In Kevin’s Office

I woke this morning at 6am, a bit earlier than I normally do. My stomach butterflies are growing into bats, I can feel it.  Today is the day I have to talk about my “problem” with a well connected pastor in the community.  And Kevin is not just any pastor, he’s probably the most recognized and respected pastor of our entire region.  He earns this title not because he’s a hard line preacher, but because he’s an honest and transparent preacher.  When he preaches on sin, you are far more likely to hear him preach about his sin than yours.  Kevin is fond of say “Our church is a church where it’s ok not to be ok”, and he leads that charge by example.

A few years ago I heard that Kevin was being forced into a sabbatical by his board.  I know a few of his board members and I’m quite envious of how fervent they are at making sure he’s ok.  However, in our world, the sabbatical is usually a death sentence.  Pastors rarely return to ministry after a sabbatical.  To this day, he’s the only pastor I’ve known to actually resume his position after one.

My hand is being forced here.  I really do want to talk with Kevin about all I’ve been through lately, but current circumstance **cough cough***TBWSNBN***cough cough*** is forcing me into an impossible decision.

In the shower I mull over what and how I want to tell him.  I brush my teeth, sick to my stomach.  I grab a coffee and promptly forget it’s there as I kiss my wife and say goodbye for the day…leaving the life giving black substance on the counter.

Since I’m up and out pretty early, I head to my office first.  Check some emails, reply to some comments…and wait for the clock to pass.

It’s time for me to go.  I sit in my car and turn on NPR,  Something, anything to draw my anxiety away.  But alas, there’s some stupid human interest piece about musicians recycling trash by turning them into instruments.

Radio: So we take old cardboard tubes and other trash and ask students to create instruments that the world has never seen before and then they do!

ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ

My anxiety has gotten to the point to where I’m not even thinking or imagining talking to Kevin about this, but I just have the overall sense of fear.  An ambiguous fear that knows precisely what it’s afraid of, but doesn’t dare utter it’s name out loud.  If you’ve ever had a panic attack, this is just a little more focused than that.

I head into his office.

Pastors officeMe: What’s up man?  How you doin’?

Kevin: Pretty fantastic right now. I just ran that marathon a couple of weeks ago.

Me: Like on purpose?  You know what happened to the first guy to run that far?

Kevin: Yeah he died.  Sometimes while I’m running them, I want to die too.

Me: You do realize that you don’t have to run for 26.2 miles, right?

Kevin: So they tell me

It might just be me, but no conversation is complete without one pastor telling the other pastor that they’re crazy for doing xyz.  It’s how we relate to each other.  Being a pastor is weird, so when you have an open relationship with another pastor, it’s like a compulsion to admit how crazy your life is.

Kevin: So hey, what’s going dude.

Me: (sigh)  Well I got 2 problems today.  One is huge, the other is smaller but related.

Kevin: Ok, go for it.

Me: So, I think I need to quit my job and do something else, because….because I’m not really sure what I believe anymore.  I’m just not sure if God is with me anymore, or ever.  I mean, some days I do and some days I don’t.  I begin to recognize that I’m going through the 5 stages of grief.  Now, I had always thought they were linear, that you progressed through them.  But what I’m experiencing is that I’m going through all of them at once.  Sometimes I’m angry, sometimes I’m in denial, sometimes I accept, sometimes I bargain, etc.  I just think, I don’t know… maybe I shouldn’t be doing this anymore.

Kevin:  So when you say you’re not sure about your beliefs, do you mean that in a “I’m not sure God is with me” or is it “I’m not sure God exists”.

It crosses my mind that the TBWSNBN may have contacted him in advance.  I decide to be as honest as possible without over exposing myself.  Either way, I’m still fairly confident he would listen and be kind.

Kevin: For instance: I just talked with two other pastors last week.  One was like “I have no belief system at all anymore. Like it’s gone.”  and the other said “I know God’s there but I just don’t think he likes my anymore.”

Me:  Well, you know, I’m not sure.  I think it depends on the day.  Sometimes I’m not sure if I’m denial or coming to my senses when I have moments of faith.

A statement that is more true than I’d like it to be.

