Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: ASKEW (06/07/18)
- TITLE: Misguided by Man, Led by God
By Jenny Fulton
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Looking back, it’s tempting to say, “We should have known. We should have seen the signs.” But we didn’t. According to the experts, few people who get into our type of situation do.
I didn’t like him when I first met him. He seemed arrogant and inconsiderate of the feelings of others. However, my boyfriend (who soon became my husband), assured me that I just needed to give it some time.
“People tend to have that initial reaction to him,” John told me, “but then you get to know him and see how good of a man he really is.”
And so I continued to attend the small Friday night church. By and by, I came to see John’s point. This pastor was gentle with children. He showed an interest in everyone in his congregation and would talk with them well into the night. He gave money to anyone who asked. He worked on people’s houses without charging them and stayed up late studying scripture. I know he did all this because he frequently told us of these deeds. Surely, someone this generous and hard-working couldn’t be arrogant and inconsiderate. By the time John and I got engaged, I had completely discarded my first impressions of **Pastor Mitchell. He truly was a good man.
Still, we now reason, we should have seen the signs. At the very least, we should have paid closer attention to the pin pricks that told us, “Something isn’t quite right here. Something is off.” We should have paid attention to the fact that Pastor Mitchell criticized people. A lot. We should have been put on our guard with the observation that there were few men among his disciples, that there was nobody to whom he was held accountable. We should have become suspicious by the repeated narrative that anyone who had left the church and his guidance had left because they “were in darkness, hard-hearted, in rebellion to God.”
But we didn’t take heed to these pin pricks. Instead, we shoved the discomfort aside, reasoning away anything negative they might suggest. According to the experts, this, too, is normal.
And so we continued under his leadership and guidance, thinking him to be the most humble, intelligent, righteous person we had ever met. In response to our full-hearted obedience, he showered us with attention and compliments. He told us we were the most mature members of the church, his second in command, the only individuals with whom he had true fellowship. We were sure we were in the right place – the only place where the real truths of God were taught.
“Then what happened?” you may be wondering, for you have by now discerned that things did not continue on in this rosy fashion.
The truth is, I’m not quite sure. At some point John began questioning the confident conclusions of Pastor Mitchell. And then, this beloved father-figure of ours became increasingly difficult to get ahold of. Anytime I was able to inquire about the reason for the distance between us, he would give me some answer about John being hard-hearted or in darkness. We were confused. What did we need to do to get right again? There was no guidance or direction, no word on how John was “in darkness.”
This state lasted for over a year, until the day we received an email from the pastor which contained a lengthy list of John’s “sins.”
We were heart-broken and immediately embarked upon a desperate search for answers. This is when we began to see God’s goodness. Our investigation led us to discover the ways in which we had been misled. It revealed our true sin – pride in thinking our church was the sole possessor of truth. God showed us, through the lack of mercy and compassion shown to us, that we also lacked those traits. He presented to us a path by which we could learn them. It also became clear to us that although we had learned many good things while under the guidance of Pastor Mitchell, it was time to leave.
Yes, we have been deeply hurt, but this situation has actually strengthened our understanding of who God truly is. We are learning to see people through God’s eyes. And so, like Paul in Philippians 1:15-18, we rejoice.
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