Lost Love and Christian Effects by Mark Harris
Lost Love and Christian Effects
by Mark Harris
Loneliness is a state of mind, yet isolation substantially increases my awareness of it. It would have been easy to avoid all of this. After eighteen years you would have thought I had it figured out. But I am jumping ahead of myself. You see living a miserable life is easy, a lot of people I know do it every day. In fact I mimicked their lives in a lot of ways. Talked about the weather, sports, racing, did I mention the weather?
You wake up in the morning regretting you made it through another night. Your loving spouse laying there lifeless, only to arouse and make a snide comment about the noise you make in the morning. Did I mention that you are supposed to get dressed in the dark so as not to wake her up? Why did she have to take that breath? I wish……
Have you ever made a huge mistake and knew it as soon as you did it? I did, and I was well aware of the consequences and did it anyway. The problem with that is there are so many ways that you paint yourself in a corner. For most people you screw up and fix it later. For the faithful you abide by the scriptures and even more so the disdain of your peers in the church. Never, never, never commit any sin that they are not guilty of, or at least they are not admitting too.
You see in the church it is acceptable to persecute the homosexual community because most of them are not guilty of that sin. No I am not coming out of the closet, I am very straight, but again I am getting ahead of myself. It is also acceptable to berate the alcoholics, abortion Doctors, wife beaters, deviant sexual behaviors, Baptist’s – I sort of threw that one in as it was my favorite in the days of yore, and various other sins that God abhors.
Did you know that God abhors all the Christians eating at Red Lobster as well? Check it out in Leviticus I swear it says that. And before you point out that the verse I am referencing is from the Old Testament think about what you’re saying! You use the same verses to condemn all those sins I listed above and their from the Old Testament you boneheads. Oh but that is different, I know I used to belong to the same group as you.
Eight months and twenty nine days after my glorious wedding I was a Father to a beautiful boy. I slept in a recliner in the hospital room and refused to allow anyone to take him out of the room. Three days of being a security guard for my newborn child and not a shower in sight for me to use. I must have stunk like you know what. For that matter I must have looked a little crazed and more then a little screwed up in the head.
So I made a mistake, I now had an incredible little redhead who partially carried my name. I dressed him up in a Dodger uniform and carried him in my baseball glove. I hugged and kissed him so much my Father-in-law started joking about it. He was and is a nice guy. Sort of a cross between Jimmy Stewart and a Norman Rockwell character who is significantly deaf and very hard to carry a conversation with. But I had a son.
After a few years the boy grew up and consistently stole my heart with his words and expressions. I was blown away by this fatherhood thing and figured I could make a family work. That is until I spent a year on the couch right around the time my second son was born. I know, I must not have spent the whole year on the couch and your right. I must have had one night of relief from my life. When you have your second child you wonder if you could possibly love that creature anywhere near the way you did the first one. Well, as you parents of more then one child will attest, God increases your capacity to love that much more and you fall head over heals for that child as well.
Things go pretty well when mom gets that much attention for a while. You kind of fall into the shadows and try to make her comfortable, change a ton of diapers, use your swaddling technique to quiet the child and all in all try to be a peacemaker. But the family leaves, the church “family” quits fussing over mom and making jokes about how useless dad’s are and things get back to normal.
In between the first and second child, and before the third, you struggle like hell to pull off the appearances that things are great. The church decides that you are Elder material and you take your seat amongst all those exalted older gentlemen who are suppose to mentor a young guy like me. They don’t, mentor that is, they more teach you how to smile and look pompous but maybe that is how you’re supposed to get through life. How the hell would I know, my father would have self ignited in the church, had he ever stayed in one long enough.
In amongst the scheduling of the church sanctuary for the Ladies Tea, and the Christmas program you talk about a couple of major issues like curriculum for the Sunday School program, and hear a few reports from the missionary committee. “Oh by the way, did you know so and so on the Missions Committee has been in a long running feud with those missionaries who lost a child to cancer, and turned their lives upside down to help families and children who have various forms of juvenile cancer? Yea, they want to stop their funding.” Oh I see.