Me: Let me take you through some of the process so you can better understand.  You know about my problems with anxiety and depression.

Kevin: Sure.

Me: So I just started taking zoloft about a month ago.

Kevin: Ok, well I’m on [drug name that I can’t pronounce, let alone spell]

Me: I was praying last fall, that God would help me.  Not to get rich or build the church, but that God would help me with my depression.  Like a progressive sanctification, but instead of holiness, mental health.  I just want to feel better.  He doesn’t have to cure me, but at least help me.  As I was praying, I just felt like it didn’t matter.  That God wasn’t listening to me and he didn’t care about me.

And that was very…depressing.

So I continued on till late winter when I thought that maybe the reason why I didn’t feel like God was listening to me was because he wasn’t there.  Maybe God’s not there, I don’t know.

And it bugs me to pieces as I begin thinking that being faithful doesn’t matter to God.  You and I know very successful pastors who are successful not because they’re faithful, but because they’re talented visionaries and leaders.  Like, if you pick up Andy Stanley and put him at the head of a fortune 500 company, he’d probably succeed.  Meanwhile, we both know pastors who are very faithful but have churches of less than 100 and are in danger of losing their jobs.  It just feels like none of it matters to God.  He’s doing nothing about.  Which makes me wonder if he’s even there.

So, I’ve been thinking about that sermon series you did when you came back from your sabbatical.  And how you went to [destination location] to get away and speak with God.  You mentioned how He did.  And I think that’s great for you! But I’ve been begging for that moment, and I’m not getting it man.

Kevin:  You know, I can count on one hand, and still have fingers to spare, how many times I felt that God has spoke to me.  But I get what you’re saying.  Especially with the whole church faithfulness thing.  Trust me, I’ve been a small church pastor before.  You’re not really sure if you’re making any difference at all, but you feel like you’re getting the shit kicked out of you.

I told you.  All pastor I’ve known swear.

Kevin: But I think an important question you need to ask yourself, and answer for yourself since no one else can answer it for you: Do you feel like you can do what you do with integrity?  You know, I spent time out of ministry, especially after that small church crashed.  I spent time on the construction site just building houses, so that I could renew my faith in God.  Leaving the ministry for a season saved my faith.   I can tell that you’re struggling, and trust me I know exactly what that feels like.  I’ve been there, exactly there, though your circumstances are unique.  Is this something you can continue to struggle with and still serve in ministry, or is it perhaps time to leave ministry and all the baggage that comes with it, and reduce your faith to just you and God? No stupid people, no board meetings, no church politics, just have your faith be about you, your family, and God, instead of all the crap the pastor needs on top of that.

You know this is what I was asking myself before I went on sabbatical, and I wasn’t sure what the answer was.  And I was wrestling with God, and angry with God.  I determined I liked Jesus, but I just hated his people.  So I went to [destination location] to see if God would push back.  I’ve been fighting for so long, I wanted to see if God would actually push back.

Me: You know, I’ve thought about that.  I’ve thought about your experience.  But that wells up in anger inside of me.  I’m glad you did that, and it was positive for you, but I’m like,

“What the fuck God?  Why do I need to go to any destination to find you?  YOU’RE EVERYWHERE! ‘Where can I go to hide from you? If I go across the sea you are there…’ You are everywhere.  Why do I need to go to [destination location] to ‘find you’?  Why can’t you find me?”

Why couldn’t God speak to me in my office like he did for you at [destination location]?  I haven’t gone anywhere, He should have no problem finding me. So I’m not going to go anywhere to find me.  He needs to make a move on this one, not me.

Kevin: Well, I’m hearing a bit of stubbornness on your part.  “I’m not going to move” you say.  That’s stubbornness, and stubbornness comes from pride.  And God doesn’t deal with the proud.

Me: But I have moved.  I didn’t grow up in Christian household, I had to “come out” as a Christian to very disappointed parents.  I decided to go to seminary instead of progressing my education in the field I studied in college. I uprooted my wife and took her away from her friends and family so we can be here and serve God in ministry.  I’ve dedicated my entire life to God.  I have moved.  I’m tired of moving.  He needs to move.

