Confessions of a Preacher’s Wife: Presumed Upon

I’d like to preface this post with a little poem I wrote about 20 years ago… It goes like this:

The Preacher’s Wife

So fittingly, meekly seated
all proper in her chair
with wide, embroidered collar
and neatly short cropped hair

Appropriate her words are
each smile, direct on cue
she nods and graciously handshakes
and speaks when spoken to

She hosts a tea, and bakes a cake
organizes the church bazaar
occasionally teaches Sunday school
and sings soprano in the choir

She keeps her fishbowl nice and clean
and the life she’s living in it
for parishioners, invited or not
could drop by any minute

Outwardly the perfect wife
clean, well groomed and bred
but inwardly, she dances nude
with a lampshade on her head.

My husband is retired so technically, I’m a former preacher’s wife. But we were in the game for over 25 years if that adds any credibility to this blog post.

Those with a mainstream Christian background know that many church people have a somewhat romanticized view of their pastor and his family. In my experience, pastor’s families are often propped up on pedestals and therefore, separated from everyone else on some imagined higher level of existence.

As a family and as individuals, we were treated as something OTHER. Being a church’s ‘first family’ can be quite lonely and isolating and riddled with fear.

Life on a pedestal equates to an elevated sense of self importance for some. For me though, fear was a larger component because failure at some point was a certainty.

People presumed so much.

They presumed we had it all together. They presumed our family lived in a constant state of peace and harmony. And they presumed that we were closer to God than they were.

mai-tai-1220775_640.jpgIf I had a nickel for every time someone elbowed me in the ribs and said, “Hey! Ask your husband to pray for me. After all, he has an in-line to God”  I’d be retired on a golden beach sipping Mai Tais with little green umbrellas served by a Cabana Boy.

People asked me to pray for them, too, but more like a second-string backup player. Often they’d preface their request with something like, “Will you pray for me? I know God hears your prayers just as much as your husband”… as if trying to convince themselves that they’d still get a good deal even though I wasn’t him.

And oh the crap my kids endured! They were endlessly hit up for the answers to Sunday School bible questions and picked first for the Bible Trivia competition at youth group. No pressure, preacher’s kids! Their peers assumed they knew all that bible stuff, chapter and verse as if we sat around as a family reading it all day long.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Much to my chagrin, being presumed upon happened absolutely all the time to all of us.

As for me, if there was a ministry within the church that had to do with women or children, people automatically presumed I was the committee chair person.

True story from 20 years ago…

One afternoon I received a phone call from my husband’s admin and office manager. “I just got a call from the guest speaker for the women’s retreat,” she said. “She asked me for your phone number.”

Apparently, she wanted to schedule a meeting with me to go over the retreat schedule and to pray about the line-up of events. She had some suggestions for ice breakers and a laundry list of items she needed including a dry erase board. She was hoping to set up a meeting with me to go over all of it and get acquainted personally before the event.

But I had no idea who this woman was. I’d never heard her name in my life and on top of that, I wasn’t on the retreat committee. In fact, I wasn’t even sure that I was going to attend the women’s retreat that year. Needless to say, I was perplexed. “Why’s she want to talk to me about all this stuff?” I asked. “She needs to talk to the retreat organizers.”

Apparently, the Admin had tried numerous times throughout the conversation to explain to this woman that I was not her contact person. But no matter what she said, the woman simply couldn’t get it through her head that I… the preacher’s wife … was not involved in organization of the women’s retreat.

inconceivable.jpg

I know preacher’s wives whose whole lives are wrapped up in their husband’s ministries. They are in every sense, “co- laborers in Christ.” They organize the Fall festivals. They oversee the women’s retreat. They run the children’s ministry. And they love that role and relish the ride.

But filling the role of the pastor’s wife can be isolating even if you love it. It’s so much worse if you don’t love it. And I didn’t, which made being presumed upon even more burdensome. 

The poem at the beginning isn’t much of a description of me back then. I wasn’t the ‘wide embroidered collar’ type and naked dancing?! Not even in my ‘fit as a fiddle’ days would this fiddle have played that tune! What it does describe is me as the quintessential square peg in a round hole and a generalized mold that’s cast for minister’s wives. A mold I couldn’t fill adequately.