“Oh and also, the Pastor is really not living up to all the hype and one of the largest givers in the church wants him gone.” Well we really need to discipline that guy: “yea the pastor is …” no I mean the large giver, “oh you can’t do that he helped to found this church and heck he paid to build most of it.” Well I tell you what, chip out the brick’s he paid for and I will rebuild the place in his front yard. “You are being a jerk, I always did think that about you….”
On the morning the Pastor was released you of all people where chosen by all those senior members of the Elder board to give the sermon. Tears were shed, you take the heat from most of the shocked people in the congregation and the man who really did mentor you and is responsible for your Spiritual development is out on the street. “Oh and did we tell you that we decided to make you the Chairman of the Search Committee. And the large giver is on the committee, he was divorced so we can’t have him on the Board, but we can appease him with a spot on the search committee.”
Your third child, and the third boy, has come at a difficult time. You admit that you are not happy with your marriage and that you have strayed significantly. You tell another pastor who had similar issues, although prior to his becoming a believer, so it’s ok to admit it, and you resign from the board without really telling anyone why. You’re still active in teaching and occasionally doing Pulpit supply, but you turn down the chance to Pastor your own church because you know your wife at home will screw it up. Not by telling my sorted past, but by getting as surly and judgmental with one of your parishioners as she has with you for the last twelve years. At least by staying in the relationship you are doing the best things for the boys.
Holidays fly by and they start to feel like torture rather then the celebration of the birth of Christ, or His crucifixion, or even Thanksgiving. What is there to be thankful for other then these three boys? I’m glad I am doing the best thing for them. Or am I? They start to tell you things a little bit at a time. The oldest is going off to college and he has chosen San Diego State University, getting closer to our Los Angeles roots, rather then the good ole mid-west.
When pressed he admits he has to get away from his mother. “Dad she drives me crazy and I have to get away. Plus, she constantly searches through my stuff to see what I’m doing.” Well son, maybe you should not have something there every time she goes snooping that makes her mad. “What doesn’t make her mad dad?” What can a father say to that who is thinking the same thing? Second son is sitting at the computer seething one day and I ask him what’s wrong. He states “your wife” and I say it will get better some day. He states “you told me that two years ago and nothing has changed!”
The youngest likes to go on rides around town so that he doesn’t have to be at home. “You see it kind of sucks to be there the entire time dad, please take me to Wal-Mart for a while.” I try and have a discussion with her about our relationship but it turns into something about my character flaws and how screwed up I am, and the family I come from. The fact that she alienated my mother consistently when she was around her doesn’t mean it’s her fault. But she does call her when money is tight.
Wow, I am attending the funeral for my father and she has to know on this day if I screwed around on her again since the last time I confessed all of my sins to her. Now I know I did not get along with this guy at all, and the fact that only sixteen people showed up, ten of them forced to attend, kids you know, but holy shit now! I escaped that one with silence but if she only knew how miserable I was…
A different church is formed, mostly from the disgruntled group of believers who left the other church that split from another church in town. How’s that sentence structure? We have one hundred and thirty people on the first day. I cry when the worship leader and my son play a song that touched me during practice that first morning. Finally I have the freedom to worship God in a way that is not judgmental and scowling. I am blown away by the response and it only gets better.
I write the weekly small group outline for the first year and a half. I write a couple pages about the upcoming sermon and five questions to get you thinking to further the kingdom. I teach my own small group on Mondays and head up the program. I even step back into the pulpit for a few weeks and really feel the groove again. I know I don’t belong there but man I feel so called to do this. She has made it clear that me being a pastor is ridiculous. She never actually says it in those words, but she definitely says it.
She has a way of making her point and still being able to deny it. We can fight like crazy but if a friend calls she suddenly becomes Suzy Homemaker and the sweetest little thing in the world. Then she hangs up the phone and tells me I’m a @#$%&*$ jerk! Wow, I appreciate the insight. And I thought it as just me. She runs out to go get a few drinks with her friends. I take the kids to the movies. I do a lot of that lately, it’s quiet there, with very few voices in my head and I can talk to the kids about the meaning of the movie and all.
It works for a while until I go almost nuts with the chaos. The household is broke and everyone acts like its normal. I express my frustration but it is brushed off. I write about it in subtle ways for the small groups. I try and talk about it to the other board members of the church but I’m the one who handles a lot of that stuff. They have it altogether, or they have hobbies, boats, campers, horses, old cars to restore, or in general a life to live. I travel thirty weeks a year but they must have more to get done then me.