If feel like Job, shaking my fist into the sky saying “I deserve an answer”.  God needs to show up, and I don’t need to go anywhere for him to find me.

Kevin: Well you remember what happened and what God said to Job? “Gird yourself up like a man, an you will answer me!”

Me: And that’s fine with me.  I’d rather live in terrifying fear of the presence of God, and therefore KNOW, than to live this agnostic life, either as a Christian or an Atheist, and just bumble along NOT knowing anything.  I don’t even need God to give me answers, he just needs to be present and there.  He doesn’t even need to talk.

But there are lots of questions that could be answered.

Did you ever go to that marriage seminar thing in [nearby town]?

Kevin: Oh yeah.

Me: I don’t know if you went the year I did, but there was that one lady who talked about how she had 3 kids and was pregnant with number 4 when her youngest at the time came in and told her that the other two drowned in the nearby pond.  Like, why?  What’s easier to believe: that God watched the whole thing happen and did nothing? Or that water is dangerous for kids if there is no one there watching over them?  And on some days I think, no one was watching them including God.  I have atheist days, I have agnostic days, and I have Christian days.  Today is an atheist day.

I just can’t pray for someone’s stupid trip to [nearby vacation spot] knowing that there are children dying in Syria because Assad’s forces gassed them to death.  I’ve seen the pictures, Kevin.  5 year old kids dead with their eyes open.  Can you imagine the horror of their parents finding their little babies dead.  If God would not hear their prayers, why the fuck would he care about my depression?  Why would he care about so and so’s trip to [vacation spot]?

Kevin starts giving super lame answers.  I decide not to argue with him.  I do notice that he is constantly affirming both the logical nature of my arguments and the emotional weight of them.  He is trying to avoid offending me or arguing with me.  He’s also being fairly agnostic about the plans of God.  He’s saying the words “I don’t know” a lot.

Kevin: My niece recently sent me an email.  It was picture of a starving child being held by an aid worker.  Next to the aid worker, the child looks horrible.  Hunger has so deformed this child that he doesn’t even look human.  My niece said that this picture was the reason she couldn’t believe in God.  If God was loving, then why would he let this happen to that child?  But I asked, what about the aid worker?  That child is being ministered to.  There is someone there trying to fix the problem.  Why would you make a decision about God based on only half the picture?

This is the old, “we are the answer to someone’s prayer” logic.  In essence God is doing something about the world’s problems and the Church is God’s way of helping.  Every aid worker is the hand of God bringing relief to those who suffer.  Pity God isn’t powerful or wise enough to use more reliable and effective methods to alleviate suffering and injustice.

Christians should really stop saying “be the change you want to see in the world” because it only proves that people are the only ones who change the world, not God.  How many billions of people starved to death before the 20th century concept of “aid workers” was invented?

I decide not to argue that point.

Kevin: All pastors have atheist days, John.  I’ve never known an honest Christian, let alone pastor, who didn’t sometimes feel exactly as you do, with the same questions.  With me, I found I needed to quiet myself, stop yelling at God, and just listen.

Me:  But why should an all powerful, ever present God need silence to speak?  He spoke the freaking [caught myself that time] world into existence, surely his voice is louder than mine.

What I don’t tell Kevin is the last time I prayed, I simply asked God to help me believe.  There was no arguing or yelling.  Just tears and a plea for help.

I later regret not mentioning that.

Kevin: So let’s cycle back to your position.  Can you continue doing what you do with integrity?  And I’m not trying to impose an answer onto you.  This is for you to decide.  To me, the worst possible scenario is doing ministry for a pay check.  That would suck.  I’d rather flip burgers than go to a church and go through all the crap of ministry if I didn’t believe in it.  Can you do this with integrity?

Me: I could if God would show up.

Truth

Kevin: Then let me ask you this: if a job was offered to you today, would you take it immediately or would you reject it.

Me: (sigh, pause) I’d think about it.

Lie

Me: But I have applied at [local non-profit], [local brewery], and [Mark’s company].

Truth

Me: I’m just having a hard time finding jobs that I’m qualified for or pay more than minimum wage.