Life as a preacher’s wife was somewhat manageable for me with a shared belief in Christ. But when my faith unraveled, nothing much was manageable at all. Based on these experiences, I’m especially cautious not to presume upon people.

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A True Story About Kim

This is a true story, accurate to the best of my ability to recount.

The time: Winter of 1983

The setting: Rural south, USA

Kim [not her real name] started hanging out with me and my Charismatic friends from FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) during our second year of college. She was an odd girl, but nothing over the top. Just a tad quirky. And I liked quirky!

Right before she left for Christmas break she asked if she could stay at my parent’s house for 2 nights upon her return as her landlord would be painting her apartment. I was a college student living at home at that time, so I asked my parents and they agreed… it was all set.

Woman standing in a hall.jpgTwo days before her return I got this horrible sense of foreboding. Absolute dread. In fact, I had a sense of danger. I did not want Kim in my house. But it was totally out of left field with a basis in absolutely nothing. So I dismissed the gut feeling.

Upon her arrival, I knew something was off but couldn’t put a finger on it. Ever had that happen? Something just isn’t right, but by all outward appearances, there’s no reason to act on the feeling? I again shrugged it off.

I set her up in the guest room for the night and went to bed.

Hand on doorknobAs I headed to my room, I had this overwhelming urge to lock the door to that wing of the house where mine and my parents bedroom was. I wanted to lock my bedroom door, as well.

I stood staring at the knob. I’m just being silly, I thought. I closed both doors, but I didn’t lock them.

The next morning I awoke unusually early, turned over in bed only to find she’d let herself into my bedroom and was standing there in a flowing white nightgown, just glaring down at me. Straight out of a horror movie. I gasped and said, “Kim! What are you doing?” She mumbled a response like, I just wondered if you were up.

The next night I DID lock the doors. She left the following day without further incident and I shook it off in spite of her brazen violation of boundaries.

Kim fell off my radar for a month or so because I got married. But once my husband and I got settled into our new apartment and into our new routine, I began to take notice of her again.

What I saw was very strange and within weeks, the situation grew alarming.

Angel with white wings.jpgKim began making the claim that God told her she was the Angel of Laodicea. On top of that, she believed that she’d been called by God to Africa where I would be her disciple along with my new husband. She further claimed that God showed her that she was to marry one of our mutual friends, a guy I’ll call Steve.

Kim’s delusions escalated as her claims got louder with each passing week. There was a level of fixation on me that set my hair on end.

One evening at an FCA meeting, I spotted her from across a large, crowded room. She was talking to a group of girls in an animated fashion. Whatever she was saying had their undivided attention. Then she abruptly stopped, turned her head toward me and glared like she was shooting daggers from her eyes.

The look on her face scared me. Really scared me. It was all wrong.

Given my state of mind, my thought wasn’t fear for my physical safety. My immediate thought was that there might be a demon in her that could attack me spiritually. So, thinking that love conquers evil, I mouthed the words from across the room, I love you.

In an instant, her entire countenance changed. The wicked, weird look about her melted away, sliding off her chin leaving behind a sweet, cherub face. She smiled back and waved at me in a flirtatious manner. Coy and shy, like a middle schooler trying to get the attention of a crush.

It was beyond weird … Gave me chills. I stood frozen trying to make sense of it.

As the weeks progressed and her behavior grew stranger, many of us became convinced that Kim was possessed by a devil. While I can’t recall what it was that Kim did one night at our charismatic church, whatever it was prompted about a dozen members to encircle her and try to cast Satan out. She stood in the foyer as we gathered around praying in tongues and saying, You devil! Come out of her! Leave Kim alone!

Everything came to a head the following week when Kim showed up at Steve’s house with a knife in her hand. I have no idea what specific thought drove her to this point, but Steve’s parents were already on high alert. They knew about her claims to marry their son, they also knew about the claim that we were to be her disciples in Africa, and they’d been a part of the attempted exorcism at the church the week before. They stepped in and thwarted her violent plan against Steve.

No one got hurt in the knife incident, but Steve’s father called Kim’s parents that night. They immediately came to town to collect her. She was gone the rest of the year.

