A Pastor and A Kicked Shut Door

door-79810_640

 

Perhaps its best to start with the kicked-shut door.

 

The rejection, the rage of that Mother’s Day morning was the first time in years that I wished I felt numb. I ran out but I wanted to race up. I wanted to take the stage and take the mike, I wanted to say Stop, for the Love of God, Stop.

 

And for the life of me, I don’t know if it’s cowardice or ignorance or both that made him cut us out of his life. I don’t know how he thought it best to use his secretary as an intermediary to a mother feeling maimed, covering her wings over her boy. I don’t what kind of gall it takes to tell her to buy a book from his store like a salesman would do. I don’t know how you become a pastor to thousands- the biggest church in the State, and be the kind that slams the door on those you singled out and shamed. I don’t understand any of it.

 

I’ve been reading up on reconciliation and here’s what I’ve found. One of the most important parts of healing is to face the offender- pull out the arrows one splitting tear at a time and put them back in their hands. Let them put a pressured finger on the tip of the spike; let them imagine ten years of these hurling down on you.

 

And ideally, you find forgiveness. Your waters wave into one another and you feel what the other side feels like. He would feel my wounds and I would feel the spotlight heat on a megachurch stage. But even that is getting ahead of ourselves.

 

What we can do, pragmatically, right now, is find some closure. He can give me that by hearing me out. By letting me sit in his office and speak and cry and tell him what it felt to run out of church on Mother’s day. To let my mom puff up and protect me, claim back the thousands they gave to his ministry.

 

But he won’t.

His door stays shut.

 

And if you can’t have that, its not like you can just throw this all away. These wounds haunt you like phantoms, like a deep impression you can never fill. In many ways they become one more thing to overcome. One more thing to block out. One more invasive blot to the Gospel story. One more screen in the space between you and God.

 

And it’s not like this silencing is anything new. We’ve read and wept over the stories coming out of Sovereign Grace Ministries. And I know that my story is not just different, it is several degrees less. But it still matters. The standing outside in the kicked shut silence is where those fluttering feelings peck you apart and the only way I think I can rid myself of them is to speak to he who hurt me.

 

But his door stays shut.

 

The funny thing about silence is how loud and ugly it can sound.

 

It says your pain is petty, inconsiderable, not worthy of five minutes time. It says that there is an admission to this office, you take what I said and go get fixed into something else, because this place isn’t for those like you. It says you can come and hear my word, but don’t you dare disagree. Don’t you dare believe you know God like I do.

 

And it shoots a thousand inexpressible insults, a thousand sharp cuts. A thousand ways that say your words, your story, your pain, don’t matter at all.

*

How I wish he could’ve been different. I wish he was like another pastor I once grabbed coffee with. By the time the two of us had crossed paths, I had been beaten to a pulp. I had flirted with ex-gay and even though it was a one-time thing, the nausea of it stayed in my stomach. I came to the café with my journal torn pages, scrawled out lists of religious wrongs.

 

And he Listened. He made me feel heard. He leaned in and said I am so sorry. He fell back and bloomed open his arms, smiling when he said, your story needs to be shared! Your story is going to change things- change people.

A few months later I cried as he led the congregation in a prayer of repentance for the collective homophobia of the Church and I remember how healing glowed and trickled its way through me. I remembered feeling like I belonged.

 

Because they told me I mattered to them. My pain mattered. My story, my value as a human being mattered to them. He could’ve closed the door and dismissed me as inconvenient, but he responded to that email within a couple of days. He told me that I was making a difference in his life. And that matters more than he knows.

 

So the church will never be one broad, sour-shaded stroke. Pastors come with hearts of different shapes and sizes. The key is to know, through every cell in your being, that they do not name you. They do not define you.

 

But they can lift you up. They can surrender shoulders to runny houses and spends hours with your coffee-incensed rant. They can remind you of the truth of your worth.

