by Ellen cross posted from her blog When Church Hurts
During all of these years, I would come to church, sit four or five rows from the pulpit, right on the center aisle, and listen to Elliot and others preach grace, forgiveness, reconciliation, and restoration. Elliot preached and preached. I wept and wept openly. I could not sing. I could not so much as close my eyes in prayer. I could not stand for the blessing at the end of the service. I knew that no matter how much Elliot preached those words to everyone else in the congregation, they were not for me. And I would email him and tell him as much. Without response.
Finally, the day came when I along with my husband this time, again requested a meeting with Elliot . I was determined this time to get answers and so I planned to be very blunt in my request. My husband attended the meeting with me and I put my question to Elliot just that way, “What have I done that is so heinous that I am not allowed to participate in anything in the church?”
Elliot responded by asking, “What do you want to do?” Because of my fear-based muddle-headedness, I didn’t realize that he had avoided my question until our meeting was over. As my husband and I drove home, I suddenly blurted out, “He dodged my question! Do you realize that? He never answered me when I asked what I had done that was so heinous that I couldn’t serve in the church!” Later, I emailed Elliot and pointed this out, asking for an answer, but, as you have probably already surmised, he did not respond.
My response to Elliot’s question, “What do you want to do?” was that at that point I didn’t want to do anything, but I would like to know that if there was something that I did want to do, I would be able to do it.
He responded by saying that I could do whatever I wanted and that if anyone questioned it, I should tell them to go talk to him. There was absolutely no indication as to why my situation was changing.
During this conversation, Elliot made the comment that he often will greet me or speak to me and I ignore him. I suddenly had an epiphany! I said to him, “Elliot, when you spoke to me, was I looking at you? Did you have my attention? Because if I wasn’t looking at you or you didn’t have my attention . . . “ At this point I turned to my husband and said, “You tell him.”
“She’s deaf,” Morris said.
We went on to explain to Elliot that I have a hearing loss at the pitches where people speak – that I was diagnosed 18 years earlier – and that especially if there is a great deal of background noise, I cannot hear what people are saying. Elliot appeared stunned and said, “That changes everything.” He didn’t expound on this comment but it made me wonder if the whole reason that he had taken a negative position toward me was because I was “ignoring” him. I could hardly accept that as the reason for my ostracism, though. If he thought I was ignoring him, why didn’t he just walk up to me directly and address his concern – like Matthew 18 tells us?
Elliot asked me why I had never told him that I have a hearing loss and I responded that he had never asked. I was not so cheeky as to remind him that he never gave me opportunity. I wanted to say, “I have tried for years to talk to you about a lot of things and you ignored me – how could I tell you?” But, I was too polite to challenge him like that.
Interestingly, upon looking back, I realized that I had told him – in one of my emails. Several years earlier, Elliot had walked up next to me as I stood in the church office taking care of some business regarding my children, and he placed a hand on my shoulder but I never heard him speak. So, I didn’t speak either. Thinking about it later, I didn’t want him to think I had been rude in not responding if he had spoken to me, so I sent him an email explaining my hearing loss.
After our meeting with Elliot, I tentatively began to enroll in some classes at my church. One of the first things I signed up for was the Journey to Wholeness Conference that was being held. I have to admit, I was a little surprised that no one told me that I wasn’t welcome to attend.
I wish I could say that I then lived happily ever after. But no.
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