Today, I Saw My Former Pastor

Posted: October 20, 2014 in Uncategorized, When Church Hurts
Tags: , ,

Kitty litter. Check.

Mouthwash. Check

Fabric. Check.

We were looking for the shortest check-out line in Walmart so when we turned around to go back to the express line, there he was, walking toward us.

There was that split second where we sized one another up.

Friend or foe?

Greet or ignore?

Simultaneously, we extended our hands, gripping one another’s briefly while we both asked the other, “How are you?”

He asked about my student who had been in a car accident several weeks ago.  I told him what I knew.

He asked about my sons and I showed him a photo of my new granddaughter.

And then we both moved on.

As we walked away, my husband said, “Very good, dear.”  To which I replied, “I’m a nice person.”  And for a few minutes I felt good.

And then I remembered that this is exactly how I spent fifteen years of my life in his church.  Being told by staff and leadership that I was unwanted. Unneeded.  Unworthy.  Unable.  Undesirable.

But every time I saw him, if he was within arms reach, he would shake my hand, greet me warmly, talk as though nothing terrible was happening, and then move on.

Back then, it was so confusing to have the person whom I kept asking to please, please help me, pretend that everything was fine and never make any attempt to address or acknowledge my situation, my pain.

Today, it only took a moment as I walked away to realize that nothing has changed.  Since we last spoke, ten months ago, his brother told us to never return to the church.  Unwanted.  Unneeded.  Unworthy.  Unable.  Undesirable.

Not one word of acknowledgment.  Not one word of apology.  Not even a hint that anything is amiss.

So it must be just as he wants it to be.

If it were otherwise, he would make it so.

  1. Isabel Carr Smart says:

    This is the hardest thing for me too now. It seems rude and churlish and unforgiving not to respond and yet the denial in the friendly public approach is a continuing acceptance of the abuse. My husband avoids by not going to church, even for a funeral, if he can avoid it. I refuse to let it keep me away from showing last respect to the dead.

    • Ellen says:

      When I would see him in the church with no one around, he would often ignore me. But when people were around, he would be very congenial. After a while, I realized it was all for show. He didn’t want anyone to believe me if I ever said that he ignored me. And it was always safer with people around. He knew I wouldn’t bring up the ostracism when others were able to see and hear. That’s what shame does. It keeps us quiet. Perhaps I should have said something when I saw him in Walmart. “Will the day ever come when you will talk openly and honestly with me about how you and your staff treated me?” Chances are there won’t be a next time.

  2. Futureman says:

    No matter how you or he responds to one another in situations like this, you will never receive satisfaction from any encounter with him. Thankfully, your needs are met by someone greater than him. I can’t imagine being treated the way you were at some place that should have been home, that should have been your shelter.

    • Ellen says:

      You are right, I won’t. Because he is the kind of person who sees nothing wrong with the way that he is building his kingdom. People are disposable. He told me so.

  3. jaynn says:

    It’s easy to fall into old patterns of behaviour when you meet people you used to know. By the time the part of you that wants to tell them off kicks in, the part of you that remembers being nice to them is already reflexively shaking their hand. I try not to have any contact with a lot of people from my past for this reason–I don’t think I’d ever be able to tell them how I really feel because I’m so used to repressing it around them.

    • Ellen says:

      Yes, that is so true! Alas, it isn’t always possible to completely avoid people. My encounter was at our local WalMart, which is not in the town where the pastor or the church is located. They have their own WalMart there, but perhaps they didn’t want to be seen shopping in a lower-class establishment and so decided to visit the one in the neighboring village? Nevertheless, I have always said that I will not give anyone a reason to unequivocally state that I gave them cause to place blame on me for being mean or hateful. Therefore, I will not be rude.

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