Sunday, August 28, 2011

Finding peace in the midst of suffering

An encounter with a pastor's daughter.

Sitting down to eat a hot dog, I didn't expect a divine appointment. I asked a 20 something woman, “Was this seat taken?” What ensued was a serious discussion about church, pastor's kids, divorce, unwed mothers, pain, pastors, forgiveness, being a real church family, and a very good hot dog.

As we talked, she reveled a horrifying story. Her married sister, is being threatened and stalked by her husband, who just served her with divorce papers. This sister has three close non-Christian friends. They say, “one thing they see in her is peace.” We saw how her sister's peace was an example of real peace available to Christians. Not peace in absence of pain, but peace in midst of pain. We pondered if pain is God's plan, or consequence of sin, and agreed it seemed a mixture of both. I told her how suffering I've gone through has refined. How God asked me. “What will you do when I allow it to rain.” Yet sin has consequences.

Then her story got even more interesting. It also included her. A reason her sister's looming divorce wasn't causing problems in their father's church, was the sister I spoke to, got pregnant when only 18. This horrified many in the church, who blamed her father for not keeping her from getting pregnant. As though being a pastor is a substitute for abstinence or contraception. She said, “I felt a need to rebel.” She estimated 250 people left the church over the issue. She thought the church was better for it. The church now was more of a family, where anything could be discussed, not a place people pretended to be nice. We agreed how dangerous it was, when people pretend they are nice.

I said, as a Calvinist, I was fully aware of the depravity of man, particularly men. How hard it was to forgive pastors. This story, an example how people look for perfect pastors. They will never find them.

She dismissed getting married. She didn't want to make another mistake, to hide the first one. It is interesting how her obvious “sin”, led to a more open church, no longer pretending perfection.

We seem to focus on visible sin. A guy gets away with it, (except for paternity suits). He can sit in church looking “innocent”, while she sits, exposed to all. Baby bulge impossible to ignore. We focus on visible sin, forgetting sins of omission are twice as bad. Easy to gossip about sin, indifferent to courage to keep a child, and not take the easy road of killing it to hide her sin. We all sin, it's just some are more visible.

Driving home, I thought how her getting pregnant, could be a consequence of her innocence. Not aware how passion's power hobbles women, she is tempted, then overwhelmed by feelings, her control center shut down. How can you know what it is like until you do it? It only takes one time to get pregnant. A lesson on sin's danger. So easy to be trapped by temptation.

Truth found with a hot dog. Another divine appointment,
A question from Jesus
Why do you pretend to be perfect?
Refuse to admit that you sin.
Who do you seek to fool?

Don't you know I forgive sinners?
Don't you know I died to free you?
Confess your need. Let me heal you.
© Presbypoet August 23, 2011

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