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In which I am gratefully, disillusioned

 

Dear Pastor, leader, dear teacher, dear friend:

Do you remember how I used to call you the “Man of God?” I grew up believing that you  were better than us because you spent hours and hours in study and prayer and reflection on The Things of God. You were my example in all things, the zenith of spirituality. I thought that you spoke for God and your answers were more important than my questions. I thought that pastors or leaders had to have their homes completely in order, be too holy for the rest of the stuff we all dealt with today. I revered your marriage and analyzed your parenting, holding you to impossible standards. Somehow, I thought – maybe because you taught me this, long ago, who remembers anymore? – that you were the Shepherd and I was the smelly, dumb, yet beloved sheep.

Then the years began to unfold and one by one by one, those ideas I had about you? All dismantled. At first it hurt. You can understand why that is, maybe, to someone like me, why it was hard on me when you tumbled off of the pedestal I lovingly kept propped up for so many years. I’m pretty embarrassed that I cried as hard as I did, that I judged you as harshly as I did, for your tragic displays of our shared humanity, because weren’t you supposed to be better than me, better than us all?

At first, I was disillusioned.

Now? I’m grateful to be so.

My friend, I no longer expect you to have it all together, to maintain a facade of performance and perfectionism that will eventually cripple you, your family and your followers. It’s okay that you’re a person.

I no longer look for you to deliver the message from the mountaintop for me. I like to be there myself, with the wind and the Holy Spirit in my hair.  I’ve also found God in the deepest valleys, driest deserts, and do you remember? I found you there, too. Hail fellow, well met.

Church doesn’t mean sitting in a pew anymore, listening to you talk. It’s all of us, glory to God, a mismatched and gorgeous bride and something more besides, something holy in the living life together, the breaking of bread, pouring of wine, family, in the people of God gathered together then sent out.

It’s nice to be partners in this thing, now, isn’t it?

I no longer have expectations on you that I do not have on myself. We are all learning and growing, we are all travellers on a journey.

We are all engaged in holy work – the carpenter, the mama, the business person, the dad, the writer, the programmer – and we’re all anointed for our life, chosen. I value the work you do and I’m thankful for it. I’m just also glad for godly daycare providers, politicians, parents, labourers, advocates, missionaries, hockey players and homeless. We are all anointed, we are all called and every part of this body is vital.

I no longer look to you as my shepherd. What a relief to you, I imagine! No, I look to Jesus as my Shepherd.

And this is freedom.

For both of us, do you see?

It’s freedom for the disillusioned because now we get to enjoy the richness of relationship with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit without any intermediary or filter. I get to follow Jesus, not you. I get to be part of community that is rich and full. This flattened hierarchy thing that freaks so many people out? It’s actually pretty awesome.

This disillusionment pushed me away from revering you or heroes of the faith or mystics or doctrine purveyors or models or churches. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m still wanting to learn from all of you. But it drove me to the true example, the true Shepherd, the true Father. In this new world, I can embrace you as a true man – or woman – after God’s own heart, flawed, moving forward as we all are towards our true renewed selves with open hearts to God.

Now, when I hear of you falling or a few skeletons in your closet, my heart is free to break for you and your own need for our Abba. I’m no hypocrite and my turn may be coming. I can make my response this time all about you, to love you, to be there for you, no judgements, only grace and second chances – imagine that.

As disillusionment spreads – and clearly, it is spreading – I wonder if it spells freedom for you.

If we were all disabused of our false notions regarding perfect leadership, you would be released from unrealistic pressure or expectations. We could see your gifts and callings as a blessing to be used in community instead of as an isolating boundary of “The Holy and The Rest of Us.”

You would be free to receive, too. We would come alongside one another, looking to Christ alone as the author and perfecter of our faith. And when you struggle or stumble, you could be honest about it because who among us could ever throw the first stone at your precious face?  We would no longer be threatened by the fact that you also have questions and struggles. In fact, we could be a safe place for you to work through your thoughts.

We could welcome you, the “Man of God”, to the People of God.

Blessings on you, my brother, my sister, my friend. And thank you for all that you do, seen and unseen.