Kevin: Yeah, I think we all go through that “I have no marketable job skills” feelings.  But you being torn about leaving your job gives me hope to think you’re not hopeless.  You’re wrestling with God.  You may come out of this.

Me: One of the reasons I’m slow to leave ministry is because I don’t want to find out it was a mistake to leave.  I don’t want to be 50 years old and realize that God was there all along and I threw away the chance to lead a fulfilling life, serving God as a pastor.  To think that I could be wrong, and putting my wife and family through all this turmoil for nothing.  That bugs me.

Truth.  I’ve heard many ex-Christians say they occasionally still fear hell.  I don’t fear hell or death, I fear wasting my life.  So sometimes I’m afraid that I’m wrong about God, and he really is there.  But then I can’t figure out why he’s so hard to find.

Kevin: Well I’ll pray for you until you find that answer.  Are you ok with me praying for you in that way?

Me: Yeah, of course.  I tell everyone that’s a Christian who knows, to pray for me.

Kevin: Well I’m going to have to run on you here…

Me: I’ve got one more problem…

I explain TBWSNBN situation

Kevin: Are you afraid she’s going to out you?

Me: Yeah but I’m really mad for how she treated my wife.  I read the text messages they had back and forth, and my wife kept pleading with her to be a friend and listen while [TBWSNBN] was more concerned about the integrity of the church.  You know she never even once asked how me or my wife were doing?

Kevin: I’ll contact her.

Me: Thanks

He gives me a hug and we head out the door.

I tried to be as honest as I could. Obviously the fact remains that I’m letting him think I’m struggling as opposed to I gave up struggling.  I don’t feel comfortable about this.  This isn’t how I wanted to tell him originally.  When I get a job I’ll need to do a follow up meeting.

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28 thoughts on “In Kevin’s Office

  1. My last prayers sounded a lot like yours

    “Lord, help my unbelief”

    “Eli Eli, lama sabachthani”

    It sounds like Kevin almost understands, but doesn’t quite. He doesn’t know what it’s like to not be able to believe, that’s how I explain it to people. I try to get them to turn off their belief for 10 minutes – when they are unable to I explain to them that I didn’t make a choice that simply but that it was an involuntary change that I cannot undo voluntarily. It’s a difficult thing for people to swallow – choice, but sometimes that helps them get it.

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      • Now that you said it, I would stop trying to drive that point home with any believers but especially him.

        One thing I either forgot to ask you or forgot you answered elsewhere: what kind of career would you like to go into?

        Keeping it reasonable, of course.

        In my case, my 10 year old answer would be “Race Car Driver” or “Formula 1 World Champion” but realistically, I know I don’t have the talent (How do I know? I am a racing simulator nerd with a $10K racing sim gear to prove it. I know exactly the limits of my talents when it comes to do)

        However, if I were in my 20’s or 30’s, or even my early 40’s (very early) then my answers would be more realistic and would take into consideration jobs I can actually train for by either going to school or working for someone already in the business. Among my choices would be Automotive Restoration for instance, or High end woodworking. I am very good at both and it would be an easy transition for me.

        In fact, I used to be a glass artist and I am still very good. I am currently toying with the idea of trying to raise some money to open a new glass studio.

        But that’s me. What are your passions, outside of brewing (that one, you are apprentice level so not likely to be able to open your own brewery or work at more than MW jobs).

        Why don’t you make a list of jobs you’d be passionate about. Start with listing those that are currently unrealistic as well and later use them to see if there are related jobs that could eventually lead you there.

        Also, there is always real estate. You know people and if you were willing to keep your atheism in check (keep writing under an assumed name) you may be successful at it. Me? I’d rather eat tinfoil. But we are all different people.

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      • You know I’m not exactly sure you should be putting up the transcript of the conversation. There’s a risk that Kevin or TBWSNBN may read it.

        I’m assuming that you have already changed the names right? But even so it’s easy to put 2 and 2 together.

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      • At this stage I recognize the risk and I am taking it. While being outed is a scary proposition, it would finalize this and I’d be out of limbo. And I’m still receiving emails from people asking for advice. I think it’s important to document this. I may have an inflated sense of importance, but I think this blog is doing good. I don’t want to miss the chance to help someone who finds themselves in my (or my wife’s) shoes.

