I first met Sally and her husband when we took a class together at the church.  I liked her straightforward, brashness in declaring her beliefs even though I knew she was coming on much too strong for many of the timid-of-faith-profession attendees who made up a majority of the class and the church-at-large.  The class in which we were instructed to write our story down and share it with a small group in the class – Sally was in that class and was in the small group of women that heard my story when I told it the first time.  So, when she called me a while back to tell me that she and her husband had left the church, she was already aware of the spiritual abuse to which I had been subjected, but she didn’t know that we had been tossed out of the church.  Such it is in a big church.  People often don’t realize you’re gone.

As Sally and I talked on the phone, she shared with me how her story had progressed since we had shared them in the small group.  She told me that she had been treated much like me – essentially being told that she couldn’t do things in the church. Ethan, the pastor’s brother, had been short with her on a number of occasions, essentially letting her know that she was not acceptable.  She had not been told that she couldn’t attend classes, so she had signed up for a class on prayer.  The teacher, a very close friend of the senior pastor’s wife, berated her in front of the entire class on the first day – simply for coming a few minutes late because the room assignment had been changed. After the second class meeting, Sally quit going because the teacher was so hateful not just toward her, but toward everyone.

Sally decided, instead, to take part in a class that required that each person have a mentor.  Because she was going to a prayer meeting led by the senior pastor’s wife, she decided to ask her if she would be a mentor for the 10-week class.  After prayer meeting one Tuesday morning, Sally asked to speak privately to the pastor’s wife and began to explain her need for a mentor.  The pastor’s wife threw her hands out in front of her, turning them rapidly back and forth as though to ward off an offending attacker and yelling, “NO!  NO! I WILL NOT! I WON’T DO THAT!”  She went on to tell Sally that she (Sally) needed to find someone within her own circle of society to partner with – giving Sally the definite message that she (Sally) was not on the same level of the food chain as she (the pastor’s wife).

I must admit, I felt relief that someone else had an encounter with Elliot’s wife so similar to mine.  To discover that I am not the only one who suffered under one of her tirades is a strong indication that she has a tendency to treat others with such disrespect and disdain – it wasn’t just me.

Though Sally and her husband continued to attend the church for a while after that encounter, and after some time was even asked to teach a class, she carried with her the burden of knowing that she was a “lesser-than” in the eyes of the church leadership.

Fortunately for Sally, she and her husband understood their value in the eyes of God and after giving the church and leadership several opportunities to become more gracious and less judgmental of people’s social and economic status, they determined it was time to move on.

So, thank you, Sally, for calling.  For sharing your story.  For letting me know I am not alone.  And that I am not the problem.

Godspeed, Sally and Lou.

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