Yesterday, our Pastor spoke on forgiveness. I'm going to call him Pastor K... It really is part of a sermon on prayer...and his point was that we have to be forgiving in order for us to receive forgiveness from God. Sorta like a timeout...when you tell your 3yo "You do what I say, sit in timeout until you do it...and when you obey you can come join us" sort of thing. I hope he doesn't read this...he'll probably die because I've butchered it so much!
Anyway...FORGIVENESS! On topic...forgiveness is something that is difficult for me. I have to be very deliberate. I'm still learning what God's opinion on true forgiveness is...I find that there is a lot of "religion" around it (meaning churches subscribe to a lot of opinions on it that I don't always see in the Bible) when taught in church. So I'm always very cautious when I hear a message on it. :-P You can listen to his message here. (It isn't up yet, otherwise I'd give you a direct link - look for the sermon given 5/31/09.)
Here are my take-aways...we HAVE to forgive. When we don't, it leads to bitterness. Forgiveness is a very deliberate things. It isn't easy. He gave a great example from when he forgave his dad. I actually did something similar with William regarding HIS parents about 2 years (or so ago). I can say it worked for me...(I was pretty angry over some things that occurred after Rebekah was born).
Sitting in the sermon yesterday, I realized there was someone that I have been angry with for a very long time. I wouldn't say bitter necessarily...more hurt. My previous pastor, we'll call Pastor D! Pastor D was my youth pastor. Some events took place and he started a church. This church was not started under "great" terms. A wise old owl warned me about this, but I thought I knew everything. I wish I knew where that wise old owl was now...so I could tell him HE WAS RIGHT! HA!
Anyway, Pastor D was my mentor. He married William and I. I babysat for him as a youth, I hung out with his family. After William and I were married we'd hang out, go out to dinner as a couple or whatever. Mentor and friend just really describes it...I had so much to learn from him and felt like he had a lot to teach. So when he started this church it was a no-brainer for me. Especially since God had TOLD me (specifically) that I would be involved in ministry with Pastor D beyond the church we were currently attending. I clearly remember this moment, because it was a moment where I went 'Huh?'. It was well before any of the bad things happened at that church. After the bad things unfolded and the new church was started, it had made sense. I knew I was in the right place, and I still do believe that is where God wanted me at that time.
Things were great at church. We were a small church (7 or so families) and very family like. When William and I married, my side was filled with my church. :-) My church WAS my family. There were some inherent issues with this church (looking back), I'd like to share as a warning to others.
Firstly, my pastor received his "ministry license" (or whatever) off the Internet. Yup. I'm not kidding...at the time, it didn't matter b/c I didn't really think you had to have a college degree to be able to teach God's word. I still believe this, but what Pastor D was missing was oversight. We all report to someone. Pastor D reported to God...well uhhhh...this works in theory, but God intended for us to work more military like. At the top, there ought to be a group of people who oversee the leadership...checks and balances. Pastor D always said he was kept in line by the elders. There were two...my dad and one other guy. They never listened to my dad...so it was just the other guy. And if you ever asked him who he was submitted too he'd say Pastor D. This is not healthy.
Secondly, Pastor D controlled EVERYTHING. If it did not come from him, it did not happen.
But...hindsight is 20/20 right?
Things went well in the beginning...but some things started happening. He handed the reigns of the youth group over to me. (I use this term loosely...) We met a rec center for Wed. night youth group. A couple neighborhood kids who were too young really attended with the other kids. When we moved out of the rec center into the house of one of the youths, Pastor D forced *ME* to tell them that one of them could attend but not the other (citing age). He said it was my duty since I was in charge of the group. Of course they both stopped coming. I'm angry at myself for not standing up to him and I'm angry at him for putting me in that position. I really do wish I just told him if he wanted it done that badly, he needed to do it himself. I remember the mom's reaction...and I pray frequently still that I did not damage God's reputation with this family. I had nightmares about it for weeks.
Over the next 2 years I questioned my sanity. I was told frequently what God was saying, but it never lined up with my heart. Mean, hateful things were said to me. For example, Pastor D was always late. Always. You could bet him being late 20 minutes. Pastor D was aware of this fact, but it was not something you joked about. I made this mistake a few times. I remember one time when he was on time and he was mad that we (William and I) were late. I said "Well you are never on time!" First he lectured me thoroughly that I had NO idea what his life was like. Then he lectured me that I should be on time anyway, it didn't matter if he was late or not. (Sure, because my time isn't as important as his?)
Several months later, my dad told me I should request some funding for my gas. The church was paying for gas for Pastor D as well as his cell phone. I was going to school full time, working and running this youth group. I was driving out to Derby to pick up two girls then out to Cheney to pick up another boy. Yeah...we won't even talk about the mileage I was putting on my car. I had to drop these kids off afterward as well.