        Liked by 1 person

    • I find that asking a Christian to fervently believe in Odin or Zeus makes a nice, relatable parallel to unbelief in the Christian God. Even though some are unable to even get that parallel.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I think the fear of wasting my life was one of the main things that actually lead me to being an atheist. It was the thought of spending all that time in church worshipping and praying to a diety that may not be there (I didn’t get the whole community thing any of the times I went to church, so it wasn’t a social outlet). What I concluded was that if my guess is wrong and God does exist, as long as I live as a good person, do what I can to enrich other peoples’ lives, and try to find personal fulfillment for myself, how could a truly just and loving god judge that poorly?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I think you were far more truthful than I would have been in your shoes. The only thing you omitted was that pretty much you have made up your mind already, but in all honesty, you are not the best judge of that right now.
    When you were a God believing pastor, you could have answered the “do you believe in got” with 100% passion and truth, but in reality somewhere inside you there was already some doubt. Heck, you come from a secular background. Doubt was probably with you, at some level, throughout your life.

    Even I, as a lifelong atheist have the occasional doubt on God existence “What if the big guy actually exists”? I am also honest with myself about it because even if I can allow the existence of God, I am 100% convinced that it’s not the Christian God I am having doubts about. It’s more of a deist god that I can justify in my mind because it is so undefined. I consider the odds of that god being even remotely similar to the Christian god to about a fraction of a percentage. The Christian god is such a human artifact with such human emotions and behaviors that it is quite literally unbelievable to me.

    Anyway, I think your meeting didn’t go bad. At least by reading about it. Your job is safe for now and it sounds like Kevin is going to handle your human shaped problem.

    Should you go in for another meeting, I would lay off arguing the existence of God altogether. Getting into those discussions is usually a waste of time in the best of circumstances. When your future is on the line, I would not even try dealing with it and leave it at “doubts”. You never know when you may let something slip from which you cannot walk back.

    Remember your goal: stay long enough so you can transition to a new career.

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  4. Glad that’s over, mostly because it was stressing you. I wished it didn’t. I think your conversation demonstrates that Kevin was the right guy to talk to. So, good choice there.

    I kinda miss the cussing. It added a lot of color and entertainment. BTW, I’m one of the people that told you that I didn’t know how a pastor could get away with that, and that it might offend Christians if they read it. My problem now, as I rethink this, is that I don’t care if the Christians are pissed off. Further, I suspect they’ll be pissed off anyway that you aren’t validating their beliefs, swear words or not. So, now I wonder why I recommended that you should walk on eggshells. I guess if you are still keeping your options open, it may be wise for now.

    Your blog is great as always. All of the doubts you shared with Kevin are very old territory for me. It’s been a very long time now since I longed for a benevolent, caring, omnipotent being working on my side to make me happy and to use his power to grant me special requests (probably at the expense of someone else.) Yes, somewhere back there I’ve prayed, “Please help me to believe.” I guess it didn’t take. I concluded that if praying did any good, our world would be a lot farther along that it is. Maybe God only grants prayers if enough people pray the same thing. But, you’re only supposed to pray for things that are God’s will…

    Sorry, got off on an atheist rant, there.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Been following the blog since Hemant wrote about it and it has been fascinating to watch this transition. Sorry I know this is your life, but it is voyeuristic. Today’s blog is the best of all of them. Well written, and thoughtful. I’m glad you added the parts that you wished you had said. I think arguing with him (or anyone) about if God exists is silly and think you should stop explaining yourself. When you answer that, you are just giving people power over you as if words are magic and they are going to finally find the right combination and suddenly you will believe again.

    I totally understand why you hate the idea of leaving your friends in the church behind. And the feeling of being there for them, that is really sad. I’m sure that all the work you have done with them over the years, being beside their bedside when illness and death are in the room has been amazing for them. And not because of the God thing, but because of the human thing. You care. And that is something very amazing about us humans. You have not wasted your life, you will be stronger because of the experiences you have lived.