In the aftermath, Kim’s parents blamed the church for whatever it was that was happening to their daughter claiming our church was a cult that had brainwashed her.

In reconstructing this incident here, I’m overwhelmed and appalled at the many failures along the way by myself and by our church leadership. Were we culpable? Damn straight we were culpable. And it makes my stomach turn thinking on the role I played.

I can’t explain animal instincts. I can’t explain how I sensed danger a full two days before her arrival at my house. Maybe I had observed subtle behaviors I didn’t consciously recognize? In any case, what I once believed was the holy spirit, I now see as an innate warning signal of a primal sort. How it is that we humans can know and sense danger before it happens is a fascinating phenomena, but it’s not a spiritual one. It’s an animal thing. And I had ignored it.

I don’t fault myself for that. Acting appropriately on a gut feeling is a tricky maneuver and can go wrong. What I do fault myself for is ignoring the danger signs of a young woman in mental peril as her symptoms unfolded with greater clarity. Yes, I was young and inexperienced, but I could see like everyone else that this young woman was mentally unraveling. And yet, rather than call her parents immediately so she could get to a doctor, we invited Satan into this mix. And I was right there in the thick of it.

I am NOT a psychiatrist and have no training in diagnosing mental illness, but, in hindsight, she had all the classic symptoms of schizophrenia. Hearing voices, delusions of grandeur, disorganized thinking. Whether that was her ultimate diagnosis, I don’t know, but the signs were all there, playing out like a bad B movie… and what did we do?

We tried to cast out a devil.

Picture Kim, in mental confusion standing in the middle of a circle of nut jobs, yelling, “Come out of her you devil in the name of Jesus!” Can you put yourself in her shoes and imagine the confusion, the fear, the horror as she sunk further into her illness?

I write this because what happened to Kim is happening in churches today all over the world in the name of Jesus and in the name of other false gods. It’s real and it’s dangerous and the mentally ill and the physically sick get victimized by religious dogma that fails every time and makes situations dangerously worse.

Kim didn’t need a god. She needed a doctor. We intended for good… but that’s no excuse for the abuse we inflicted upon her.

I feel great shame and sorrow for Kim and the role I played in her torment as her mind failed her. 

No matter how painful, incidents like this one convince me to continue to tell my stories.

 

 

True Story: Feel Free To Call Me Mother

The Time: Around 1991

The Place: Student Pastorate, United Methodist Church, The Bible Belt

young-woman-praying-in-churchI’d signed up to participate in a prayer vigil at our small UMC in rural Georgia. We’d scheduled people to pray in one-hour increments in an effort to “pray without ceasing” for 24 hours. (I know… how can you ‘pray without ceasing’ if you cease after 24 hours?) Anyway…

I spent my hour alone in our tiny sanctuary that smelled of musty, old hymnals and bargain brand cleanser. Kneeling at the altar, I began with praise, “Thank you Jesus for blessing my family….”

After some minutes of gratitude, the old pain bubbled to the top as it always did. So I faced it head on, requesting God’s comfort praying something like, “Father, please help me. Because of your Word my feelings of ‘lesserness’ and inferiority permeates every thing I do, infiltrates everything I am. Father God, why does your Word speak so poorly of women?”

In a flash I got an inner sense of God’s voice that said, “Feel free to call me Mother.”

By the time my hour of prayer was over, my face was covered in tears as I rode a wave of relief at the words I believed God had spoken to me. At least they were somewhat validating. But when I got home and told my husband what God had said he replied, “But that’s not scriptural.”

What little hope I’d had in that moment was crushed when I got home. Crushed by someone who knew the depth of my pain. What was he thinking??

Even right now, as I re-construct this incident, I can still feel the desperation I wrestled sitting in that tiny church. It was as though my heart was breaking. I could see that I was changing as a person, my light was growing dimmer. I was watching myself being slowly snuffed out by bad theology. The more I learned, the worse it got.

The way I saw it, it was hard enough to face sexism out in the godless world… but, hell, I expected it to be there. It was quite another to face it in God’s Church and even worse, for God to inject it into our homes. God was the only one who could fix this mess and set things right, but to me, He’d stubbornly refused to do that. Moreover, He’d refused to say why in spite of my persistence. 

