It seemed like the conferences and teachings were helping Tom even if he was still having his moments of weirdness and dysfunction.
And then my darling husband started skipping our church’s Sunday School to attend the early service at a big mainstream denomination before coming for to our church for our service. The questions started. I didn’t quite know how to answer them because I didn’t quite know exactly what was going on in my husband’s mind. I knew he was unhappy with our church and visiting the denomination he’d been raised in was comforting to him, like going to the Catholic Charismatic services were to me when I visited down home in Louisiana. But I didn’t really know what was going on in Hubby’s head. I figured he’d tell me in time.
The questions, people wanting to know all your business was one of the things I struggled with the hardest during my years at that old church. Tom was one the more curious folks that wanted to know everything. Being that I was on the healing ministry team it made it double hard because many times people would confess things or want healing prayer for things they distinctly wanted no one in the church congregation to know about. Sometimes a congregation member would stroll up and ask me what Miz So-N-So needed prayer for and I’d have to say it was none of their business.
Tom had raised hell with me when I wouldn’t tell him where my husband was when he was in the mental hospital for a week before the discovery of his tumorous parathyroid gland. I told Tom then that my husband was out of town and I’d tell him when he got back that Tom had been asking after him. Tom pestered me so much that week but I’d stayed silent.
Add in the week Hubby went to Vegas with his pals from work and I played dumb under Tom’s questioning, knowing that if I told Tom the truth, that Hubby was probably getting drunk, gambling or getting a lap dance at a Vegas strip club Tom’s head would explode and it would set off a round of gossip and hectoring. Again, I stayed completely silent, giving Tom the same thing, that I’d pass on he called when I heard from the husband.
Hubby going to the other church first put me in a super awkward position. We still hosted local Bible study during the week, but we’d moved it from our home to the meeting room at the local Country Club. Neutralish ground. I still did the worship and taught but around the same time Hubby started attending both churches he stopped attending or helping out with the mid week Bible study. Our pastor wanted husband and wife teams to lead these things. Plus Tom and Tina had started attending again and while it wasn’t a problem, they were behaving magnificently, I knew without Hubby in the picture it had the potential to spin out into Crazyland again.
Finally I got up enough courage to ask Hubby what this was all about and he told me his misgivings about our church and the brand of evangelicalism practiced there. He told me he’d finally realized how wrong and toxic it all was. Well, I did not want to hear that at all. Hubby also told me I was free to stay at our old church if it made me happy.
I knew my husband had been very skeptical of the teachings at the various conferences and was in no way a Charismatic Christian like I considered myself. No fan of the supernatural either and the most astounding thing to me was that Hubby believed that God didn’t heal people, not even when you went into prayer warrior mode and contented for it. Not even when it clearly showed in the Bible that Jesus healed everyone that came to Him and Jesus said we’d do the same and greater deeds.
He was gracious enough to tell me he’d never interfere with my own spiritual journey.
All of this only served to make me feel very conflicted. On one hand I could clearly see that Hubby was right about some of the things about our church he hated, like the gossip, how you were either in or out unless the pastor had some use for you, the cliques, the game playing. But on the other hand you had earnest people that loved the Lord, wanted to serve Him, were excited by things of faith.
Plus I knew if Hubby left for the other church, or even with him dabbling between the two I’d have to stop leading Bible study. Our church was clear about that, husband and wife teams. They’d already made an exception by having me on the Altar Ministry and the Healing Team without my husband. Our pastor told me that Hubby was too unstable to allow on either one.
Plus the husband is supposed to be the spiritual leader so where did all of this leave me? Following him to this new church was not something I wanted to do either, even as it was clearly stated so many times in our religion that the husband made the spiritual decisions and the wife meekly humbly trusted and followed. I knew whatever I ended up doing it was going to make for some sort of ugly goat rodeo in the coming months.
