I really think Shaun Groves is one of the bravest people on the internet. And my heart has been breaking for him all week, as he writes about his great crisis of faith.
Recently, he wrote:”What are pastors supposed to do when they doubt or get depressed or crack up? There’s almost no one for us to talk to. There’s no one who would accept that their pastor is this jacked up, you know?”
How many times have I heard my dad ask this? How many times have I heard him ask other ministers or his District Superintendent or whoever he could get to listen this? I can’t even tell you. Too many.
Jesus sent his disciples out into the world in pairs, if not whole groups, and the Church sends ministers out one by one.
My dad tries, in each new town, to set up breakfasts (if they’re not already happening) where all the ministers can get together and just touch base with each other. Some folks refuse to come, but others really appreciate having the chance to talk to someone in their same boat.
I hated being a minister’s kid. To put it mildly. I hated feeling like I was the exotic pet of the congregation, that everything I did was on display for the whole church to discuss and pass judgment on. We lived one place where one of the church groups would regularly randomly knock on the parsonage door and demand to be let in–no matter what time of day or night it was–so that they could make sure my mom was keeping the church’s house up to their standards.
Yes, they let mold stalactites grow from the ceiling and never bothered to fix the giant hole in the front porch any better than just carpeting over it, but my mom had to put a shine on that turd or face their wrath.
And just when you get settled down some place, you get yanked up and moved again.
Plus, even though my dad was the only one who was called to be a minister, we all had to do it. If a song needed to be sung in church, up Mom or I went. If candles needed to be lit, send the boys to do it. If sick folks had to be visited, off we’d all go. I was at church doing something or other–from youth group meetings to confirmation to mowing the lawn to whatever–every day.
The toll it took on my family was excruciating. It’s probably not so bad for a lot of ministers’ families, but my dad isn’t cut out to be a minister. He’s not doing it because he wants to do it. He’s doing it because he got an order directly from his god and he’s following it.
Even if it means that he’s miserable. Even if it means the rest of us are miserable. I often felt like Isaac, taken up on the mountain as a way for my dad to prove something to his god. Sure, it didn’t kill me, but how the hell do you get over the sneaking suspicion that, if it had, it wouldn’t have altered your father’s choices?
I can’t remember what we were fighting about. Something shitty had happened and I wanted him to stand up for me to the church and he refused, said that, in effect, we just had to trust God that this was how things were supposed to be.
And I begged him to ask his god to say that to me. I said I’d go along with it if God said so, to me, or at least to him in front of me. But I wanted to hear that this way of living fit into some divine plan, that the toll it was taking on all of us was going to be worth it.
But you can’t question God’s will. You can’t ask Him to just show up and explain Himself. He does things in His own time and you can’t test Him.
I find that unbelievable and unforgivable.
When people are in pain and hurting, you don’t abandon them. You don’t hide silently when they need company. You do the best you can to be there for them, even if your best is kind of crappy.
If you need proof, real proof, it ought to come.
I don’t know Shaun Groves. So, I don’t know how things turn out. I suspect he’s found some resolution one way or another, or he wouldn’t be in a place where he can write about it.
And I hope his god came through for him.
It’s not too much to ask.