I swung open the church doors that day knowing I was at an impasse. No amount of study or prayer could make sense of the endless amounts of apologetics I’d heard in defense of God’s words against women. The rape He didn’t stop, the murders He’d commanded, the babies He’d drown, the virgins He gave as spoils of war, the women He’d silenced, the women He’d subjugated… I simply could  not reconcile it and I was dying inside trying.

I can see it now with the brutal clarity of hindsight: If I was going to continue in my Christian walk believing God was love and God was fair, I had to have something to counter balance what I had that said the opposite.  So, I did the next best thing right there in that country church…

I threw myself a lifeline.

I constructed my own solution, wrapped it up neatly in my God concept and presented it to myself as a gift from God. God said, ‘feel free to call me Mother.” I sensed these loving words out of desperation and into my reality.

Maybe it was genius. Maybe it was delusional. Maybe it was both. But without a doubt, it was pure self-preservation. And it probably would have worked for a little while. At least, it might have if I’d not heard the words, “But that’s not scriptural.”

Fuck me.

 

A True Story of a Negative Confession

If you had anything to do with the Full-Gospel/Charismatic movement or with the health and wealth gospel movement, then I’m betting you remember the wave of teachings about positive and negative confessions.

In simplest terms, we were taught that our words had power, both negative and positive words. To make a negative confession would be to ‘agree with the devil’ about whatever negative thing was going on or possibly could happen. To confess sickness or poverty would be like saying we agreed with its existence in our lives.

A positive confession though, could turn this around into a faith statement putting things back in line with God’s will. This is based on the belief that God wants only good for us, so instead of speaking negative things, we were to turn them into positives in faith so that God’s will for good would come to pass.

Preachers would often use Romans 4:17 as their basis for this teaching that reads, “(As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were.”

Of course, they left off the context of the scripture, because it doesn’t work if you keep it.

We as believers were thus instructed to speak things that aren’t as though they are so it becomes a faith statement. It is this teaching that was so instrumental in teaching me to lie to myself and to others. 

In practice, it goes kinda like this. You wake up one morning with a sore throat…

Negative Confession: “Oh no! I have a sore throat. Ouch!”

If you say that out loud to a fellow believer, you’ll probably get whacked across the knuckles with a bible. (Just kidding about the physical assault. Typically it’d just be a verbal one.) :o.

The correct approach to your sore throat is this….

Positive Confession: “Thank you Jesus for your healing power and blessing me with a healthy body and throat!” 

Whatta ya think-Share your thoughts about this postin the comment sectionat the bottom.

True Story:

My senior year of High School, my friend and I opted out of the senior trip to the Bahamas in lieu of driving ourselves to Jesus ’80, a Christian festival held down in Florida. You might say, “Way! What were you thinking?! You missed the Bahamas!??”

But I’ll tell ya, we had a BLAST! We packed our happy butts up and headed down for 3 days in the sun to hear artists like Amy Grant croon her sweet little ditties, and watch faith healers like Benny Hinn heal the sick.

I’ve included a video I found online of this festival. Brought back some serious memories! Check it out at the end of this post. Somewhere in that crowd was little me and my friend, raising our hands to Jesus in praise!

We were so excited about the festival. For the drive down, we’d created a big poster and put it in the back windshield of the car that said,

JESUS 80

We were mighty proud of our sign and the sentiment behind it that communicated our dedication to our destination! After five hours worth of driving we’d arrived! Ready for a Holy Ghost experience, par excellence! 

We parked in the big field among the other festival goers with our big sign proudly displayed in the back. But when we got back to our car after a day of hobnobbing with God and His children, we found a note on the front windshield of the car that said,

Dear friend

I remember we were both so mad! It crawled under my skin that someone would take the time to ‘correct’ us with a word swap that really wasn’t any more or less negative than what we had! I ripped the paper into pieces wishing the writer would show up so I could give them a piece of my mind! Not very Christian of me, I know. Oh well.

Here’s the video clip of Jesus ’80! Whatta hoot!

 

True Story: Toe-To-Toe With The Healing Evangelist

The place: My Full-Gospel, charismatic church located in the Bible Belt.