This was taking place in September of the year we left that church. I prayed about it many hours, on my knees, pleading with the Lord to turn my husband back to our church, make it all right again. I wasn’t hearing much in my devotional time and it scared me. Later that same week I’d been rehearsing some music I was schedule to do that weekend during worship. I was supposed to sing “All Of You” by Chris Tomlin, as I sang through the bridge with the words, “You’re enough, you’re enough, you’re enough for me.” I heard that still small voice whisper to me, “and I’ll be enough for you when you go to the big mainstream church with your husband too.”
I was horror-struck as I believed like most everyone I knew that this certain denomination was filled with evil homosexual ordaining abortion lovers. Had to start trying to argue that I would never do that but heard nothing, knew that I’d have to do just that, go to this church Hubby was starting to attend. After all, you’re supposed to do what God tells you to do, right? I just didn’t want to. So I did nothing.
Hubby continued his split church attending, people did ask and I shrugged and gave no explanation. I went away to the church womens retreat. I cannot tell you how relieved I was that Tina was a no show for the conference because of the drama she tended to cause at our church ladys retreat through the years. During the course of the retreat several different people prayed for me, including the leaders and told me that God was calling me out to go elsewhere. They knew nothing of my dilemma at all. It was confirmation for me that it was time to leave. The retreat crystallized in my mind what I needed to do.But still I did nothing because nothing is easier than something, particularly when that something means uprooting yourself and your kids from all your spiritual support brothers and sisters and moving on to the unknown.
October passed and November came. I called our pastor to talk to him about everything because he’d asked me a few times what was going on with my husband and noted Hubby’s absence from Bible study every week. I told my pastor all that was going on with Hubby and his waffling on staying or leaving so he was straddling the fence. My pastor told me in no uncertain terms that I was not to leave, let Hubby leave if he wanted to but I must stay put. He even told me that if the spiritual split was wide enough that I should divorce my husband because it meant he was not who God had for me because no real Godly man, spiritual leader would behave like that.
I pointed out in that meeting how if I stayed it was going to be extra hard because of Tom Smith and his gossip brigade. My pastor told me not to worry about that, he’d deal with Tom and anyone else that said ugly things or treated me in any way that was cruel or hateful. I took him at his word.
We both agreed that since my husband no longer participated in the mid week Bible study that it would be better to put the group on hiatus for a few weeks before finding a new home and teaching couple. Pastor told me he’d take care of that too, including informing the members of the change. Again, I oh so stupidly trusted my pastor, took him at his word.
Fast forward to that Sunday. I’m on worship team that week so I’m on the platform rehearsing with the band. Just a few church members were there that early, they sat here and there in our church. My daughter sat near the front. As I watched I could see down the hallway and see that our pastor was talking to Tom. After the pastor went elsewhere in the building Tom came right in the sanctuary, right down the main aisle and started going down each aisle to talk to people. I could hear snatches of what was being said between songs and I could tell by his pointing at me and the looks I was getting that the pastor had told Tom I was no longer hosting Bible study and it had to do with my husband leaving the church for those homosexual abortionists in the other church.
Even worse I could see by the look on my daughter’s face that she’d heard every word too and was very hurt by Tom’s going to each and every person sitting in the chapel to tell them about us. She turned red and tears started rolling down her face. I started crying too, wanting to call out Tom, do evil things to him and LEAVE. Instead, I swallowed my anger until after the service when I told the pastor how upset I was by how it was handled. Didn’t you promise me you’d stop the gossipers and stand up for me, Pastor?
Pastor told me that it was on my Hubby to take a stand and defend my family against what Tom was saying. It was not the pastor’s place.
All this one short week after he’d promised me he’d protect me against this very thing!
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Calulu lives near Washington DC , was raised Catholic in South Louisiana before falling in with a bunch of fallen Catholics whom had formed their own part Fundamentalist, part Evangelical church. After fifteen uncomfortable years drinking that Koolaid she left nearly 6 years ago. Her blog is Calulu – Roadkill on the Internet Superhighway
NLQ Recommended Reading …
‘Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment‘ by Janet Heimlich
‘Quivering Daughters‘ by Hillary McFarland
‘Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement‘ by Kathryn Joyce