I guess like most pastors I have had my number of anonymous letters, phone calls, and notes slipped silently under my door. People usually do this to tell me something, but do not want to be the source. It is usually news I don’t want to hear. Occasionally though, people feel the need to get up close and personal.
One day a man dropped by my house that I had never met or seen before. He communicated that he had some distressing news which I needed to know as pastor. I braced myself for the impact because he intimated that what was causing the distress in his life was my fault. I invited him in and we sat down. He informed me that a deacon in my church had stolen the affections of his wife and now she was going to divorce him. He had elaborate details of the affair because he had been following them for weeks. I was shocked and could hardly get my head around the validity of the accusations. This was a fairly young man with a young wife. The deacon he was referring to was retired, had been in this church for over forty years, and was currently leading the music. In other words, the pairing didn’t seem probable or possible.
The bottom-line for him approaching me was that he wanted me to put a stop to their activity and somehow get his wife’s affections aimed back towards him. It was my fault because I was the pastor and was allowing this type of behavior to happen in my church. Again, I was floored to hear this type of news. I consoled him as best as I could and told him I would look into the situation. I also felt the need to defend the Lord’s reputation and His church.
This man was not a believer and he told me so. I treaded lightly because I didn’t want to impair or tarnish what the Lord might be doing in his life. I promised to do all I could to repair whatever damage he felt this deacon and the church had done against him. We agreed to meet at a later date. I knew then I had my hands full.
I didn’t know then, but I soon discovered later that this situation was more about me than it was about this alleged affair. God was doing a work in me. Back in those days I hated confrontation and avoided it at all costs. I always wanted just to “get long” with everybody and wanted everybody to like me in return. This situation created what the Lord termed a “horseshoe canyon.” There was only one way in and one way out. I now had to confront this situation because this man was pressing the issue. I needed to confront the issue because it was sin! At the time, I wasn’t appreciative of what the Lord was purposing to accomplish in my life. I signed up to be a pastor, not a prophet. The Lord saw things differently. He knew avoiding confrontation was my weakness and this “horseshoe canyon” was His solution.
At our next service I ask the deacon about this situation. He strongly denied anything inappropriate and stated he was simply doing some marital counseling. I told him about the man’s allegations. The deacon replied the man had mental problems. I was hoping this might be the end of the situation.
The Lord had everything lined up. Just when I thought I might be able to write-off my visitor as crazy or overreaching, someone else from church popped by to tell me they had seen the deacon out with this lady. They had details which I will not go into here. I knew I was headed for the confrontation I didn’t want. The person also informed me that others in church had seen this situation but were not willing to say anything about it. For someone who didn’t like confrontation, I was getting upset. I was becoming deeply troubled with this deacon. I was getting disappointed at my voice-less church members. I was also getting frustrated with the Lord for making me deal with this mess.
Have you ever been in a situation similar to this? You knew everything was orchestrated by the Lord, but you didn’t want to walk through it. I guess if handling confrontation was one of my strengths, I wouldn’t have trusted the Lord and simply marched on through in my own resources. Little did I know the Lord was also going to make me stand alone or it would cost me my job as pastor.
At this point in the situation the Lord was beginning to shore me up for a showdown. I didn’t want one, but no one was recanting their story or repenting. The church business meeting was coming up and I knew I was going to have to say something about this situation. The deacons met before each business meeting and I felt led to confront the situation during the deacon’s meeting.
You might be thinking why my job as pastor would be in jeopardy when I hadn’t done anything wrong? At the time, I was wondering the same thing. During the deacon’s meeting I brought up the issue. Of course he denied all the allegations. It was just one person’s word against the other. Since I was the only one interested in pursuing justice, the whole issue just sat there like an unwelcomed visitor in the room. The deacon was threatening to leave. He stated he was being treated unfairly after all his years of service. We finally dismissed and headed for the business meeting with nothing accomplished.
Before the business meeting began I discovered a coup might be in process. Another deacon, who knew the allegations were true, walked by me and said, “Are you looking for another job? I don’t think you are going to be here very much longer, pastor.” I knew what he meant and I was angry. Remember, I hated confrontation but now I was looking for one. I was angry because these deacons were too spineless to confront the situation with me and were content just keeping silent. I felt about them the way the Lord felt about me prior to all this. This attitude of just getting along to get along doesn’t always work. I began to pray for the Lord to work a miracle and make something happen from nothing.
The business meeting went on as usual until the end. The deacon asked for permission to speak. I was moderating the meeting so I yielded the floor to him. He began by saying he was going to resign because some allegations were being made against him and his character. What he really wanted was for the church to rally behind him and leave me in the dark as the lone conspirator. After he spoke there was dead silence. It was then that the Lord gave me an idea. I stood up and asked for a motion to receive his resignation. It was accepted and the church promptly approved his resignation. It happened in less than a minute. It was over and he was gone.
I relate this story for a reason. The Lord is always challenging us and changing us into the image of Jesus, His Son. This process is usually an ugly process because it involves fire. The things in our lives that need to be exercised have to be burned away so that the Lord’s real work might be completed. It is never a comfortable process. It is usually painful because the Lord moves in our weakest area. We tend to hide our weaknesses, hoping the Lord doesn’t touch those tender areas. The Lord knows how to arrange circumstances so that these areas might be exposed and dealt with on a continuous basis. When we fight the Lord, His process for refining us only becomes more difficult. If you love the Lord and desire to be conformed into the image of Jesus, He will create these horseshoe canyons so that your weakness might become His strength. How you react to these dead-ends will determine how deep the Lord’s refinement process will go. When we allow Him to have His way, He can do so many good things on the other side of our refinement process.
The whole process was a struggle for everyone. It always helps to know the Lord’s way is the correct way. Afterward, the deacon and the young woman got together. He didn’t get to relish in this new relationship because he soon went blind. I was, however, able to minister to the young man who came to my house. I lead him to the Lord and counseled him through the process of his wife leaving him. Had I not stood up for what was right, I would have had no rapport with him. God is good.