Thursday, May 17, 2012

In the Refiner's Fire - Hurt and Renewal



I've written before how difficult this past year has been. 

I'm just now realizing what it really was that made this past year so difficult.

Betrayal.
Lies.
Anger.
Hurt.

And it's the hurt most of all.

Last fall we found out that a now former senior staff member at our church lied about us.
Repeatedly.
Blatantly.

To people who have known us for 10+ years. 

Those people believed that staff person.

And didn't even ask us about the lies.

We found out when that staff person left (one of several to leave over the last few years).   And a very dear friends started having 2+2 not equal 4.

And that friend came to us with some very serious questions.

We chose not to confront the now former staff member - though we could very easily do that.  We know that this behavior is part of a pattern that chased him from congregation to congregation to congregation and will continue to do so.  If anyone asks us about it, we will tell the truth as we know it.  

The part that hurt was that friends who have known us for so long believed someone who they barely know (the staff member was at our church for less than 4 years) rather than believe us - who they have worked with, eaten with, shared with and served with for 10+ years.

I quit going to worship - and everything else for that matter.

And the only person in the entire 500+ member congregation who asked where I was was my best friend - who would ask if I lived on the other side of the world. 

My husband preached one service one Sunday (we have 3 Sunday services and a mid-week service), and the only person who talked to me was a new staff member who didn't recognize me and wanted to "welcome me to worship".

I was so angry. 
So very angry.
So very angry at God.

The new staff member talked to my husband one day over coffee at a neutral coffee shop.  This staff member has a different position than the one who lied about us.  He has many more years of experience and has served many more congregations.

He wanted to know what was happening, why my husband wasn't working at our home congregation and why I wasn't attending worship and participating anymore.  The answers weren't easy.  And the new staff member was horrified by what he heard.  It was not only the lies but the verbal and mental abuse we've received during the last 2 years that was shared.

My husband was asked to do a few things one weekend at our home congregation.   When he couldn't due to us being out of town during that chunk of time, the Pastor at our home congregation took that as a blanket refusal to have any part in our congregation.

Never mind that my husband and children attend worship on every single Sunday we are in town.
Never mind that my husband asks routinely (at least once every 6 weeks) what he can do to help the congregation.
Never mind that the Pastor has had no less than 15 people from the congregation plus this new staff member ask what's going on.

In response to this, the new staff member called in the Bishop.

Since then my husband has been scheduled to preach no less than 3 Sundays between June and August (one more may be pending) and teach 2 Bible study classes.  We were offered 1 free tuition to VBS.   My Bible Study leader called and offered to pick me up for Bible Study this month.

Because, you see, apparently this had happened before with this staff member at another congregation.
And the Bishop new the truth.
About that person's refusal to have my husband help with ministry at our congregation - to the Bishop's office and the seminary.
About the story being told to one person was not the same as the other and was again different than a third.

And I still can't go.  I'm too hurt.

You see, all these people bought hook, line and sinker the lies that the now former staff member told them. 
The did not look at what they knew about us.
Only what he said. 

I am not angry at God anymore. 
I have been able to attend worship at the church my husband is working at - and participate in the ministries there.

And on Mother's Day something else happened.

We went out to eat at a very fancy restaurant - one we only eat at on special occasions.  At the table next to us were an older couple who are friends of ours from our home congregation - part of the group of people who generously paid my husband's tuition a couple of semesters ago. 

They stopped and chatted, wished us a lovely Mother's day and left for the evening after finishing their meal.

When it was time for our bill we found out they have taken care of it for us.

A bill for 6 of us.
Of over $100.
That was supposed to be my Dad's Mother's Day gift to my Mother and me.

I cried.
Bawled like a baby.

And I decided that it was time to make an appointment with my Pastor to talk about things.

We're meeting next week.

Soli Deo Gloria.
Always.

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Lea