Gratefully,

Disillusioned

  • Kitzya_Lebron

    This is so fabulously true, I too am gratefully disillusioned. Xoxo

  • Tez

    *grinning*

    • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

      *grinning right back*

  • Justin Ritchie

    That’s great

  • Kelsey

    After struggling to stand on the pedestal of the Christian College Student and the faithful church goer and the sunday school teacher and all the other roles and rules that go with, I am finding FREEDOM and it tastes so good. Thank you again for processing, sharing and helping me to be thankful for the journey with its many opportunities to learn :)

  • http://thepleatedpolkadot.blogspot.com melissa

    i swear you could write my life story! been there. geez have i been there. i am still wounded. thank you for bringing light to this sore in my life. disillusionment is a good thing. why didn’t i think of that?? oh yeh because i am too busy wallowing in the hurts of the past! yikes!

    thanks for another great, eye-opening post

    • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

      It is a big shift in perspective and it took me a few years to get there. I still struggle to *stay* there sometimes but it’s good, so good. Praying for you, Melissa – I know that the hurts and wounds are deep.

  • http://www.withallherheart.blogspot.com Katherine A Michael

    This is such a huge revelation that I wish more in the church would have their eyes opened to. Pastors are struggling people, too. We all need grace and mercy.

  • http://www.ayoungmomsmusings.blogspot.com Young Mom

    This is why my blog is anonymous. Obviously my issues and questions are not acceptable for a Pastor’s wife to have. Growing up, those high standards for leaders was one of my Dad’s excuses for keeping all of us isolated, he was just waiting to find a leader who was truly a “Man of God” (like he himself was supposedly).

    • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

      Your anonymity is using wisdom, I think. Most churches have proven they aren’t ready for much realness from their pastors, let alone their wives.

  • http://sacredeveryday.ca/ Jenn

    As always Sarah, thank you for sharing your heart. It really is so freeing to realize we are all on common ground. We really are all sheep. You’ve challenged me and inspired me in so many ways. I was listening to this song this am and it made me think of this post….

    • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

      Love it! Thank you, Jenn!

  • http://takingtheyoke.blogspot.com Ray Hollenbach

    I think it’s useful to note that we can’t be disillusioned unless we have first embraced an illusion. “Dis” illusionment is good because we begin to see things as they really are, which I’m pretty sure Jesus is in favor of.

    For me, the next question is, who is responsible for the illusion to begin with? And I think the answer is: all of us. Church leaders–both pastors and leadership teams frequently work hard to project an illusion that they have it all together. And the rest of us, the “pew-fodder” as you put it, too eagerly rush to embrace the illusion of leadership because we live in a celebrity-driven culture. Idolizing our pastors and leaders is usually a symptom of applying worldly values in the Kingdom of God–which is never a good idea.

    Finally, the question needs to be asked, “After we begin to see clearly, what is the proper, life-giving response toward God and others?” Jesus established the church, loves the church, and has no illusions regarding the church’s perfection–or lack of it. Yet he calls to be part of the church.

    • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

      Now THAT is a great point, Ray! We are all responsible for the illusion. And your statement that it comes from embracing worldy values in the kingdom of God is making me think more about *where* these illusions come from. I’m not sure and would love to learn more about that.

      And for response? there is the idealist of me (represented above) and then there is the cynical realist that knows it’s almost impossible for many to imagine or live that way because they love their illusions – on both sides.

  • Brittaney

    So very true. I don’t know where Christians learned this concept. Even our biblical heroes are majorly flawed. Because we are all HUMAN! I mean, look at David the sex addict ; ), Abraham and Isaac both had a problem with lying as did Jacob. And most of these heros also had issues in their parenting abilities.

    Anyway, so glad that you came to this revelation. It is hugely freeing.

    • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

      E-zactly.

      • http://sortacrunchy.typepad.com SortaCrunchy

        Okay, I clicked through to say something profound like AMEN! But then I see you saying “E-zactly” and I have to believe you are saying that Casanova-Project-Runway-Season-8-style.

        Carry on.

  • http://homekettle.wordpress.com David N.

    I grew up in a very conservative church, and just after I left for college the youth/worship pastor was arrested for soliciting a male prostitute. Big scandal. Lots of people hated on him. Honestly, though, I saw him as a real person with real pain for the first time. My heart just broke for him.

    • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

      Me, too, David. Me, too.

