I got some news the other day that has weighed me down ever since, bringing tears, anger, sadness, fear & compassion along with it.
But before I share the news, I want to tell you about my church-- not my church in San Francisco, but the church I grew up in; the church I call Home.
From the time that I was a little girl until... well, it must have been sometime in college... the word "church" wasn't so much a theological term or a concept, but a building on the corner of Oso & Marguerite Parkway. I knew that other people went to other churches, just as other children had houses that they called "home", but to me "church" was that building, that set of people, and that pastor.
It was in that church that I came to know who God is, that I learned hymns, went to VBS & youth group, and first decided to be a missionary. My parents have been deacons, elders, Sunday School teachers, volunteers & choir members there. I was married there. Part of coming home & visiting family is going to that church, where people have known & loved me since I was 8yrs old.
Although I have never been close to the pastor-- Michael-- he has always somehow embodied that church. I can perfectly hear in my mind the way that he prays, his transitions from a pithy story to the way it applies to our faith, the tenderness with which he baptizes babies & the way they always look up at him adoringly. I think we all looked up at him adoringly. His deep, rich voice that spoke with such confidence, his smiling, crinkly eyes and the warmth that he exuded when he talked about our Father, God. He was the type of person you wanted to be around, just to glean a little wisdom and peaceful centeredness.
Which is why the news that I got a few days ago left me shocked. This father of our church, this man we have all looked up to for so many years... confessed that he had been having an affair.
Obviously, there are a lot of details-- some I know, and most we will never know. It's not the gory details that I want to dwell on (although, I admit, they haunt me: How long? How did his wife find out? Who is she? The questions never stop]. I'm not even sure that I am at a place to fully process what happened.
What I do know is that my heart aches-- for our church, and especially for his darling wife. And in some strange way, my heart hurts for God, too-- as though I can feel the pain that He feels on our behalf, on her behalf, and on his behalf. So much hurt & confusion... the ripples of his actions go out farther than he will ever know.
One thing it has done for me is given me a healthy fear of myself. I am not above any of this.
I have always had a desire to live my life out in the open-- to be real with people (and especially my students) about my struggles & fears & shortcomings. Watching this great man fall lights a fire under all those desires for transparency. I am no better than Michael, and I am reminded of how desperately I need my Jesus.