The Sarah and Nate Saga: Part 1.
A few months before I took over the church as pastor, Sarah and Nate showed up on a Sunday morning for the first time. They signed up to help with our kids program right there and then. At the time the church was falling apart due to my predecessor, so any welcome volunteers were desperately needed.
My wife and I quickly became friends with them. They were different people, at least different from your average church goers. Nate had spent time in the Marine Corps and could certainly hold his liquor. Sarah was kind, thoughtful, and hilarious. Nate was an excellent cook. They had a couple of kids and my wife was still pregnant with our first.
Through the years their commitment to the church ebb and flowed for a variety of reasons, but once their oldest reached youth group age they reconnected as dedicated volunteers. Then they went to a winter camp. Apparently it was a very moving and faith inspiring experience. Telling the stories of their children giving their lives to Christ moved both of them to tears. They became locked into the faith. They weren’t previously super religious, but then they suddenly became very much so.
This happened exactly 1 month after I joined the Clergy Project.
Nate had also recently been recruited to be on the church board.
My wife and I had many debates as to how this couple would react to my coming out. Had Nate not been a board member we would have told them much much sooner, but his position obligated him to look out for the church and not just our friendship. Telling him would have put him in a very awkward position.
My wife figured that due to their recent spiritual renewal, they wouldn’t understand or be our friends anymore. I figured that because they were so different from your average church people, they’d be more understanding. We were both right.
We spent all summer either at their house or with them at ours. We had grown very close when my wife called them 3 days before the fateful board meeting.
Wife: Hi Sarah, we’d like you and your husband to come over for dinner Saturday night.
Sarah: Ok, is something wrong?
They came to our door that night and Sarah instantly burst into tears.
Sarah: Whatever it is, I’m sure it’ll be ok
Me: So, the board meeting is this Tuesday and I got some big news. And I don’t think they’ll want me to be the pastor anymore
After the fact, I realize how I must have set people up to think I had an affair. The sad irony being they’d rather I’d be an adulterer than an apostate.
Nate: What’s going on man?
Me: Well… I’ve gotten to the point that I just don’t trust God any more.
Nate: [puzzled] What do you mean?
Me: I just don’t think he’s there, or if he is, that he doesn’t care.
Sarah: What?! Why not?
Me: Well, it’s just… nothing matters when I pray. Like, nothing at all. It’s like if God is there, he ain’t listening to me. I’m beginning to think this is all just a waste of time.
Nate: You know we all go through these feelings from time to time. I have often felt the same way as you do now. But this year has been different for us. God’s been amazing.
Now how do I go about explaining myself without throwing his faith under the bus?
Me: It has been for you, but it has not been for me. The emphasis of “faith” is trust. I just don’t trust that God will act in any way shape or form for/with me. So I need to tell the board that, and they’ll probably ask me to step down.
Sarah: I genuinely don’t understand why you don’t think God will act when you pray.
She’s clearly puzzled. She looks as if I just told her 2+2=5.
Me: Well, when I was at church one day, someone asked me to pray for their upcomming road trip. But later that day I went home and read the news on my tablet. I saw pictures of the war in Syria. Specifically I saw a picture of 5 children between the ages of 3-5 years old. They were all dead. Death by chemical weapons. They all had their eyes open and they were dead. Like, who gives a fuck about your road trip when there’re children my kids ages dying in a war?! Why would God answer my prayer about a car ride if he won’t answer the prayers of those parents who just want their babies to survive?
Nate: I hear ya, I really do. But we can’t fathom why God does the things he does. We just live day to day, doing the best we can, and let God take care of the rest.
Me: Sure, and I am living day to day doing the best I can. I just don’t think God is going to to interact in that. And at the end of the day, you can’t have a pastor who doesn’t believe/trust in God.
Sarah: Wait, do you not trust God or do you not think there is a God??
Me: The answer is yes. I certainly don’t trust God and I’m not ever sure there is one.
A big pause.
Nate: Well, that’s tough. But we’re still your friends. What do you need from us?
Me: Well I’m going to need a job.
Nate: Well my company may be hiring here in the next week…
Sara: Aren’t there more important things to discuss that jobs?
Nate: Of course there is, but he needs work too…
The rest of the night, you can feel the tension between the two of them. I imagine she wants to focus on faith and he wants to focus on money. They both are trying to help me, but in very different ways.
Me: Either way, we need friends. You can’t imagine how tough this has been on my wife. She needs support. And I wanted to talk to you before the board meeting happened. We didn’t want to blindside you Tuesday night.
Nate: I appreciate that.
We chit chat some more, and then it becomes time for them to be on their way. Big hugs and tears are exchanged. Friendship is promised, unfortunately the future prevents that from happening.