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Monday, September 20, 2004

Pastor, may I please meet with you?

There are two things I have noticed with Messy Christian. One, she seems to have a lot of zing. Second, whenever she rants, I find that I can relate, very well. It is clear that I am not alone in this. She seems to be voicing the blinding obvious that many other Christians have experienced but have failed to either notice the injustice, the wrong, the situation-not-to-be-tolerated, or simply we have been lulled by the status quo to realize any different. It is as if we are stupefied frogs in the proverbial boiling kettle, and as the temperature raised, we have not felt the discomfort, so we remain in the kettle waiting to be boiled alive. But, in jumps this little spunky froggie from the other pond, and she is shrieking and making a hell of a noise. Slowly but most certainly, we begin to wake from our slumber, our skin begin to feel the sting and the discomfort of the heat ooze the sweat out of our pores so we too start to join in the ruckus. Hopefully it is not too late for us to get out of this boiling water that would have killed us, or for us to make enough commotion so that someone hears and turns down the heat!

Well, the latest rant from Messy inspired my recall a not-too-dissimilar recent experience, although not along the same lines as Messy's. In my case, the senior pastor I encounter doesn't hide behind the CEO's trappings, although he is still entrapped by similar malaise - the busy-ness of managing a large church and the success of ministry taking time away from people & relationship. In my case, I don't have much to complain much about my pastor, but I have to blog about this regarding my own journey as this is in a way part of my own therapy. Okay, enough philosophizing already, let me relate my experience, which must be related in the context of a couple of past experiences. Here goes:

My wife and I have had a couple of traumatic, soul-wrenching type experiences involving a couple of our children. Both of them involved people with whom we have entrusted our children, and both times our trust had been violated, and our children had suffered, bringing us much grief and angst. Both times, my impulse was to sue, or to seek reparations of some form. Both times, we decided to do the "Christian" thing and be gracious and not take any action. Yet, both times we did not know how to grieve. Christian friends did not help either. Instead of rallying around us, we have friends who questioned our actions, intentions and choices, even our fitness as parents. We were devastated, alone, anguished, pained, and not knowing where to turn. In those days, we were attending what would be considered very much a "fundamentalist" church even though there were signs of progressiveness in it. However, when it comes to counseling, it was considered a "no-no" for Christians as that would be relying on man-centered psychological theory. We are to have faith and trust in God to solve all our problems. And if we continue to have problems, then the problem is with our faith or lack thereof. So, there we were left to cope with our struggles, and even though we tried, through much prayer, many spiritual songs and psalms later, we were still left with a huge emotional scar that even time failed to heal properly.

Recently we encountered another situation. The church where we are attending hired a new junior high pastor. During the three months that he was at the church, he was well loved by many, including our son. After three months, there was a sudden change. The pastor sent out a letter saying that because of personal reasons he has had to to take up counseling and "personal mentoring" and that he had to leave the ministry. Nothing more was said. The church did not make any formal announcements. No one talked about it. In fact, because my wife and I worked closely with him and because he is closely connected to our child, we organized a farewell party for him during the last Sunday of his tenure. We begin to realize that something was amiss when most of the parents just failed to show up for the party.

Alarm bells started to ring in our minds. We were in a daze. Did they all know something we don't know? My wife says this reminded her so much of our previous experiences, as we had initially supported the people who were accused of abusing the children under their care. These were not just carers of our children but also our friends. Sure we would support them. But, then the Department of Social Services contacted us and informed us that they have evidence that our own child was also involved. That sent us reeling. How could we have been so careless? So blind? How could we have been so trusting and not acted to protect our child? We cried, we had sleepless nights, in fact, we nearly lost it all and went separate ways ourselves. Is this going to happen all over again? This time, though, we have a counselor. She advised us to confront the problem head on and seek out the senior pastor to talk to him and ask what the exact problem is this time. Our junior higher had spent extended time with the youth pastor. Did he violate our trust and were there any abuse? We need to know. We had not been good at confronting those who had harmed our children before. We had trusted people and they had taken advantage of this trust, and we had been helpless before. Now we need to act on this. So the counselor asked me to call the Senior Pastor to meet with him and talk about this.

I called the church office, and left a message for the Pastor. Later that day, I got a call back from his PA. What is this about? Can someone else help you? A day or two later, the pastor himself e-mailed me. He was going to be busy for the next three weeks. Do I have a cell phone? Can he call me on the cell? No, I said. I don't have a cell. It is too personal a problem to discuss over the phone, when can we meet? Unfortunately I did not get a reply after that. He was indeed busy. Then I sank into my depression (not only due to this problem, but due to my continued battle with this disease) and I failed to call the pastor. One month drag on to the next. Summer came and everyone is on vacation. The issue is still not resolved. That has been almost four or five months ago now. Still no one had spoken about the pastor's resignation. We are still in the dark. In the meantime, I have been observing my child. Trying to see if there are signs of abuse. Is there inappropriate anger? Withdrawal? Hurt? I am not sure, he is a growing adolescent, soon to be teenager. The hormones are swirling and his moods do swing back and forth. Should I still meet with the pastor? The counselor think for my own mental health, and for my own facing with my own demons, I should still do it. Will my pastor be still too busy for me? Should I call him? What if it was nothing as serious as we are imagining? Maybe I am just extrapolating from my own previous experiences. What should I do? I am still conflicted. I really don't know what to do.