standard of 500 words or less post won’t suffice. His death and his roll in my life are only relevant in the sense that he is responsible in so many ways for who I am today. What his death also signifies is the need for me to let go of excuses for no longer working in a church.
- Because of him — I learned that my own temple was full of idols. — People pleasing is rooted in idolatry and false shame.
- Because of him — I laid down everything I thought I knew as a teacher of the Word and ran back into scripture and the arms of a loving God and found new value, new worth, and truth like I’d never known.
- Because of him — I faced my own mirror of fear and secret shame.
- Because of him — I know today that I am more than the things he called me.
- Because of him — I learned the value of being trusted and keeping a confidence.
I am trying to choose my words carefully here. What I don’t want is someone to walk away from reading this post thinking I said God makes bad things happen. God doesn’t. We live in a sinful and broken world.
Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.
What I don’t want to do is violate your sensibilities. I do however, want you to think. I want you to think about your life and the people in it. I want you to think about those you can learn from; even those you think hate you or better yet, those you think you hate. I want you to think about whatever past it is you hide from. I want you to think about God and His redeeming plans for your life. What I don’t want you to do is think about me.
My story, is anyone’s story.
I have a past. We all do. No big deal really. Except that as a ministry leader, I lived in fear of being found out and called a fraud – or worse, being exposed and rejected.
Guess what. I got found out. I got exposed. And I was rejected.
But hear this: I didn’t die.
I wanted to. Thought I was going to. I even considered taking my own life at one point. I spent three years in therapy fighting to stay alive. God won and I’m eternally grateful. He saw this coming, he’s already made a path. I have no idea why he allowed what he did, but I do know that I am stronger and better today because of it.
Do I still spin sometimes when I talk about what happened? Yes. But not like I used to. I’m healing. I see progress.
Before I answered any kind of call to ministry, I processed my past with someone I trusted. A local (at the time) pastor. He was encouraging, thoughtful and kind and shared how God doesn’t hold our sins against us. We talked about how He redeems and gives new life. Our conversations revolved in large part around this is who I used to be, and this is where I am now because of God. My story is a witness to God’s mercies, grace and power. What I was most afraid of really was would the church still accept me? What if they didn’t?
I don’t want you to miss this — I wanted to belong MORE than I wanted to serve God. My core belief was if I could work in a church than that would really show the priest who kicked us out when I was a kid. This was hidden scar that did not come out until I was broken. It was a reality about myself that I had to face one way or the other — and repent of it — before I could be of any real use to God.
The thing is though – I always viewed my story as my story to tell. Not someone else’s. I only share that which I think can benefit others while still protecting myself. I only share in my time and on my terms.
This pastor’s belief that God redeems and I am forgiven apparently stops in his office. I say that because, once I took a part time church job, he chose to extend a professional courtesy and fill my new employer in on everything we’d discussed. That sharing got twisted from a past reality to a present reality and I was treated differently because of it. I honestly never saw that coming. I grew up in a time where priests took your confessions to the grave. Apparently in the protestant church, some ministers take your confessions to their wives and your employers. Some pastor’s view professional courtesies as rights and privileges. I view them as crap.
I’m going to get harsh here. Just for a minute.
It is my opinion that professional courtesies are nothing more than emotional and spiritual rape. My confidante is a rapist, whether he sees it or not, that is what he is. Any pastor who betrays the confessional betrays a sacred trust. Harsh words and a very unpopular stance, but true nonetheless. I’ve learned that the path of recovery from emotional/spiritual rape is almost identical to that of physical rape. — I’m working on several pieces regarding that topic, so I won’t expound here just yet. If that has every happened to you, please know that you are not alone. And know also, that God does indeed have a greater plan for you.
It was because of this professional courtesy that said, now deceased, pastor felt he had the right to call me names and share his version of my life with others. I was, according to him both a whore with an over active conscience and the office bastard. I’m still living with the fall out from that and while I’ve forgiven the whole situation, there is still some pain. I don’t trust pastors, including my own.
Will I fully recover from that? I honestly don’t know.
I tend to assume the worst of intentions and keep a closely guarded heart. My standard response to personal inquiries is “fine.” I pursue intellectual activities and communication at the expense of truth sometimes.
I also test the spirits. I am learning how to trust a little at a time. I’m learning to watch, and wait, and trust some more. While I have not arrived at my desired location (full trust) I am at least on the right travel itinerary.
What happened was wrong. It was huge. It did cause damage. It was not without consequence. What happened requires that I learn how to forgive the unforgivable. Not for their sake, but for mine. Why? Because the God of the universe, who knows the number of hairs on my head is in the midst of it all. He sent his only begotten son to die for me. It is through the redemptive, healing work of the cross and the resurrection that empowers me and anyone who has ever been deeply wounded to do so.
Running away from LCMS as I did, took me straight into the lives of the most unlikely of people. Anne Jackson (flower dust), Ken Davis, Chonda Pierce, Thelma Wells, Carol Kent. Not personal friends per se‘, but people God gave me to help me heal and teach me truth. They literally became my teachers through books (Anne), or personal conversations, and classes. I’ve even had the privilege of working behind the scenes with a few of them at conferences. They have taught me that my life is more than my past and more than whatever pain I may or may not experience. It was these very people that helped me find my way back home to LCMS and ministry – and it is these same people I write about today as a shared resource to other LCMS readers here on this blog.
In the psalms King David says that God created us to trust and if that is true then distrust must be learned. And if it’s learned then it can be unlearned. I like the hope in that. –Psalm 22:9 Yet you brought me out of the womb; you made me trust in you even at my mother’s breast. (NIV)
So what is my responsibility here?
It is my responsibility:
- To: Act on the knowledge that God’s word carries more weight than the word of man.
- To: Repent of being more afraid of man than I can be of God.
- To: Learn that just because I trusted someone – who should have been trust worthy – and they let me down, does not mean I should never trust again.
- To: Trust God above all else.
I am able to forgive the man who called me names far easier than I am the man who betrayed my confidence. The man who called me names was only reflecting my biggest fears about what was true about me. He was just a mirror. The timing of his funeral was too close to Mom’s death and we didn’t have the strength to be there. I owe him a lot.
And the irony is, while he may have been my nemesis while he was alive, he was also one of my greatest teachers and for that, I am thankful.
I have learned silence from the talkative, tolerance from the intolerant, and kindness from the unkind; yet, strange, let me not be ungrateful to those teachers. – Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet