Wednesday, June 12, 2013

After all, never question your pastor. (32)

After my time at Loveland Christian School I returned to public school and began to find my way in the new noisy environment of a large traditional classroom and multiple teachers. I loved the sciences and yet struggled with math, especially algebra. I found the concept of letters representing numbers confusing.  My grades suffered. I began to shut down.  Recognizing my struggles, I was put into an Accelerated School to catch me up and try to salvage what was left of my educational years.

The middle school years are difficult for most children, and I had the misfortune of being behind in school and dealing with my loss and abandonment while navigating puberty and teenage life. Looking back, I can now see that I really struggled with depression and loneliness during those years.  I really missed my father. His absence was constantly in my mind.  As was the common thinking of the time, my mother felt she was not equipped to raise a young teenage boy.  Over and over again I kept hearing I needed a male role model, a mentor, a father-figure to guide me in how to grow up and become a man.  I was reminded again and again that as the son of a single woman I risked becoming incapable, unproductive, or worse effeminate.  If I could just find a man to spend time with me I would be ok. My grades would improve, I would find more meaning in life. I would be able to survive on my own. I would be the man I was predestined to be, and I wouldn’t grow up to be effeminate and ridiculed by my peers.

“After all, your father hated f*gs,” she would tell me.   

Most adults that I looked up to as a mentor during these early teenage years only looked out for my best interests and happily helped to safely guide me into adulthood. One man I met took the time to listen and advise me the best way he could during the long drive back and forth to school each day. The accelerated school was located in Denver, a 45 minute drive one way.  We became good friends and I often look back to his guidance as compass for the future.  I am grateful for our times together. D was a mormon that acted like what I thought a Christian male should be.  He was kind, but firm and took a genuine interest in me while not compromising his own beliefs.  He did not preach at me, even though I made fun of him for not drinking soda.

In August of 1986, my sister got married right out of high school to the man of her dreams and moved out of the house. I felt like she took the easy road to get out of the house, even though she truly loved her husband, leaving me to deal with my mother alone.  I was sad that we did not get to ever really reform a bond that was lost when my father died.  I felt like she didn’t want to be my friend, that I was not important enough to stick around for.  (Not to say that I didn’t like her husband, because I do.)

Later that year, the pastor and founder of our church suddenly took ill and died. I had respect for him, and I was sad that my spiritual leader and “father” had gone.  It was another chink the trust armor I had for God.  The church and its members struggled to find a successor, auditioning some or calling back past youth pastors or other former staff personnel to interview for the position. After months of debate the church board narrowed the candidates to two men. Both were familiar to the congregation. The church board members decided upon a former youth pastor that had left the church years before to oversee a congregation in Indiana.

This decision was vehemently opposed to the wishes of the former pastor’s widow.  I did not understand what the controversy was about.  I was too young to be aware of church politics and still viewed the pastor and church leaders as godheads;  that their decisions were divine.  I didn’t know that there was any opposition.  I just showed up like a good Christian boy is supposed to do.

The Sunday Pastor Wayne returned as the senior pastor of New Creation Church the sanctuary was packed full of churchgoers who wanted to get a glimpse of the man God had installed as the new leader of the church.  I don't remember paying too much attention to the sermon or what was being said. I do recall watching as he walked up and down the aisleways inbetween the rows and rows of pews. Back and forth his eyes and head moved, scanning each and every person in attendance. I watched as he started walking up the aisle toward where I was sitting. He stopped, looked at me, told me to stand up and to come to where he was. He then placed his hand on my head and began to pray.  He was praying something about how I needed to forgive God for taking my father away from me. This confused me as I really wasn't mad at God at the time. But, if the man of God told me I was mad at God, then perhaps I was. I accepted his prayer and even felt special to be singled out in a spiritual recognition by the new pastor.  I felt as if I may have a connection with someone who understood me, or at least had the power to hear God’s voice.

Like many survivors, my memory swirls into a sinkhole of emotion, and I can’t recall time frames and details as well as I would like surrounding my abuse.  As near as I can recall, it was sometime in the summer of the following year that I sought counsel with Pastor Wayne.  My mentor, D, was gone for the summer, and I did not have anyone to talk to, especially a “male role-model” that was also a spiritual guide.  I have struggled to remember the exact moment I became a victim.  I have often questioned myself, even to beg myself, to remember why I went into his office, why I participated, and why it ended.  I don’t know that I will ever truly know.  What I do know is that for some period of time that summer, Pastor Wayne methodically manipulated me into performing and participating in sexual acts while systematically destroying God, my father, and me.  I know that somewhere in that church office a hurt and confused boy sought help from a person in authority and was mercilessly exhausted of all that was left of my potential.  At that pivotal moment, the man I could have been died and I was left with shreds of humanity.  There was so little of me left that my brain turned off and hid the memories from me because it knew I could not live with them until I was ready.  I am still mad because I often feel my brain betrayed me by letting me live those memories over the last three years, but I am no longer a victim.  I am a survivor.

I don’t blame my brain, really.  After all, like my mother always taught me, you never question your pastor.


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