The time: Early 1980’s.

For weeks our pastor had been building the excitement, preparing his congregation for an upcoming healing service lead by his faith healer friend traveling to us from Alabama.  He was a traveling evangelist anointed by God with the gift of healing. Everyone was eagerly awaiting his arrival.

The evening of the healing service arrived and we welcomed him into our church with hopeful anticipation. We began with a full hour of praise and worship with our praise band front-and-center. Then, with an enthusiastic introduction by our pastor, the evangelist took center stage.

praise

“Jesus said,” he began with conviction and authority, “ If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” Many in the congregation echoed his words with a quiet, amen.

“Our Heavenly Father does not play favorites. He wants you physically and spiritually well! He wants to heal YOU! Deliver YOU! Not just the person standing next to you! Do you believe God wants you well? The words in the book of James tells us that the prayer of faith will save you!” The crowd burst into applause. Amen! Yes! Praise Jesus! 

“Consider the words of Jesus to us when He said, “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” He stood silent for a moment, scanning the crowd from one end to the other, waiting for the applause to die down .

Then he hushed his tone to a near whisper. He took the microphone in his hand, stepped away from the pulpit and closer to the crowd. “How many of you have had a sick child? Don’t you do everything in your power to make him well? Well, your Heavenly Father doesn’t delight in your sickness any more than you would delight in your own child’s sickness! Do you think He takes pleasure in your pain?”

The crowd responded quietly, No. Praise God. Praise Jesus.

I listened intently as the man proceeded to rifle through passage after passage that spoke to the truth of God’s healing power. Faith swelled in me at the same pace as the escalation of his preaching voice.  I quietly whispered in tongues, praising God for his mercies and thanking Jesus for his promises.

By the time he headed into the homestretch of his message, he practically shouted Matthew 18, “Truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven!”

The air grew thick with hope as people praised Jesus and clapped their hands.

“What does the word, anything mean, Church?” He paused only briefly before answering himself, “Anything is cancer!” The crowd roared in agreement. “Anything is migraines! Anything is kidney stones… anything means any sickness you can name!” Praise God! Praise you Jesus!

Then in an instant, the sermon took a turn and the atmosphere of the room changed. He came to a halt, looked down and shook his head before he spoke. “There are things that can stand in the way of your healing, though. And we’re going to face those things right now, together, in groups of two or more just like the Bible says.”

He instructed us, a room full of some one hundred people, to gather in groups of two or three for the prayer of repentance.

Sin will rob you of your healing!” he shouted. “Satan will use unbelief to hinder your healing! Lack of faith will keep you sick! If you want to be healed, confess your sins to one another. Rebuke Satan right now! Confess your unbelief to your sister or brother in the name of Jesus!” The rumble of voices enveloped the room as people huddled together in prayer.

I confessed to my prayer partner to the ‘sin’ of not engaging in routine ‘quiet times’ with the Lord. It was all I could think of in that moment.

“That’s right, Church…” the young evangelist said cajoling the crowd, “Yes… Lay your burdens at the foot of the cross. Shanda-lahundela…” he prayed in tongues.

He summoned the band to play as we prayed. The music, soft and sweet, hummed in the background as the evangelist encouraged us further, “Tell one another now what you need from God. And remember the words of Jesus! ‘Whatever you ask in my name, I’ll do!’

prayer for healingThe room was electric as voices rose saying, “In the name of Jesus be healed!” and “Satan I rebuke you in the name of Jesus!”

For several minutes the evangelist paced back and forth on the stage, praying in tongues. He held his bible in one hand while reaching the other hand out toward the praying crowd. Shundela hundela….

Then he stopped abruptly in his tracks and pointed to a woman nearest the stage. “You!” he bellowed. Everyone stopped praying and looked up. “Did you get your healing?”

His tone took me aback. More like an accusation than a question, he stood, feet firmly planted, waiting for an answer. For a flicker of a second the woman looked confused, but then quickly raised her hand in the air and said, “Yes! Praise Jesus!” and abruptly sat down. “Praise the Lord!” the evangelist beamed! “The works of God are alive among us! Pray, Church! Pray!” The thunders of prayer fired back up.

