Make Him Tell You in Front of Me

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.

18 thoughts on “Make Him Tell You in Front of Me

  1. This is what is so insanely frustrating to me having Christian parents as well.

    Last August I had so much shit going on in my life. I was on the verge of…I don’t know what, but it was bad. One night I called my mom and went through all of everything that was wrong with my life and plead with her for advice. What do I fix first, mom? Which direction should I go? What would you do in this situation? Please help me figure this out.

    You know what she said? “Just put it in God’s hands, Plimco. Just leave it up to Him.”

    What?! I need something tangible and real to do here. Something productive and your advice is to sit around and pray while my life is falling apart around me?!

    I was so angry. It is such a lonely and horrible feeling when you realize that your parents, your parents who raised you who you respect, your parent’s advice is worthless.

  2. It’s ok to doubt. John the Baptist had a moment of doubt. God is ok with questioning. There’s a difference in head doubt and heart doubt.

    Plimco, sorry you didn’t feel your mother’s advice was tangible or real. Parents don’t always have all the answers and it sounds like you wanted her to fix it. There are some decisions we have to make on our own. For her, that was real and tangible and she meant it with love. She wanted you to grow.

  3. Sistasmiff, I did not want her to fix it. I went to her as a friend. A friend I respect. A friend whose opinion means a heck of a lot to me. An older friend who I knew had been through a bunch of hard times herself. She had experience. I went to her for advice. For help, for guidance and all she had for me was “pray”.

    To me this solution sounds a lot like when you’re a kid and you’re playing hide-and-go-seek and you close your eyes so they can’t find you. If I close my eyes, they can’t see me.

    Bullshit. I needed something to change, a course of action to take. No way could I have afforded to sit around in the dark with my eyes closed.

  4. Plimco, I know what you’re saying. And I’m not opposed to the “pray about it” advice if it also comes with a course of action. But to just act as if there’s nothing you can do?

    I know they don’t mean it to be cruel, but it’s incredibly cruel. I mean, if you just don’t know, just say you don’t know. That would be a lot easier for me to handle than the “leave it to Jesus” stuff.

    Sistasmiff, I appreciate what you’re trying to say, but really, I’m floored that you don’t see how incredibly cruel it is to use one’s god as a way to keep from having to really be there for the people who need you (in a generic sense, not you specifically).

    And, frankly, again, whatever your god is or is not okay with, I prefer to hear it directly from him. I’m out of patience with the game of telephone he’s got going.

  5. Ok Plimco, how much did you pay Sistasmiff? I’m on to your little game.

    Surely Christians aren’t that easy to control. I mean, who is going to believe that all you have to do is point out they are self-righteous and *poof* one of them shows up with a self-righteous attitude to hammer your point home.

    Seriously, come on! How much?

  6. Plimco, sorry for the frustration you have experienced trying to get “Christian” people to engage. I won’t rant on about how much modern day Christianity is about sound bite approaches to virtually everything, though I could…

    Rather, i thought I might briefly (if thats possible) share my other half’s story. Her father, a part-time Methodist minister, (he was a dentist by trade) used to hold services on their family farm. They erected a huge cross in a pasture, and, soon, the meetings grew more and more evangelical. Charismatic, some would say. I don’t have a grasp on the venacular, but there was speaking in tongues and all that. She managed to escape Shaun’s ordeal, her parents did not force her to take part in any aspect of their faith. She remembers coming home a tad tipsy from a party one night, to find her house full of crying, screaming,and wailing people flopping about in every room, so she hid out in her bedroom for the rest of the night. I don’t think any of that really bothered her. No, what I think still smarts is the total immersion by her parents in that practice of faith, to the point where taking a few minutes to engage with her, and, I don’t know, take a advisor role was out of the question. “Dad, Mom, one of my friends is drinking heavily and skipping school, it’s affecting my relationship with her, my grades are suffering because I worry, and, oh, sometimes when we are out she drives. Any advice?” Then, like Plimco, she would hear this advice: trust Jesus… Ok, I trust him, but what do I DO? Maddening.

  7. Mack, thank you. It IS maddening. Your example of crap going wrong is very similar…only it was adult crap and I wish grades were the worst things that were suffering.

    I like it here. Can I stay, aunt b? Will you bring me another cup of tea to sip under my afgan of questions?

  8. I was thinking, too, Plimco, that your situation is really tough because your parents can point to what they think is incontroverable proof of the power of prayer with your dad’s situation.

    I get aggrevated with my parents, especially because I wish they wanted better for themselves. I don’t mean more money or whatever. I just mean I wish they had a little… shoot, I don’t even know.

    I wish they could learn how to relax and be at ease and just enjoy things.

    Maybe they should start smoking pot.

  9. Huck, are we going to have to start a fund to pay for therapy for your kids?

    Plimco, of course you can settle in.

  10. B, you just made the best argument for the celibate priesthood I’ve ever heard.

    Having no kids, I’ve never understood why people go on missions from God or whatever that make the people who love them miserable. But I don’t have kids because I was unwilling to make the sacrifices necessary to have kids.

  11. Huck, are we going to have to start a fund to pay for therapy for your kids?

    Would you? That would be great! You know I would help fund it myself, but the habit’s been taking quite a bite lately…

    *cough* *cough*

  12. Ok, as I Christian I have to chime in, fortunately for you, it will not be “You’re all sinners and are going to hell if you don’t listen to what I say…” because I don’t believe that.