There is one perfect love out there and once upon a time he pieced you together part by part. Polished you with his warmth. He breathed a deep eager breath into your lungs. Held you closer than you can hold yourself.

So know this- you are lovely, you do matter, you are heard, because He says you are.

When the world, when the church, say you aren’t, He says you are.

And nothing matters more than that.

 

RR

 

Whether you are LGBT or straight, have you ever felt cut out from your church? Have you ever felt a pastor’s silence like this? Please share your story here- it matters.

  • Ford1968

    I may have shared my friend’s story before. She attends a conservative mega church in Ottowa. A couple of months ago, she posted a fairly benign endorsement of gay marriage (4 years after she offered one of the blessings at my wedding). Within hours of her post, she was dropped from the music ministry she had been devoted to for the last 10 years. She has stayed and embraced her new role as ally with gusto. There are some amazing conversations happening. So a few things are packed into this story- 1. Her silence in the face of church homophobia was a little hurtful to me, but hearts change in their own time. 2. Our allies often have battle scars too. 3. There is hope for the church.
    Sending love and encouragement from the big apple!
    Ford.

    • registeredrunaway

      Ford! Send my love to your friend! And you know what’s interesting, I’ve been thinking about writing a post about allies.

      I was grabbing coffee with Jay Bakker the other day and he told me the earth-shattering aftermath of him coming to an affirming position. He said the week he became an ally he had to lay off most of his staff because every christian source of offering closed up their fists tight. He was completely cut off. And he did that for the LGBT community.

      Thanks for sharing her story Ford, it’s not one we hear often, but we should. We need to talk about the scars of our allies.

  • I am really sorry for your hurt. I think you do need closure and to reply to this guy, but you also need to do that from a safe place (an affirming faith community you can keep running to). Like you, I have been there more than once before, although circumstances were different to yours. My church was a v small one, rather than a mega church. Everyone knew everyone else’s business and the pastor (actually, me being a woman, mainly the pastor’s wife) spent a lot of time trying to pray away the gay (as it were), sent the woman I loved away, forbade us from contacting each other, and everyone else chipped in with their opinion – told us all kinds of stuff about relational idolatry, that we must be codependent (for some reason this is always an accusation against female same sex relationships), that our salvation was no longer assured etc etc (note: we didn’t have any kind of physical relationship yet and had been honest about our feelings to the pastor and his wife). There was a lot of hype and misunderstanding and paranoia about the whole thing in this small church community. I was banned from playing on the worship team or having any other involvement other than sitting and listening. There was this one time when pastor’s wife was preaching (yes, they got that right at least!) one Sunday about homosexuality and LOOKED RIGHT AT US. This in a church of maybe 30 people, so it was screamingly obvious. It was so embarassing and unneccesary and unhelpful. Eventually I just left. Of course this played right into their notions of me running away from the Truth and going to live a sinful lifestyle etc. The irony is, if they had made less fuss, I would conceivably have stayed and they probably would have convinced us not to be together (we thought we were sinners too!).

    But, and this is really why I’m telling you this, there’s a caveat to all this. Two years after we left the church the pastor (who was no longer the pastor) contacted us to APOLOGISE wholeheartedly for everything that had happened. He said he’d left that church and had looked into Scripture and was no longer sure that it condemned homosexuality. He asked our forgiveness. We had to wait two years, but that was the best kind of closure….grace and forgiveness. We are still friends with him now. I obviously can’t promise you that your mega-pastor will ever do this, but I wanted to let you know God is bigger than all of this and miracles can happen. The best thing you can do for yourself right now is look after yourself, be with affirming people (your mum sounds great!), and yes, do reply to that email because it will help.

    • registeredrunaway

      Horrifying Charlotte. I cannot imagine what that must have felt like, especially in such an intimate setting! I have an affirming church now and it is so life-giving for me. I guess, more than anything, I needed a place I felt safe- which sounds like an awful indictment of evangelical churches but its true.