Then he did it again. He stopped his pacing and praying and pointed his finger, “You! Are you healed?!”

The young man on the front row hesitated for just a second and stammered, “Y…Yes, I think so.”

“You think so?!” the evangelist barked. “God is not a God of speculation. Pray until you know so! God has promised healing in His Word. Keep praying, Church! Pray in the name of Jesus until you get your miracle!”

I grew nervous… God, please don’t let him call on me. Even if I HAD been healed, I was growing more and more intimidated by the maniac on the stage with his big, booming voice and accusations phrased as questions. I secretly decided that if he called on me, I’d just say, “Praise Jesus” and quickly sit down. Surely, God could see how tense this had become.

The man went back to pacing and praying. And then…

“You!” he pointed in my direction, “YOU! Are YOU healed?!”

Adrenaline shot through my system landing like a cannon ball to the stomach. Then I realized, he wasn’t looking at me. He had addressed the woman standing right next to me, thirty years my senior, and one of the church’s largest financial givers. A fixture in our church.

She didn’t flinch at being singled out, “No. I’m not healed,” she said. The praying stopped throughout the sanctuary as silence fell hard with a thud.

A look of dismay crossed the evangelist’s face. Finally he said in a tone of disgust, “Why not?!”

She looked him square in the eye and said, “I don’t know why. I’ve done what you said.” For a moment, the two stood toe-to-toe, just looking at each other in a sort of stand off.

Slowly, I eased myself down into the pew, asking God to make it swallow me.

Sermon“Something is standing in the way of your miracle! And it’s not God.” the evangelist accused looking down at her as much figuratively as literally. He turned to address the entire congregation.

“Our God is the God of restoration and healing. If we are not healed, the problem lies with us!” Then he looked back at her, “What is it that’s standing in your way?”

“I’ve repented of my sin,” she said. “I have faith and I do believe. But I’m not healed. I don’t know of anything that’s standing in my way.”

He took a couple steps in her direction and looked at her prayer partner, “What about you?” Everyone waited, breathless. But the woman just stood there, saying nothing.

Finally the evangelist took a step back, let his shoulders fall in defeat and said, “Look, people. You must stand before God pure and holy, cleansed of all sin. Full of faith. Ready to receive His blessings! You can’t let Satan rob you of what is rightfully yours!” Then in seeming exasperation he added, “Let’s take some time in worship right now. Band… keep playing. People of God… keep praying. Don’t let Satan have a foothold.”

worshipWithin a few minutes, arms were raised and eyes were closed and in short order, people ascended back into a state of fully involved praise and worship.

For a few minutes, I stood among my brothers and sisters in Christ, completely nonplussed. What had just happened?

The boxing match was over, but the woman didn’t budge from her spot. She stood keeping her eye on the evangelist.

At the earliest possible moment, I quietly collected my purse and slipped passed her, out the side door and went home.

The following morning I arrived at work at the church office. The woman who had sparred with the evangelist the night before arrived shortly after. She marched up the steps of the church, directly into the church office demanding an audience with the pastor. She came back the next day and the day after that, too.

I wasn’t privy to the discussions behind closed doors between the two. What I know are these things:  I was also not healed that night. Many others said the same. The evangelist/healer never returned to our church. And our pastor never again spoke his name to our congregation.

Whatta ya think-Share your thoughts about this postin the comment sectionat the bottom.Scripture references:

James 5:14-15: “Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord.  And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven.”
Matthew 7:7-8: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”
Matthew 7:11: “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”
Matthew 18:19: “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.”

Her Name Was Becky…

True story…

Becky (not her real name) showed up faithfully for church every single Sunday. Usually with alcohol on her breath.

She was kind. She was bubbly. She was pretty and sweet. With grown children, she and her husband managed to settle into life in an empty nest.

Sunday School was a passion. She loved her Sunday School class and frequently brought her home baked yummies to share on any given Sunday morning. She asked them to pray for her, and she prayed with fire. She had an unwavering faith on most days.

But dark days were frequent and alcohol, her safety. It had been her friend… for over twenty-five years.