    First, I hope that no one judges God for the acts or words of a human. You see, we humans, Christian or otherwise, don’t have all the answers. Not only that, we can be down right stupid at times. Just because I am a Christian does not mean that I’m channeling the spirit of God through my voice and I can give you all the spiritual answers you are looking for…heck, I probably have the same problems, and just don’t tell you about them because I’m afraid I’ll be judged for it to.

    Second, there are times in our lives, where Christians have no idea what to do, and the only answer that comes is pray….I mean, if you don’t have the answer, and you come to us with the problem, why are we supposed to know the answer? Maybe our solution to the same problem would be pray. Active praying however is not sitting in a room with your eyes closed. Active praying is praying, talking it out with God, spending time meditating on the problem. Opening yourself up for His enlightenment. How are we ever going to hear Gods response, if we don’t just shut up sometime and listen? This does not mean you will get some big booming voice from above, what manner he uses to communicate to people I believe depends on the people, their personality, their faith, and the severity of the problem.

    Third, not all Christians are created equal. We are not all so fond of the bible that we sit around memorizing every word. We don’t all speak in tongues, although I have no problem if someone does, we don’t all flop on the ground, and we aren’t all ready at a whim to bash you over the head with the “Sword of the Lord”. That being said, we also aren’t all good parents. We aren’t all wise, all-knowing theologians. And we aren’t all perfect examples of Christianity. One thing we all are is human…for better or worse.

    So, hopefully now you don’t blame God for poor confused Christians. To the point of questioning and testing God, the concept of not being able to do that is not biblical. Ever hear the story of Gideon and the fleece? Read Judges, chapter 6 and 7 I think…I can’t remember, but he tested God, and God did not strike him down for it. You can test God, you can question God, in fact, I think that God really wants us to test Him, and to question Him. Why? Because it means you really care, and it helps build your relationship with Him.

    How do you test Him? Well, I have no idea. How does He answer? I have no idea. You see I think God does what he does on His own schedule, and in His own plan, certainly not mine. And to think that you have a right to demand it on your schedule and on your plan is not only ludicrous, but also quite disrespectful of the creator of all things. One thing we all need to keep in mind is that God does not have to answer to us. He really doesn’t. If you are unwilling to deal with that, and accept it, then you have no chance of ever dealing with Christianity. This relationship with God is not a democracy, he is not Santa Claus, and he does not have to respect your wishes or wants.

    God is the creator of all things. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. Unfortunately, our limited brains aren’t smart enough to understand exactly what all that means.

    And B, I’m sorry you hated being a pastor’s child. I’m sure that is a tough place to be as a kid. You are constantly under a microscope, and everyone magnifies everything you do wrong. This is a flaw in how Christians act, and I’m sorry you had to live through it. I’m also sorry your father acted as if you were not worthy of his love because he owed it all to God. If you dad is not being a minister because he wants to be, and is only doing it because he believes God gave him an “order”, then I believe he is probably not supposed to be a minister, and maybe he misunderstood the “order” or the “order” came from a different source and was misinterpreted as from God. God is no longer in the “order” business. You see, he has given us the gift of grace through his son Jesus. Even those Ten Commandments that people are so fond of arguing over are no longer truly commandments, but a list of some of the most well known human sins. They are all forgivable by God through repentance and God’s grace.

    Ew…see, now you made me sound like a preacher. I’m sorry and hope no one was offended for it was certainly not my intent. But I do want to help everyone understand a few basic concepts that many non-Christians, and honestly, many Christians seem to forget or never learn.

  13. You see I think that the Flying Spaghetti Monster does what he does on His own schedule, and in His own plan with his own noodly appendage, certainly not mine. And to think that you have a right to demand it on your schedule and on your plan is not only ludicrous, but also quite disrespectful of the creator of all things. One thing we all need to keep in mind is that the Flying Spaghetti Monster does not have to answer to us. He really doesn’t. If you are unwilling to deal with that, and accept it, then you have no chance of ever dealing with Pastafarianism. This relationship with the Flying Spaghetti Monster is not a democracy, he is not Santa Claus, and he does not have to respect your wishes or wants.

    Nope, no good. It doesn’t sound any less crazy, after being made theologically correct.

  14. What makes it crazy? Is it because He doesn’t answer to us? Are we that narcissistic that we actually believe the world revolves around us? Why yes, as a people, we certainly are. That is what makes it crazy, especially to us westerners who are so used to having things our way, on a silver platter. Heck, there is even a fast food company dedicated to it. It is their slogan. “Have it your way!” There are coffee shops all over that are dedicated to it. You can get a coffee in just about any size, shape, flavor, or whatever you can think of. We are drivers of cars that are as big as buses, just for us to ride around alone in. We have stores dedicated to making sure everything we could ever need are found in that one place so that we don’t have to leave it to get all our needs met. We have credit card debit out the yin-yang because we want everything we see, and we want it now. We are a people of us…it is all about us…Whole industries are designed around it. Our whole lives are dedicated to pleasing us. That is what makes it crazy. To think that we are not the masters of our universe, and that we are not in charge, is more than we are willing to accept. That is why faith and religion doesn’t work in today’s society. And those that believe it are obviously crazy. Well, as I’ve posted before….for the world’s sake, I hope our society is right, and I’m not.

    Oh, and calling Him the Flying Spaghetti Monster, doesn’t make Him any less true or in control.

    End of Rant…I now return you to your regularly scheduled comments.

  15. I’m with David. The Flying Spagetti Monster is real and in control, too. In fact, he just made me burp really really loud. …and just 5 minutes before that he made me want to slap my mamma. Oh how great he art.

  16. Some day, I too will learn how to fly with our lord and savior Spaghetti Monster. It took him just a week to make the moon and the stars the sun and the earth and Joop–eee–ter and Mars.

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