      How incredible was receiving that pastor’s email? See that, right there, would change a lot of things for me. I really do love reconciling with people. I love not having to carry around anger. Getting an email like that- one where he really meant it, would be everything.

      Thank you, Charlotte, for giving me that hope. For sharing your story was such honesty and grace. It has moved me greatly.

    • Laedy G

      Why is it that lesbians are labeled codependent? My mom recently slapped that label on me because I’m still with my girlfriend while she struggles with addiction. I’m so glad you got out of your church!

  • Because of the “homosexuality is an abomination!” sermons I often heard, both while growing up and even within recent years, I kept my gay-ness a secret from almost everyone in the Church. I tried to behave, act, and present myself as Mr. Straight — whatever that meant. So, you can imagine the scandal in my hometown and my little local church when I was arrested for messing around with my straight roommate, while he slept nonetheless, in seminary housing.

    Only in therapy did I learn that my acting out in such a manner was due to the fear and shame put upon me by others in the Christian environment in which I was raised. Also, acting out in such a manner was, in some sense, a means of “getting back” at the conservatives who I thought were controlling my life. I didn’t know how to cope with my context. Yet, I am solely responsible for how I behaved and reacted. I felt like I couldn’t share my struggles and secrets with anyone — not my pastor, not any deacon, no one in the church.

    Mine was quite the rough lesson to learn. There are consequences to my actions which I will have to live and cope with for years. However, now that everyone knows I’m gay, now that I no longer have to walk in the fear and the shame of it, I feel free! Who knew life could be so good?

    When I read stories like yours on-line, I feel desperate, near hopeless. But then I read about pastors like the one with which you had coffee — like my own pastor who is not threatened by my being gay, nor by my acting out with my dorm mate — and I see a little glimmer of hope off in the distance.

    Abusive churches may still exist until Jesus returns, but I’ll have nothing to do with them; I’ll expose them along with you until that Day. Thank God for His people who behave and feel and love like He does.

    • registeredrunaway

      William thank you for your bare bones honesty. Seriously, I hope you understand how liberating that is for people. Courage to own up to things that happened in the past is just as hard as the courage to look into why certain things happened. Your light liberates others and I know you probably already know, but your light is going glow far and wide.

      I am glad you had a similar story with a great pastor who took you in. I am with you, with you, with you on not returning to hurtful churches. It isn’t worth it. The mere act of going is, to me, giving them the audience they want. Letting their church continue to get numbers so the best thing I can do, is stay away and pray and write about my experience. Thank you William!

  • survivorgirl007

    I think church leaders need an infusion of Proverbs 16:19:

    “It is better to be of a lowly spirit with the poor [oppressed] than to divide the spoil with the proud.”

    Love you, RR.

  • Laedy G

    Thanks for the invitation to share, RR. Your blog is my favorite place on the internet 🙂

    I used to attend one such Sovereign Grace Ministries church. I poured my life into that place for 15 years, until I shared my struggles with my pastor. I lived in denial of my orientation for years (abstinence works as a cop-out for only so long), and came to my pastor desperate for guidance and help. He responded gently, but still leaving me with the impression that I will burn in hell for being myself. He immediately offered help and counseling, but never said more than “hi how are you” to me after that meeting. I tried to continue attending, but no longer felt part of the community, no longer felt worthy of participating in services. Friends introduced me to an affirming church, and it was the fountain of spiritual life that I’d dreamed of for years. My pastor won’t marry same-sex couples, but I am free to be me in the church. It’s beautiful, but I’m afraid to love it whole-heartedly because of the cult I left.

    When I came out to my parents very recently, they approached my old pastor about his handling of my confession. He claims not to remember what he said because he was more interested in coercing me to tattle on his drug-addicted son. I am not brave enough at this point to confront him about his lack of pastorship, but I burn with anger over it. I’m grimly hoping that some day I can consider a healthy reconciliation.