Becky sought help. And she sought it often through AA and other faith based groups. Oh sure, she quit drinking. Dozens upon dozens of times she turned her addiction over to God and cried out for deliverance and for a few days, it would seem like He answered her prayer.

woman.jpg

At her worst, her brain chemistry would betray her and she’d threaten to end it all. How many threats did her husband endure? Was it twenty? Maybe thirty. I can’t remember exactly, only that after so many times, he stopped dropping everything to rush to her aid. His soul was drained.

But he kept praying, though. Generously. He loved her deeply and I swear, if it had been in his power to trade places with her, he would have. Just to give her some relief and peace from that which threatened to drown her. He was tired, broken in many ways, but faithful although it was clear his hope was dwindling.

The toll on the marriage is simply indescribable. Sweethearts since high school, they’d routinely enjoyed their drinking times together. When they found Jesus, Becky’s husband quit drinking but Becky? Well, Becky was already facing the struggles of addiction by then. She found solace at our church, and she found hope in the God of miracles that we insisted existed.

Altar calls never went unanswered. Becky was usually the first to kneel before God. She repented, and repented again, and then again in the hopes that God would see fit to rescue her.

She did everything right and she did everything wrong, that Becky. She certainly tried with everything she had.

The ‘prayer for the sick’ didn’t heal Becky. Nor did anointing with oil or casting out the demon. None of our spiritual, supernatural solutions made a difference once that noose was tied.

Her son found her in the basement. Dark and alone… and hanging.

Three days later, my husband preached her funeral. I sat in a darkness of my own as he spoke, wondering… What was her last prayer? Did she cry out for God to save her? Why was she not healed?

Does. God. Heal? 

Becky’s son couldn’t bear to attend the funeral. Her long journey was over. His sojourn would continue… without her.  But not without her pain.

This wasn’t the first time while we served in ministry that it had appeared to me that God didn’t show up for one of His children. Nor was it the last. But it was one of the worst. 

 

 

 

God Will Lend a Kidney But Will He Lend a Hand?

True story…

bolo tie.jpgHe walked into Sunday services with a bit of a swagger. Dressed in black dress pants, black shirt, bolo tie, cowboy boots and hat, his entrance was impossible to ignore.

He and his wife took a seat near the back. Both in their early sixties, graced with wisps of gray hair, they settled at the end of the pew as the music began to play like they’d been a part of our church family forever.

His wife was taller and much thinner than he. Both looked care-worn from years of hard living and long days in the sun. Their skin was a dark, tan brown and deep with wrinkles.

He was stout, but carried himself with an air of… something. Not superiority exactly. Pride to a point. But there was something else, something more like familiarity. Like he already knew he belonged with us and was simply taking his rightful place.

Midway through the service, Pastor announced that he wanted to introduce our two visitors. The pair stood up and nodded to the crowd as our minister filled us in on how they’d come to be among us for Sunday worship.

They’d relocated from out west, both retired, living in an RV. At least for the time being. “Bill’s got an extraordinary testimony” Pastor went on to say with bounding enthusiasm. “As he lay dying in a hospital bed from kidney failure just a few months ago, God healed him and raised him up! He’s one hundred percent healed! Praise Jesus!” Waves of applause filled the sanctuary. Bill raised his hands and mouthed the words, “Thank you, Jesus” as his wife beamed beside him.

Pastor told us that because of this miracle, brother Bill now had an anointing on his life. Then he added a touch of dramatic flare by raising his bible in the air and quoting scripture,

James 5:15 says, And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven!

altar call.jpgPastor gave an altar call that very day. The sick and infirmed made their way to the front of the church in droves for our new brother to pray for them. The entire service was pregnant with anticipation as Bill anointed each and every one with oil, praying away sinus infections, belly aches, migraines, tooth aches and joint pain, all in the name of Jesus.

The weeks and months that followed were a constant flow of requests for Bill’s healing touch. People filled the altar kneeling before him as he laid his hands on them one-by-one. His wife dutifully sat in her pew, lifting the one hand she had toward the ailing, quietly beseeching God’s healing power. She’d lost the other arm at the elbow in an auto accident a decade or two before.

And I wondered… hadn’t brother Bill prayed for her arm to grow back? Why did God heal Bill but not his wife?

Why is God willing to lend a kidney, but not willing to lend a hand?