Our pastor heard a fourth-hand rumor and told him before talking to me about it.
Just like I’ve never really talked openly about the huge problems in my marriage out of respect for my husband, I’ve never shared about the challenges I’ve faced in my church, or how over the years my pastor became my nemesis. So long as I submitted to his spiritual oversight, I kept my mouth shut out of respect for his office.
But seeing as I’ve just sent off my official church membership resignation letter, and will likely be excommunicated shortly (oh yes, they can excommunicate me even if I resign — they are refusing to accept my resignation. I think there’s a name for religious groups that won’t let people leave on their own accord. I think it starts with C, and it ain’t Church.), I have some pretty fantastic stories to tell you.
Starting with the one about how Leif found out I was leaving him.
Before I begin. Some history. For years, my relationship with My Pastor has been fragile at best and contemptuous at worst. I take that back — it’s been destructive at worst. Honestly, if this were my only exposure to ‘Christianity,’ I’d likely be an atheist. Thankfully, my faith in God is stronger than my fear of men, and I feel like I’m finally getting right with Him again after years of wandering in the wilderness.
Which is kinda ironic, given the amount of Repent, Sinner, repent! communications I’ve received from the men in leadership at my (former) church.
Anyway … here’s the highlight reel of interactions between My Pastor and me …
There was the time I was severely reprimanded for standing and rocking a sleepy baby Thing 2 in the back of the church during worship service — we have a cry room for moms to hold their babies! Never mind the fact that I was keeping an eye on Thing 1, who was sitting in the pews by herself while my husband served the church as an usher.
That was followed shortly with an admonishment for having the audacity to suggest we start a cooperative nursery, so that parents of very young children could occasionally worship together in peace.
Did I ever tell you about the time My Pastor commented on my Facebook wall that I was in direct violation of Romans 13 by being involved with the Tea Party movement? Yeah, that happened. And it was the day before I was hosting a ladies tea party for the sisters in his congregation.
Remember all the GMA hullaballoo about Victoria’s Secret earlier this year? My Pastor said I was acting unwisely “to take covenant children shopping at a store that clearly uses soft pornography to market its product.” Again he did this publicly, on my Facebook wall. I got a visit from church leadership over that incident, and it was basically decided that they were going to ‘let’ me shop where I wanted and even write about it. I believe they said they were going to grant me a little bit of grace. My Pastor never apologized to me for the atrocious way he handled the situation — he only defended himself as acting in a pastoral manner. Seriously.
Through all of this and more, I have cried buckets of tears. I have begged my husband to find a new church home. His response has always been some variation of, “The perfect church is called Heaven. We made a commitment to this church, and need to understand that it’s led by fallible men.”
Ah, Christian oppression … isn’t it insidious?
Anyway, I could write volumes on the crap I’ve endured over the last 7+ years of attending there. But this is a post about My Pastor’s betrayal of me, and my husband’s defense of him.
What happened was that I had a friend. She was a relatively new friend, but we had a connection, and I trusted her. I had been talking to her for several weeks about possibly finally ending it because I just couldn’t take it anymore, and then one Tuesday I told her I was going to do it on the upcoming Friday.
Long story short: Instead of telling me she didn’t believe I was doing the ‘Christian’ thing, she told her husband, a seminary student. Instead of encouraging her to talk to me about it, he told one of his professors. Instead of encouraging his student to talk to his wife to talk to me about it, he told My Pastor. Instead of asking if the initial contact had been made, as per directed in Matthew 18, My Pastor began harassing me the next day via phone, email, and text.
I had a busy day, and had an inkling as to what the whole thing was about, so eventually I texted him back and asked what it was regarding. A ‘pastoral matter,’ I was told. Ok, fine. No reason to take time out of my life if he couldn’t even be bothered to answer my question.
I tried calling him back mid-afternoon, but got his voicemail. Told him I’d give him a call in about half an hour. Within that half an hour, Leif called to tell me he was on the way home. I think it was around 5pm at this point, and he hardly ever comes home early.
My senses were on red alert as I called My Pastor back again. Keep in mind that the last time this man addressed me personally, it was to call me a bad mother on my public Facebook wall. He picked up the phone, and said he had heard some disturbing news. I made a joke about not having written about my panties on the internet recently, and he didn’t even laugh. Pfffttt.
He told me that he had heard a rumor that I was planning on divorcing my husband. I told him it was just that — a rumor. Then he told me details that could have only come from one place. I said very calmly that I needed to speak to my husband. My Pastor asked me three or four times if the rumors were true, and somehow I managed not to flip my lid at him. I told him I needed to speak to my husband before I could talk to him any further.
“Well, I was concerned, so I called Leif and discussed it with him … “
I hung up the phone. Thanked God in Heaven that the girls were at my parents’ house that afternoon. RAN through the house throwing clothes, documents, girls’ lovies, and other various items into my car.
He walked in the door. He didn’t know I knew he knew, and he seemed unperturbed. Distant and detached, but that was nothing new. We shared a quick kiss (what would turn out to be our last), and I asked him if he minded taking the dog out for me. I grabbed my phone and my keys. I had no idea how this was going to go down.
He got back from taking the dog and went to the kitchen to wash his hands. I sat down on the other side of counter bar.
“I want to know what My Pastor told you,” I said as evenly as I could.
“Yeah, we should talk about that…”
“I want to know what My Pastor told you,” I repeated.
He paused. Dried his hands. Took a deep breath. Sighed. “That you were planning on filing for divorce on Friday,” he finally admitted.
So there you go. My Pastor had actually told my husband, based on a fourth-hand rumor, without talking to me first, that I was planning on leaving him. That. Just. Happened.
“I filed for divorce last week,” I told him flatly. “I was planning on telling you this Friday.”
It wasn’t more than a 15 or 20-minute conversation, the details of which are irrelevant to this particular story. I walked out the door. Spent the night at my parents’ house with the girls. Told them it was a fun slumber party because Daddy was having a boys’ night.
The next morning, I went back to the condo after taking the girls to school, talking to my therapist, and contemplating drinking before 9am (I stuck with Coke Zero). He was home. We sat in the living room and talked for maybe 45 minutes. There was a lot of silence.
I told him how incredibly inappropriately My Pastor had acted; how he had made it impossible for me to go to him in a time of need by his previous treatment of me, and how he had gone behind my back and told my husband something deeply personal and painful based on a rumor he’d heard.
My husband defended him as doing his pastoral duty. I looked him straight in the eyeballs and said, “The fact that you are defending this man’s actions yesterday is one of a thousand reasons I cannot stay married to you.”
That was a month and a half ago. I’ve spoken to two other leaders at my church, and they have both defended My Pastor’s actions that day. And they have both asked me time and time again to ‘repent of my sin.’
Did you know that apparently it’s up to men in the church to decide if you have cause for divorce, not God? I keep wanting to ask them if they’re going to tell God on me, but thus far have managed to refrain.
So that’s the story of how my husband found out I was leaving him. Last I heard he’s still going to My (ex) Pastor for council on the matter of his broken marriage.
Because I’m sure that guy has my best interest at heart.
**Note to clergy everywhere: There is more than one side to every story. Before you begin condemning one party and begging them to repent of their sin, you might like to try lovingly and graciously asking them what the heck is going on.