So I brought up the subject. I was given $100 a month for the youth group. It did not accrue. It was a spend it or loose it system. Have you ever planned a youth party for less than $100? I spent so much out of pocket...I was told that I could pull the gas money out of the $100 monthly allotment.
I accepted this...I'm actually not angry about that. What got to me was towards the end, Pastor D's daughter began attending much to my chagrin. She was no older than the girl I was asked to tell to no longer attend. When I brought THIS fact up, I was told it was different because the other girls were not members of our church. Seriously? At first I thought I'd be let off the hook of picking up the other boy who lived out in Cheney. YAY me, I'd save gas! NOT SO! Pastor D then told me that since I was out in Cheney anyway, I could come pick up his daughter...and somehow I ended up taking these kids home each week.
That was the end really. I had to resign shortly after that. But there is one more incident that is large enough it is worth talking about. I already mentioned that Pastor D was very sensitive about his lateness. Remember the last time Carmen was in town? And his concerts were free? Or maybe it was $5? I forget...late 90s early 00s...well we were all set to go. Because I had already been told we couldn't get a church van (and I was told even if we did, I wouldn't be allowed to drive it), we resorted to Pastor D's mini van frequently. Everyone was to meet at my house. Time was very critical here, if we wanted good seats. We really only had just enough time to get to my house and take off and get out there before the concert started.
He was late.
He was 45 min late.
All that week, God had been talking to me about time. He talked to me about how He was the beginning and end and time made no difference to Him. He chatted with me about how He was in charge of everything, including time. I knew that all this time talk was to provide me peace about Pastor D being 45 min late. And when Pastor D showed up, I knew enough to not mention it. He did actually call me this time (which was unusual), and said I could leave without him.
How? I was at my house with a bunch of youth...and not enough cars/drivers for them all. We were stuck. I guess I could have called parents...
Anyway, when we arrived at the concert a miracle occurred. A friend of our church's served as an usher for the concert. He had managed to save us seats. We didn't know it, he found us when we walked in. They were decent seats too! It really was a miracle!
Our church had a custom of standing up and giving praise reports. So that Sunday I stood up! God had talked to me about time and boy did he come through with flying colors! It was a complete miracle these seats were saved and that it all worked out.
So I stood up. I knew it would be a touchy subject, so I didn't mention any names. I just said someone was late (I think I paused...everyone knew who was late...), told my story of how God had been talking to me about time and how He had saved the concert.
Watch out, the beast was angry. Pastor D stood up, looked at me (sitting in the front row) and said something to the effect that I had no idea what his life was like and how DARE I speak ill of him. He then told me that I was performing Satan's work ... yadda yadda. I don't recall everything he said honestly. The word Satan in comparison to ME was used. I remember my feelings. At first I had none...ever been seriously hurt physically before? When it FIRST happens, you don't feel a thing. Sometimes you can sit there and stare at your wound for a moment, watching it gush before you realize that you are hurt. And once that realization hits, then you feel all the pain that comes with that wound. This is how I felt that day.
I ran out in the hallway and just sobbed. My mother came out and comforted me. She told me under no circumstance was Pastor D in the right.
These are the big things that occurred. There were many more...about 5 or so years worth of them. It took some courage for me to step out and leave the church that I called home. After being gone for about 6 or 8 months or so, we went back to visit. No one greeted us, except for the children. This was therapeutic and helped me realize we made a wise decision.
After I announced I was stepping down, I attended the last camp I would attend with that group. I had worked pretty hard to get the kids there, and wanted to see that through. While down there, whenever Pastor D would meet someone he would introduce the group. He introduced everyone but me time and time again. I thought it was in my head until one person he attended joked that Pastor D had overlooked me.
I don't really understand what was the deal with Pastor D. I've bumped into him around town a few times, and he continues to behave the same way. Last time I saw him was at a showing of Passion of the Christ at a movie theatre. He chatted with a long-time friend of mine and never even once said boo to me (other than a polite hello). No "How have you been?", "What have you been up too?"...*sigh*.
This man, who often said we weren't to touch other peoples lives, has touched mine in a very negative manner. I used to have nightmares that he'd show up on my door or call me out of the blue and tell me I was going to hell for not attending his church. I say this, so you can understand the effect he has had on my life.
I want everyone reading this to be my witness. :-) I forgive Pastor D. I have too. Pastor K has done a wonderful job at helping me to regain trust in clergy. He has showed me that there ARE good pastor's (even though imperfect -- ha ha love ya Pastor K!). He has a practical take on God, which suits me and just feels as though it is right.
And I credit Pastor K with helping me to come to this point of being able to forgive Pastor D. We went from church to church for 2-3 years before we found our current church. That is an entirely different miraculous story in itself!