I don’t have a hobby; I let her take everyone of them away. I am screwed and she is talking about what life will be like when the kids are all grown up. I’ll tell you what it will be like: I WILL BE DEAD! If not by my own hands then by yours! I will never make it out of this alive. Maybe that sounds good, but I wanted to be around when the boys were married and had children running around. I can’t let her kill me before I see those boys become the men I dreamed of being when I grew up.
So I took the biggest risk of my life and told her I was leaving. I told her I had another relationship and she attributed all of the frustration as a mere excuse to go screw around with someone newer and prettier. I moved a couple of weeks later, after sleeping on the torn couch in the basement. It was the same couch I think I slept on all those years ago. Kind of fitting isn’t it? Of course the kids were confused, and rightly so. I was confused as well, but who wouldn’t be?
A desk my father left me, or rather my mother gave me, a dresser she had given us years ago, two rusty kitchen spatula’s and a Tupperware pitcher that turned out to have a hole in it and that is all I had to show for the previous eighteen years of my life. And now the iced tea I tried to make is all over the counter in my new apartment. At least I have some friends right? Wrong, to a man they all are ignoring me. I can’t imagine doing the same thing to them, but that is probably what got me into this in the first place.
Believing people care as much about you as you do for them is an absolute farce! Two separate churches in this town have made it their mission to ignore me. I know the scripture, I can recite Matthew 18 by heart, hell I taught it to most of you and you just ignore me. The one guy who can’t read, used to come to my small group because his wife confided in me years ago that he doesn’t go to bible study because he is afraid someone will call on him to read out loud. He slammed a door in my face last week and ignored me when I tried to talk to him.
I should have asked him to read just for the sport of it. But I would never treat someone that bad, let alone slam a door in front of others and walk away as if I was diseased. In fact, in my screwed up life I always listened to both sides of the story before I made any judgments whatsoever. And the human being in me wants to expose all of the screwed up stuff I know about from these peoples sorted lives. But I will never treat anyone the way I am being treated and I never have prior to this mess.
A dozen of the former friends spent the weekend on the square below my balcony this weekend. I saw them several times and went to wave, but they averted their eyes before I could get a wave back. I would have taken a nice middle finger over what I got. Of course these people would never flip the bird at anyone; in fact I know that they have had feces in their mouth and never said shit in response. Plus the sticks hanging out of their Dockers and skirts gave them away.
One of the worst “offenders” was a daughter of one of the founders of the old church. After a failed marriage and breaking up another family’s marriage to get what she wanted she walked by me twice and ignored me. Wow, even her? What have I done? Maybe I should reconsider all of this and go back to these loving people. Then I can live out my life of misery and sin with a fake smile on my face like all the others. Where’s the phone calls people; where’s the scorn? I used to teach that you had to face people, earn the right to minister to them. Where are you now?
For the record the relationship I am having with the women you see me with is continuing. I will die in hell before I live like I was before. I know what hell is like, I am living there. I am staying in this small town because those three boys are the best thing that ever happened to me in my life. Don’t believe me, ask my mother what my life was like before I moved to the mid-west. You don’t know that because you never knew me. You never cared, I just thought it was your Midwestern culture, but it’s obvious you just don’t give a shit about anything but yourselves.
So when you see me walking down the street, quickly walk the other way. I will be the one who still has faith in God, but absolutely no faith in the people that call themselves His. I refuse to put a big red A on my chest, you have already done that to me. I will remarry one day, hopefully the women you see me with today. I will live a fulfilled life in Christ, and I will forgive you your sins, will you forgive mine? But, I will not forget what it feels like to be isolated and in pain alone. I hope you never feel the same wrath you have heaped on me, no I pray you never feel the same wrath you have heaped on me.
Before you say it, I know that I have sinned! That is not the point. The fact is you shun me and treat me with scorn because you are not comfortable with the situation. Some of you wish you had the spine, others of you are sure I was never Saved in the first place. I’m sure it makes you feel just a little bit better everyday when you see me and compare your sins with mine. That was what the Pharisee’s did, it worked for them didn’t it?
Many of you end your letters with the trite saying “In Christ’s Love” and I am tempted to do the same, however, I know the irony would be lost on you!