It started with the conference in the neighboring city. That followed by a coffee at my restaurant where I asked to be accountable to him. What the hell does that mean? I have no idea, but it feels like I was giving him permission to use me for his own sick satisfaction. At least that is how I am feeling now as I just typed that sentence. Next, the church asked him to leave, and my wife and I invite him and his wife over to talk and pray. Next thing we know, that has turned into a weekly prayer meeting.
His life was its own interesting journey over the next year and a half. He took a variety of odd jobs in and around the valley, always looking to do some sort of ministry wherever he was,which lead to interesting stories that he would share whenever we would get together. And we got together a lot. So much so, that I considered him my friend more than my pastor or even a pastor.
A year and a half. A relatively short period of time but interestingly, this time frame corresponded with me losing my brother, and the growing strain in my family relationships.
He seemed to want to listen. He seemed genuinely interested in what I had to say. My wife and I were still learning how to communicate with one another. She grew up in a family where throwing things at each other while yelling and screaming was the norm in terms of conflict, whereas I grew up in silence. And not just typical, disconnected silence, but deliberate, premeditated, stubborn silence. Thus, we had not learned yet how to fight with one another, which meant that our conflicts with one another left a lot of scars.
This psuedo-pastor took an interest in me and I enjoyed the strong teaching that he provided me. When he was working at a large ranch doing construction, an opportunity arose to have a prayer meeting once a week out at the ranch. He invited me to go along – an hour’s drive one way. I jumped at the opportunity, if only for the chance to talk to someone who seemed interested in what I had to say.
As the days and weeks passed by, I began to let my guard down more and more, opening up with him and sharing all of my hurts and pains, losses, trauma – my entire life’s story. He shared just enough with me to make it all sound familiar and safe, letting me open up and share more. As I shared, he shaped the conversation into biblical and spiritual themes. He introduced some spiritual theology, which gave names, labels, and explanations to my emotional experiences. When we would pray, he would pray for me in very specific ways, inviting me to respond in those same very specific ways.
Months went by and an opportunity was beginning to form for him to potentially relocate to the same island where my wife and I got married. In fact, it would be in a church, in a small community, not that far away from the community we were married in. He traveled down to this island church and that began to be his new rhythm. He would travel down to the island and spend a few days there before coming back up to the valley city. As expected, the church loved him and welcomed him with open arms.
He created an opportunity for a bunch of us from the now quite large prayer meeting at our home to travel with him down to the island to interact and share with the church one Sunday morning. Each of us took a few minutes to stand up in front of the church and share with them our experiences, our stories, and ultimately profess our support for this pastor. We didn’t know it at the time but trouble was brewing there, that mirrored what had happened at the church back in the valley city.
But, we obliged.
I continued to meet with him quite regularly; Weekly prayer meeting at our home, when he was back from the island, I would travel with him out to the ranch, and then there were the individual counseling sessions at his home, and the times that he would come over and counsel my wife and I. He had very quickly become a major part of our family. Of our relationship. Of our marriage.
My wife was beginning to see him on her own as well. We both were aware of our own brokenness and sought his wisdom and insight as to how to deal with it – how to get well. We both became vulnerable to him, sharing, perhaps, more with him then with each other.
The counseling work that he was doing with me began to increase in terms of expected behavioral changes. He had decided that my progress was being inhibited by my rebelliousness.
I believed him.
And so I struggled through it. After all, I wanted to be a better father and a better husband. I wanted to be a better person – a better Christian. Life was getting more and more complicated. There were growing issues with the church we were attending. They had just decided to let their pastor go. I was trying to deal with the loss of my brother and trying not to hate my mother and father for making that happen. In my personal counseling, I was dealing with my own journey of suicide, my occultic background, and all of my poor decisions.
I couldn’t find the language for my own emotional experiences so I hurled myself into my work, or into various community service, relying on my psuedo-pastor friend to tell me what I was feeling and why I was feeling it. After awhile this became the norm. Both my wife and I would look at each other during difficult times and say, “Maybe you should set up an appointment to see our pastor.”
Vulnerability out of a place of safety creates intimacy and deep connection. I had learned how to be vulnerable but it wasn’t with my wife. I was at the mercy of my pastor and I was about to be confronted by him for not behaving correctly. My soul was open, wounded, raw, and exposed. My emotions were leaking out all over the place and I was overwhelmed by all of it. I had spent my entire life not dealing with my emotional experiences, all except anger, and consequently had become disconnected with myself – dissociated and fragmented.
And now, here stood a man ready to put me all back together again.