This Is Not a Post About Church — It’s About Target.

So hi.

I had this big long post all typed up for y’all about the church drama aftermath, but I forgot to save it.

Just kidding. Jesus saves my soul, and I save all my writing just about every other sentence. The truth is that it’s long and messy and super sad and I’m trying really hard to have a positive attitude and not get trapped in the quagmire of crap surrounding this particular situation.

There’s more to life than that. Which is why I use words like quagmire — because that’s seriously a great word.

So I’ll tell you that Leif, to his credit, has decided to take the girls to church elsewhere on his Sundays.

And that’s all I have to say about that, because a dead horse is not worth beating.

Now onto more interesting things — like shopping at Target.

You may or may not have heard, but I’m a single mom now. And single moms aren’t exactly rolling in dough. Also, I’m the one that moved out, and I took very little with me. So now I have this mostly empty house that needs some stuff.

The girls took care of the lack of a dining table by turning the dining room into a campground. Done. And they have beds, I bought a couple cheap couches, and there are stools at the kitchen counter. We’re making do, and honestly, I’m enjoying the minimalist lifestyle for a bit. Cleaning is much easier this way.

But I really wanted some backyard furniture. The girly girls have been loving having a yard after years of condo-living, plus I’m one of those I-love-nature girls, so I’ve been wanting a place to park my rear that wasn’t the retaining wall or the plastic child-sized picnic table my parents let us nick from their house.

Enter Target. I took the girls to get some sunscreen, a kiddie pool, and a box-o-wine, and looked up to see this:

Target girls on chairs

 

And then I saw this:

Target chair price tag

Which led to this:

Target cart

But then on the way to the register, I saw these!

Target stools

And this:

Target stool tag

And so with one hand pushing the loaded cart, the other carrying one stool, Thing 1 diligently carrying the other, and Thing 2 dancing along backward behind us, we made our way to the register.

The lady took one look at us and asked, “Would you like some help out today?”

Yes. Yes I would, thank you.

Then this happened:

Target trunk

And that, my friends, is Target done like a boss.

Bitterness & Truth-Twisting

“You do love to poke the hornets’ nest, don’t you?”

A dear friend made this comment to me in good humor after she read one of my recent blog posts. To be clear, I don’t love it — but I’m not afraid of it. And oh boy, did I take a giant whap at the stinging, buzzing insects with yesterday’s post.

Of the myriad of responses I received (both public and private), I was able to categorize them into two main subsections: The people that were horrified over what happened to me, and the people that were horrified that I was talking about it.

From that latter group, the main thought expressed was that I’m just bitter, and that I’m twisting the truth to drag someone’s good name through the mud.

Am I bitter? If hurt, sad, traumatized, and a little bit angry equals bitter, then by all means, label me as such. However, I did not post what I did out of bitterness or resentment. I did it because I feel that I have been treated, and still am being treated, abominably.

I did try to keep this private. Was I supposed to post all the private communications back and forth that lead to my hand being forced to say something publicly in order to protect my integrity and reputation? Did y’all want to know that I begged the elders to hold My Pastor accountable for his un-pastoral action toward me? That I begged my husband to see how wrong it all was? And that after all that, I begged for some time and space to be left alone so I could regroup and figure out where to go from there, and that in spite of my pleas, the weekly and sometimes daily haranguing continued?

Had these people taken the thought and care to listen to my concerns, rather than jump to unquestionably defend the man that felt like it was his God-given duty to inform my husband of a rumor he’d heard that I was leaving him before talking to me about it, this might have all turned out differently.

But it didn’t.

When it became clear to me that we’d reached an absolute impasse, and that no reconciliation between this church and myself could be reached, I attempted to resign.

One does not simply resign from a churchI received a lengthy response from one of the elders condemning me (again) for not being a good little girl and going to My Pastor and the consistory to allow them to hear my story and help me fix my marriage. I’m paraphrasing, obviously, but geez louise the cognitive dissonance is astronomical. The letter also said, “… It is impossible for us to grant you your request.  One cannot simply resign from a church and we can’t release/transfer your membership under these circumstances … simply bailing on [name redacted] is not an option as much as you wish it was (sic).”

Side note: I did meet with this man several weeks ago, and told him my ‘Biblical grounds’ for divorce — grounds that every other trusted, Christian male I’ve met with has said, “Yup. You’ve got grounds.” He said that he didn’t believe I did, but I should come share with all the elders the heartbreak I’ve experienced and let them judge for me. Because that’s encouraging.

Anyway, since apparently I’m not allowed to resign, and I’m currently ‘in sin’ by not letting these guys decide for me whether or not I have a right to make my own life decisions, I’m going to be excommunicated.

What this means is that they will eventually get up in front of the entire congregation, where my children still attend every other week with their father, and announce to all that I am an unrepentant sinner, and will be “suspended from all privileges of church membership, including the use of the sacraments.” Our church order (Article 55) says my offense will be explained, which as far as I can tell is that I filed for divorce without their permission.

Which is why I wrote what I wrote, and why I’m writing what I’m writing now.

Now as to this whole “truth-twisting” business … this is the truth of what I’ve been going through. It is raw and bare and ugly, but it is factual. Shedding light on a situation doesn’t mean I’ve twisted it.

There are plenty of people that defend My Pastor’s actions, and that’s their choice to make. Everyone has his or her own definition of what constitutes intolerable behavior, and I understand that many feel that My Pastor was acting out of love and kindness by reaching out to my husband about his wayward wife. If you choose to defend this man, go ahead and do it. But don’t try to pretend like I’ve twisted the truth by sharing my perspective.