  • Carlo

    Thanks for your candid comments – I find that really helpful and it compares to our own experience. In my own experience, one of the things that shocked me was how quick the ‘faithful’ were to drop their pastor when the sex, drugs and rock and roll (literally) becomes public knowledge and he had to step down. Virtually the whole congregation avoided him. And they still do. I mean, as the Black Eyed Peas would say, where is the love?

  • http://www.adamshome.blogspot.com Erin Adams

    This is good, Sarah. There is a major problem with the pedestal mentality. It hurts everyone.
    I was just saying to my husband the other day, “why is it so hard for people to realize that pastors, and moms and dads, all, are all people, too?!”
    Parents have the same struggle, don’t you think? On a smaller scale, for their own family. The child who puts their parent(s) up too high will surely find something to make them bitter & disillusioned.
    I am very good at showing my kids, all the time, that I am not perfect. :)
    I don’t know why, but I have never been one to offer much high respect for authority figures. I’ve always been a bit of a sass.
    Bur, I’ll admit, if either my mom or dad (gosh, or my own husband) were to be unfaithful I would be beyond heartbroken.

    • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

      I think that’s exactly it – these weren’t *my* betrayals truly. The true compassion belongs to the families of the fallen, doesn’t it? Beyond heartbroken, indeed!

      And I completely agree – parents totally have the same struggle. I did the exact same thing to my parents for years. I think sometimes it’s because we’re trying to maintain “authority” instead of deriving our authority from God as a parent or steward. Who knows? I’d be interested to think about it more – you’ve got me wondering!

      (And I kind of have that sass gene as well….)

      • http://www.adamshome.blogspot.com Erin Adams

        Sarah, I think you make a good point – about the authority not being our own. That’s huge.
        Keep thinking on it & write something brilliant.

  • http://ministrytomotherhood.wordpress.com/ Becky @ Ministry to Motherhood

    Thank you for this!

    There is too much divide in our Church. People do expect the Clergy to be perfect. Throughout my years in Ministry I’ve struggled with peoples perceptions of who I am vs. who I actually am. I am a person with faults. I’ve been known to swear. I watch inappropriate television (Jersey Shore anyone) and I have a tendency to laugh at the wrong times. I’m human and that’s not okay to most people in the church.

    We’re all called to different positions and places in the family of God. I’m called to teach and to challenge, not to be perfect and pristine. You too are called to teach – bless you for this blog and for your great insight! I’ll be passing this along to a few friends who will also breathe a sigh of relief that not everyone expects us to be something we’re not.

    • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

      Thank you, Becky! Since you are a brave one “in the trenches” that means a lot to me. Blessings on you!

  • http://immersionblogapy.blogspot.com Lori

    You describe that world flawlessly. I grew up in the same world and have no patience for it anymore. I know there are answers, and right now I am searching for them. Thanks for sharing openly because until we can all do the same, it is going to be rough and bumpy for the church.

  • Mary1912

    I share your sentiment. Recently, my first pastor in the Vineyard (who was working at the Vineyard I currently attend) was found to be having an extra-marital relationship. I was so bummed…thinking “God please…not him”. But it was. I didn’t wonder long or wasn’t angry long, remembering the old saying “There but for the grace of God, go I”. I mourn for him and his family and pray that he may be restored soon.

    • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

      Oh, so sad. It is incredibly sad and I don’t know that we ever stop hoping/praying and feeling that sinking “oh, no, not again!” when it does happen. Restoration is something we need to talk about more, I think, but I haven’t ever seen it done well yet.

  • http://christinakannenberg.blogspot.de/ Christina Kannenberg

    It is easy to be disillusioned with people, we are all sinners needing grace — but it is up to us to guard our hearts and remember that. We shouldn’t storm out of church when leaders fail us — that shows that we were believing in them, trusting in them and going to church based on them rather than for Jesus. We pay our tithe to God not to the pastor or leaders, it belongs to HIM and He tells us to put it into the local church. It is not up to me how it is spent, let’s just trust that into God’s hands and pray for wisdom for our leaders. It is up to me to decide what goes on in my heart. Let’s not get offended, bitter and let us put our hope in God not man. Let us never give up in praying for our leaders and praying for accountability as they deal with the many pressures and decisions they are faced with. They are not perfect but let’s not lump all church pastors into one lump because some have made mistakes.

    • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

      Exactly, Christina! Thank you for summing it all up so well.