    You seem to keep focusing on not having marketable skills. Every time you mention that I shake my head and want to shake you. You have amazing people skills, you can not get a degree in college for the skills you have. Not if you tried for years. I also follow the decline of the $cientology world, those people leaving the Church are in waaaaaaay worse shape than you have been. These people leave with no drivers licence, no Social Security, no family, no nothing. They are forever reinventing themselves and the ones you hear about (self-selecting obviously) are doing wonderful, sleeping in, re-connecting with friends and family and watching movies, and now have real lives.

    I think you should assume that whatever you select to do next will NOT be what you do the rest of your life. Why do you keep thinking that you should find the perfect job with the perfect income? That would be wonderful but you are not doing the right thing for yourself, your family and your flock to stay there living a lie. You sound like a person wanting to leave a relationship after years with that person, but not wanting to leave until you have found the perfect person. Yeah good luck with that.

    Transition out, give whatever reason you want to, and give notice. Accept something knowing that there will be more transitions. Get a lot more aggressive with your job hunting. You might have to move. But be honest with yourself, this is the only life you have to live. You keep thinking about how hard it is going to be for these people and your family once you come out and move on. You need to remember that they will be shocked, then they will heal and know that you have done what was right for your mental health. AND then they can find another pastor who does believe in God and they will be able to heal and move on. Your children will learn many valuable lessons, and they will be proud you made the choices you did someday.

    But hold your head up, don’t make excuses, let the gossipers gossip and move on.

    Sorry so long, but Its the first time I’ve posted but have read everything. Your welcome to ignore everything I suggest, its only my two cents.

    Susan

    Liked by 4 people

    • “I think you should assume that whatever you select to do next will NOT be what you do the rest of your life. ”

      This is very good advice.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi John,
    I just wanted to tell you that a lady preacher I know got a job working for a local politician in his constituency office – she seems to be very happy, and I think part of the reason she got the job was her ‘people skills’, which – as you know – are honed to perfection as a minister. Think Bernie Sanders has any openings?? 🙂

    Sending many positive vibes to you! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I know you don’t want to move but I still think becoming a minister at a UU church or the like would be a great fit for you. You would still get that pastor feel w/o the buzz words. Either that or a counselor/social work job. Can you take some cheap online classes to help w that if that is something you want?

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  8. Hey man, you’re human. Sometimes we can only tell people what we think they can bear. Call it a lie if you’re hard on yourself.

    It’s hard not to fear, since it is a life survival instinct. Could your integrity outmuscle your fear? At least sometimes?

    It’s a hard journey mate. I hope you can find a smidgin (is that just an Aussie word?) of peace even in the midst of all the shit.

    Warm regards,

    Ian

    From Australia

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  9. As the sash said to the muntin, “I feel your pane.” Seriously, that was tough, and yes, you probably wanted to scream that you no more believed in the Christian god than you believed in dowsing for water (you don’t, do you?), but you took a big, first step, and it will get easier. No, Kevin is not going to understand. He is caught up in that “all pastors have their atheist days. It’s normal.” He apparently doesn’t understand that some of us really and truly cross a bridge, and will not return to the same country.
    As I have watched the changes in our society over my seventy some years, I have felt that one of the reasons for this is not just science in general, but astronomy in particular. The ancient Greeks and Romans had such a limited view of the universe, one that Hubble has rendered silly. We now know that our universe exists on a scale that we can’t imagine or understand. We don’t know if there is an ‘edge,’ an ending, and so when you read more and more about astronomy, the whole concept of a god and heaven and all that becomes just sillier and sillier, at least to me. Oh, you could argue that it’s all “spiritual,” not physical, and I would say, “Prove it. Show us one reason to believe such a preposterous claim.”
    When you slowly replace religion with science, which is merely understanding the world we live in, you find tremendous joy in discovery and revelation, and before long any emptiness you may have felt is replaced with something that never disappoints, but continues to excite and lead us to learn more. Best wishes. And do take advantage of your people skills. Social work, politics, or brewing beer…you can help a lot of people.