For those of you that feel I’m dragging his name through the mud … what name? I have never made publicly known what church I attend or who my pastor and elders are. I’ve even untagged myself on Facebook when other members have checked me in. I haven’t kept that information private for any reason other than that my husband asked me to, and I respected his request.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m very busy bitterly starting a new job, decorating my new house, catching up with old friends, rediscovering the true grace and mercy of Christ, thinking up fun summer activities for the girls, and painting my toenails.

How My Husband Found Out I Was Leaving Him

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. 

Divorce & Piety

Before I begin ranting, I would like to take a few sentences to thank every single person that has reached out to me in love after yesterday’s bombshell. I hold you all near and dear to my heart, and appreciate you more than you’ll ever know. My most appreciative thanks to every woman that recognized herself in my words and took a moment to tell me that what I wrote mattered to her … I can’t even express my love and compassion for you right now.

Now. To those that would condemn me for this. I have something to say to y’all.

One of the hardest things for me to face when deciding whether or not to leave my husband was the censure from other Christians that I knew I’d be exposed to. In the secular culture, divorce is sad and all, but more or less accepted. In my world, it just isn’t an option. Especially when it’s between two believers that haven’t had affairs.

I used to be full of righteous judgment for Christians whose marriages fell apart. I believed they weren’t faithful enough to God, had lousy communication skills, and/or generally put their own selfish desires above God’s commands. As little as a year and a half ago, a dear friend told me he and his wife were splitting, and my response was an immediate, “You can’t DO that!”

To this friend, and to every other person I have judged without knowledge of what lay in their hearts or where they stood with God — I’m sorry.

I’m sorry I assumed you were giving up … now I know you were moving on.

I’m sorry I thought you should try harder … now I know you tried everything but selling your soul.

I’m sorry I thought you were putting yourself ahead of your kids … now I know that your children were never, ever an afterthought in your decision.

I’m sorry I thought you were stumbling in your walk with God … you might have been, but that wasn’t for me to judge.

I’m sorry I thought I was better than you … I am the same as you.

To every person that has insinuated or even flat-out accused me of sinning by separating from my husband after years of prayer, reflection, denial, realizations, more prayer, begging, and even more prayer — please un-bunch your pious panties and go read Matthew chapter 7. There’s something in there about a log and speck you might find particularly interesting.

I needed a time-out for my marriage — possibly a permanent one. But every person that tells me I’m going against God’s will by separating from my husband drives me further away from wanting to reconcile with him.

Details aren’t needed. Leif is the father of my amazing children, and I want nothing more than to be his friend again someday, regardless of what happens in our marriage. But things have been very broken between us for a very long time, and it took every ounce of courage I had to take the step that went against everything my religious culture told me but somehow I knew God was telling me was right.

To be told that this beautiful, wonderful thing I have learned exists in my soul, this thing that gives me the strength to flip my life over when nothing else has worked, this thing that has made me braver than I thought possible, and made me rely on God more than I ever have in my entire life … to be told that this is a perversion of His plan for me? Well, it would suck, but things have been so full of suckage the past few years that all I can really do is roll my eyes.

Now I understand all the eye rolls I once got. I hope that you never do.

Raising Children of Faith

So I was reading this article over on The Stir, which talked about letting your children explore other religions to find out what “works” for them. Oh, and they’ll respect you more. After all, religion is all about feeling connected to something, right? Be it God, Mother Earth, ourselves, the collective one-ness of souls … religion to many people is an experience.

This snippet pretty much sums it up:

The important thing to me is that she builds a genuine relationship with God, not that she gets “churched,” which means mastering all of the habits and traditions — including being able to recite scripture back and forth — but never really connecting with the Lord. That would be missing the whole point.

How does one love a stranger? If some guy you were moderately attracted to asked you to marry him on the first date, would you say yes? Well maybe, but the chances of it working out would be slim. You have to get to know someone before you commit your life to him.

It is no different with the Lord. It is so much more important that my children get “churched” about God than “spiritually connected” to some nameless faceless universal power. It is only after learning about the one true God, His endless love, His ultimate sacrifice on the cross to wipe out our sins, can my children even begin to love God.

When you study the Word, and you understand the depth of your depravity, and begin to realize that there is a Father in Heaven that created you, sent His Son to cover your undeserving hiney, and left his Holy Spirit to guide and comfort you … that is when you can begin to love God.

Love has to come with knowledge; otherwise it is just a feeling.

So while my children are young, I will equip them with knowledge of the Lord. They don’t have to love God, but by golly, they will learn His Word. They will learn of his redemptive plan for His people. They will learn about their adoption into His family.

They will learn it because God has instructed me to teach them. And what is so wrong with learning Bible verses anyway? One doesn’t have to be Jewish or Christian to look at the 10 Commandments and think they’re a pretty good set of rules.

One of the first verses Thing 1 learned was 2 Timothy 3:16-17:

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

Learning scripture isn’t a bad thing!

I will ALWAYS love my children, even if they break my heart by denying the Savior. It is because I love them that I “church” them. I believe that decisions made without knowledge only end up being correct on a fluke, so I will equip my daughters with every bit of Jesus-knowledge I can cram into their brains, so that someday when they’re grown, they can make their own real decision about where to put their faith, hope, and trust.