Friday, October 24, 2008

Old friends

Way, way back in time, there was a group of 6 or 7 of us who grew up in church together. Our dads all served on the elder board, our moms all taught Sunday School. When we were kids we ran around in the parking lot after church; when we got older we became the youth group; as teens we went backpacking together and had New Year's Parties together and tortured our Sunday School teachers together. But then, as happens, we all went off to college and lost touch with each other.

Tomorrow I'm going on a picnic with one of those old friends, one I haven't seen in, what, 15 years? And now she's married and has kids, I'm married and have kids, so our kids can play together while all us adults do adult things like talking. Her husband's a pastor, and I'm a pastor, so we can talk about pastor-stuff. And the weather is supposed to be nice, so we're all looking forward to a blessed Fall afternoon of fun and talking about old times.

Last Wednesday evening, I had a phone conversation with my old roommate, who I lived with in Southern California 12 years ago. We hadn't talked in probably 6 years, haven't seen each other since 1997, so it was good to catch up and hear about life's twists and journeys.

When I left California, it was to move into a new ministry position in Oregon. Because I'd been forced out of my previous one. By a pastor who I'd fit into the category of "not very nice people." Some of you know the story: he was a habitual liar, a control freak, he plagiarized sermons, he was more interested in comfort and glory and protecting his position than in serving and shepherding and "being an example to God's flock." This man hurt a lot of people (including me) pretty badly.

So in the course of the conversation, my ex-roommate mentioned that this particular pastor had died a few years ago. And his wife had died a year or so before that.

And the truth is. . .I felt nothing but sadness. For which I praise God today. Because I know my thoughts toward this man were not exactly holy and righteous in the months and years following my ignominious firing. But God has been good to us, teaching me about forgiveness, helping me find good counsel, and, ultimately, teaching me to be grateful for all I have today. The fact is, I'm in a wonderful church, have an amazing wife and family; I love my life today. I have no regrets. I've learned the truth of Genesis 50:20 - "What you meant for evil, God meant for good." And so I can honestly say I take no pleasure in hearing of this man's death.

Only sadness remains. Sadness for a ministry he destroyed, sadness for the kids in our youth ministry who abandoned the church because of his actions, and sadness that, so far as I know, he never took the chance to seek redemption and reconciliation with those he had hurt. He was a smart man, had a good sense of humor, understood theology. . .he would have made a great pastor. And I'm sad he ended up living a different life than the one he was called to. I'm sad for the waste.

I suppose part of me always hoped we'd have a chance to reconcile someday; it would have been nice to redeem, in some small way, the damage he caused in my life. There was always that small part of me that wished for the day he would call and say "I realize now what I've done." Not for my own vindication, but for the good of the Kingdom of God and the victory of Christ over sin. Now that's all in God's hands, as it always has been anyway. Blessed be the name of the Lord.


Kirsten said...

praying for "your" eyes.

Ann said...

Hey, Dan. Interesting you told this story after so many years...and that your corneal transplant led me to check out your blog... God is faithful. Just came out of a very similar situation w/ a Sr. Pastor in a church, but God hasn't yet revealed his deception to the church as a whole. I'm praying for those who have already been or will be hurt (aside from my family and I!).
Lord have mercy on us!
Ann F-R