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  10. I imagine it is quite difficult to take time and weigh your options when you know that at any moment everyone could be on to you. You probably feel a lot of pressure to make the right decisions quickly. But if you have people in your life who won’t let you live on the streets and starve, you will survive.

    It is rare that any one decision makes or breaks everything. There are a million different paths you can take in life, and they can all be the right one. And more options will always be available. So when thoughts of the future overwhelm you, remember that these are the experiences that make our lives interesting 🙂

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  11. I went through my existential angst in seminary. The plan was to take a church upon ordination, and things were pretty well worked out in advance. Of course I didn’t have a family to support or any significant financial pressures so I informed the Dean of my decision to leave the faith and left him a forwarding address to send my diploma. Three months later I was digging my first foxhole as an atheist.

    I’ve been following along without much comment, and I very much sympathize and understand how you feel. Others have given good advice, I’m not going to add to it, this is ultimately your journey and I’m just the punter watching it. I’d like to leave you with something to consider about TBWSNBN. This person having betrayed a trust once, won’t hesitate to seize further opportunities to make life difficult for for you and your family. Anything you can do to mitigate their influence you should do at the earliest opportunity.

    I’m sure you’re aware of this already, I worry that you or your wife might be tempted to extend an unearned trust to this person without them having done anything to earn it.

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    • No, TBWSNBN is not welcome to so much as speak with us, and never will be. My wife has always struggled with bitterness and she’s never been one to forgive easily. As a Christian I was the one always pushing her to make amends. Now I have zero motivation to help rebuild that bridge. TBWSNBN is dead to me, and my wife has no problem with that.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. I wish you the very best. If you are in the DC area, I would be glad to meet some day for coffee or lunch to learn more about you. I know of jobs that come up from time to time. Perhaps I could help you there.

    In the meantime, I would suggest revisiting what Kevin said to you. “Can you continue doing what you do with integrity?”

    I bet you heard that as “Can you be a Christian in the pulpit?” But perhaps he meant it in s different way. Perhaps he meant, “As you work through this, even if you are heading out of the church, can you arrange your job so that you can do the things you can do with integrity?” You don’t need to preach things you do not believe. You can let others sing the songs and pray the prayers. There are still common themes of love, charity, grace and many other things you can teach. In fact, you may be uniquely qualified to teach them now.

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  13. Masonic Atheist – love your moniker 🙂 Story for you: Years ago (like, about 35) my husband was asked to join the Masonic Lodge. He went to a couple of meetings and didn’t end up joining. Since he was away quite often (working), I just assumed that’s why he didn’t join – that he just wouldn’t be around very much to attend the meetings.

    About three years ago, I decided to ‘deconvert’. Understand that my husband has never been a believer but he agreed with me that the kids should be brought up going to church, which we did. (all of our children are now ‘Nones’ and our many grandchildren are being brought up in secular homes). We’ve had many discussions about the supernatural since then. During one of these conversations, he told me that all those years ago, the second meeting he went to, to join the Masons, he was told that he had to say that he believed in God (the Christian one, that is). He thought about it and decided that since he didn’t believe, he couldn’t join the organization. As he’s often said, he doesn’t believe in god(s) – he has a conscience. 🙂

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  14. When someone uses this -> “Kevin: Well, I’m hearing a bit of stubbornness on your part. “I’m not going to move” you say. That’s stubbornness, and stubbornness comes from pride. And God doesn’t deal with the proud.” . . . then I know they can’t help me.

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  15. Kevin: Well, I’m hearing a bit of stubbornness on your part. “I’m not going to move” you say. That’s stubbornness, and stubbornness comes from pride. And God doesn’t deal with the proud.

    Yeah, sorry, but that’s complete bullshit. What happened to “Ask, and it shall be given you“? That whole passage promises that, if God actually existed, your pleas for help would be answered, not ignored.

    If God exists, but won’t keep his testable promises, why should any faith be put in the untestable ones? And what sort of god would ignore the heartfelt pleas, from the very people who’ve dedicated their lives to his service, just to let them know he even exists?

    How on earth is it “pride” to expect that God’s word is actually worth something?

    Seems to me that a large part of a pastor’s job is to make excuses for God.

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