Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Jeremiah Burden, Part Twelve

  The newspaper article read that Pastor Chase's arrest was the result of a two year investigation regarding a sexual incident involving a minor.  We were astounded.  Even if, to us, the man had seemed a monster, there were certainly plenty of people who liked and admired him.

   The response from Crossway, though typical, was sickening.  Pastor Gavin had been interviewed.  There was no suggestion of sorrow expressed about the victim.  No words of hope for Chase's proven innocence.  Only; "From my understanding, this did not take place at any of the Crossway campuses, and so Crossway Community Church is not implicated here in any way..."

  Protect the brand at all cost.

  Pastor Chase was put on leave,  pled "not guilty" and his trial actually starts today, August 15*.  So, I guess we will see soon enough how well Crossway is able to continue to keep up appearances.

  I remember, right after Daniel was fired, going to the pastor's office at Eastside Church where he and his wife had made time to sit down with us and hear what had happened.  While Abe and Stephanie watched our children at home, Daniel and I poured out our story, all that had happened since coming to Illinois.  The dear pastor and his wife sat and listened.  And then, with tears streaming down his own cheeks, he looked at us and said, "Daniel and Christina, it is important that you know that what these men did to you was wrong.  Even if you were guilty of all that they have accused you of,  how they have treated you was wrong."

  As he said this, something inside of me burst.  Floodgates were released again and I sobbed great heaving sobs.  There had been so many attempts by others to justify these pastors' actions, and so often we had found ourselves having to defend our pain, and so to just hear someone say straight out, "They were wrong," broke me.  Justice matters to a victim of any kind of abuse.  So, it's probably true that my sympathies lie more with Pastor's Chase's victim than with Pastor Chase.  But we will let his jury make a conviction.  For us, at least, that chapter of abuse is over.

  Happily, this was noticeable in our own family unit.  With his father home, and the daily stress removed from his life, my son had stopped digging into his bellybutton.  Now, just three months later, he never touches it.   And since he has stopped, his sister has as well.  Though, we had to teach him new things about churches.  He was asking why we never went back to his Daddy's office or the nursery and toys that were there.  It's hard to break things down for an almost three year old. I'm afraid the concepts had to become pretty basic.

  "We don't go to that church, anymore, Buddy, because the people there were mean to Daddy.  Now we
My son and daughter
go to a church where the people are kind."

  "It's a bad church?" my son would ask, "And we don't go to the bad church?"

  "That's right, Darling.  God gave us a new church to go to, and it's a good church."

  "Oh.  Okay.  I don't want to go to the bad church anymore."

  There are worse concepts to learn.  This way, he will know that just because a church is a "Church" doesn't mean that it is automatically good.  Discernment is still required.  There are some folks who have never had the opportunity to learn such a lesson. 

  It was still painful to continue to live on in a community where lies had been told about us.  And finding media work in a rural farming area was challenging.  So, we began selling off or giving away almost everything we had in preparation for moving to a more urban area.  Our plan was to go home and stay with family while we searched for work, tried to keep making our mortgage payment, and planned for getting on our feet again. 

  This was a time of reflection, in some ways.  A time of asking God, "What was this all about now?  I need some reminders..." and a time of Him revealing to us the hidden treasures He had given during this dark season.  Yes, the people were there:  Abe, Stephanie, Natalie and Harry.  The pastor of Eastside church, and that entire church family.  But, what else had He given us?

  Daniel and I came away from this experience with a determination to not ever stand by the sidelines when someone is in pain.  To the best of our ability, we want to make sure that we don't ever just "say the right words", but we follow them up with action of some kind.  Even if it is just sending a gift card or a kind note in the mail.  There was a lady who did that.  She didn't know me that well.  I had met her at MOPS, and let her know when I wouldn't be attending any more.  She was an acquaintance on Facebook.  That's really about it.  But after the article about Pastor Chase came out in the paper, she sent us a card, with a gift card to a restaurant inside.  And she offered to help, even if it was just bringing by eggs or beef, since she was a farming lady.  This gesture meant so much, especially when there was so much silence from others whom might have been said to have a better claim to give. 

  I want to be like her and reach out to the stranger.  I want to keep fighting that Religious Spirit, no matter how hard it becomes, because that spirit is the antithesis of Spiritual Freedom.  I want to be more like Jesus--more willing to call a white-washed tomb a white-washed tomb, if that is what it is, while loving those who don't appear perfect.

  These are gems, friends.  Gems beyond measure.  But God had one more for me that was like His smile and wink at the end of a rainy day.

  One of the messages our pastor at Eastside had shared, involved him telling the story of how God had given him a gem.  It was miraculous and beautiful, a love note from a Father to His son.  That part is his
Not the gem, but an example of Peridot.
story, not mine.  But the last night we were in Freeport, we spent some time with this pastor and his family and I asked to see the gem.  Somehow, in the telling of the story, I had imagined the little stone to be orange or topaz.  So I was surprised when he brought it to the table and it was a soft, light green.  It was smaller than my pinky fingernail, and shaped like an uncut heart.

  "Why do you think it's green?" I asked the pastor.

  "I don't know," he answered, smiling, "Why do you think it's green?"

  "I'm not sure," I said, "It looks like Peridot.  That's my birthstone."

  "It's mine, too," he said, "My birthday is in August also."

  "It's beautiful," I said, and handed it back to him.  But I felt like I knew why it was green.  It was a little joke between the Lord and I:  a smile shared between us.

  "I told you I had hidden treasures to share with you," He whispered to my heart.

  There was one other gift the Lord gave me, before we left.  Our last Sunday in Freeport, we had the opportunity to pray for the city at our little Eastside Church.  In light of everything that had happened, I think the temptation would have been to "shake the dust from our feet" and get out of Dodge.  But I
Valley of Dry Bones by:
wanted to pray for this city (which tells you that God did quite a work of healing before we ever left!).

   Like Ezekiel, prophesying to the valley of dry bones, I was able to ask for God's blessing on that place.  In Freeport, where last year the mortality rate exceeded the birth rate, I prayed for "Life" to come.  I thanked God for the wonderful heritage of giving and incredible generosity, that long ago, the man who ferried people across the river at no charge had bequeathed.  And I asked God to waken the apathetic.  To raise up fathers for the fatherless.

  That's not me being ultra cool or awesomely spiritual.  That's God giving me a gift:  the opportunity to pray for my enemies and love on those who cursed me.  I don't have that in my own strength, for sure.  God is good.

And what He did for me, He can do for you;  for those of you who have walked in similar shoes and been wounded by the ones who were supposed to help bring healing.   I'm not trying to get preachy, but this is why I wrote this, for those who have gone before and have been wounded with spiritual abuse.

What happened to you was wrong.  They shouldn't have done it.  God was crying with you when they did it.  But God is so big, that He is able to do the impossible.  He can make your wounded heart stop bleeding.  He can make even the scars glow with beauty.  And He will heal you.  It's His promise.

*Correction:  I looked over the newspaper article again and it said it was a "pre-trial conference" and it took place on August 12th.  My mistake. 

 This is the last post of "The Jeremiah Burden".  Unless mentioned, all names have been changed except my husband's and my own.  I write for healing and for others wounded on similar journeys.  Thank you for reading.

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