“The more faith I lose in people,
The more faith I gain in God.”
I’ve never been a huge fan of people. I have a birth defect that causes me trouble. As a kid I was made fun of all the time, or so it felt. I became resentful and bitter. I sat back and judged people. I picked people apart and developed a sarcastic, biting sense of humor.
Growing older was one of my biggest goals in life, escaping childhood and leaving the junior high mentality behind. Things got better until I became a pastor.
Church and junior high are cousins. I am stunned by the things people have said and done to me as a pastor. And again, I had a pretty low view of humanity to begin with!
I expect derision, mockery, and rudeness from the world, but repeatedly getting it from the church does a number on a guy.
I struggle with cynicism. I am so accustomed to being hurt by people in the church; I take nothing at face value anymore.
When I first became pastor, one of the guys who viewed himself as important in the church was very nice to me. He and his wife gave us gifts and arranged people to help us move in. He did things around the church as I transitioned in. He took my wife and I out to eat regularly.
One Sunday he invited my family and another couple over for a steak dinner. While their wives cornered my wife in the kitchen, these two guys took me into the living room and sat me in the lowest chair. They both stood over me and told me what I was and wasn’t supposed to do in “their church” as pastor.
This was not the last time a seemingly friendly overture was turned into some sort of backstabbing, power-play cover for nefarious ends.
My house is filled with gifts from church members. I can walk through my house and name the people who gave me each thing. About 90% of the people who have given me gifts have since left my church.
A guy who told me “I love you and your family” more than anyone else in the world has ever told me, left my church. He left by not talking to me for three weeks. He made me chase him down and ask him what was up. If I hadn’t chased him down, I doubt he would have ever said anything.
Just like that, people who were your friends will drop you. No explanation. No call. No concern. No nothing. They’re just gone.
There are several people I spent so much time with. Difficult people. I forgave them and let so many things go. Hurtful things, disrespectful things. I didn’t bring it up, just took it and let it go. In each case, I say one thing, one little thing that they don’t like, and they are gone. One thing is all it takes after years of putting up with regular dumb things from them.
I have zero confidence in people. I have longed over the years to have a mentor, someone who would help me. Some older man with wisdom who could encourage me. Instead, all the old men in my church have pouted and left.
So, I had no one to go to for many years. No one who understood or cared or could offer any sort of advice, counsel, or help. I had only one place to go.
One particularly bad year when a number of people left the church, I read my Bible five times cover to cover. My prayer life grew by leaps and bounds.
As people left and I spoke to 15 people on a Sunday, I would go on long walks and cry and wail and shake with despair and call out to God for strength.
There are a number of places in the woods that will always be significant to me. Places where I had breakdowns, places where I let God have it, places where I found God’s peace. I would not trade in any of those experiences. Each of them drew me closer to Jesus Christ.
I will always be grateful for those lying, stinking, miserable, backstabbing jerks!
In God will I praise his word: in the Lord will I praise his word.
In God have I put my trust: I will not be afraid what man can do unto me.