Chapter 8: Emily’s story
It's been a week since I started the chat room. Spring is almost here. The days are muddy, sometimes cold, often raining. Every day when I get home from work, I add a fourth pair of rubber boots to the line in the front hall. Rowdy is delighted that I still turn on the electric blanket at night. We cuddle in the warmth; I sip my wine, and read the stories in the chat room. No one else has shared such a traumatic painful story as Wolfman's, who has returned to talk almost every evening. I know it's only a matter of time before I'm in over my head again. I need help.
Where should I start? Maybe I could look up counselor in the yellow pages. Right now I really miss Ida. I wish I could ask her advice. I ask Darcy.
"You are in luck!" She says. "I know the perfect guy! He's both a counselor and a minister."
"I thought you'd never been in a church. How do you know a minister?"
"I met him at the bar at Applebee’s, of course," she says, like it happens every day. "We went out once, and I still have his number. Oh, and right now he doesn't have a church, just a few counseling clients."
Wow, this didn't sound promising.
"I swear! He's the nicest sweetest guy! He was way too sweet for me, wouldn't even kiss me! That's why only one date."
"Are you serious, Darcy? I don't know if being one of your rejects qualifies him in any way to help me on the website! Does he have a degree?"
Darcy looks clueless. "I think he does," she says.
The next day I find myself meeting a guy named Alden Daniels at Jim's Steak and Spaghetti house on Fifth Avenue for lunch. Alden is forty, around five feet nine inches, dark brown hair, almost black, with brown eyes. Yes, he's cute, but in my opinion, he's too old for Darcy who's in her late twenty's. And yes, he does have a degree, and yes he loves Jim's spaghetti. And yes, he'd be happy to spend every night on my blog from ten to eleven, (or longer), counseling people who really need it. I had a good feeling about this guy. I sensed from our conversation on the phone and here in the restaurant that he really had a heart for people.
"Did you make it out here during strawberry pie week last year?" says Alden, sucking down his last bit of spaghetti with the gusto of a kid. "Last year the strawberries were especially sweet and plump."
Every year, the first week in May, Jims makes the most wonderful homemade strawberry pie ever. I can't remember the last time I had a slice; must have been with Ted. Ted loved that pie.
"Not last year," I say. "Wasn't up for it"
"Too bad. It won't be that good for another 10 years at least!" Alden remarks. "That pie is like a fine vintage wine. Some years are better than others. Only a few weeks now and they'll have it again! I can't wait!"
"Alden, do you drink wine?" I had to ask. My curiosity had gotten the better of me.
"Yes," he replied, "Me and Jesus drink wine!"
I liked this guy! I felt like I could trust him. "You know, my website is very important to me. In fact, it's the only thing I'm sure of right now. People share these stories, horrible stories, annoying stories, about what happens when a church leader grabs too much power for himself. It's not love, I'll tell you that much!"
"Well honestly right now, all the Pharisees are men. All the stories people have shared in the chat room I've got listed on my blog, anonymously of course, are about men. I have over 20 different stories now. I was wondering if you'd take a little time and read the blog, then join me in the chat room tonight."
"I've already read your blog. Read it this afternoon. This is so important, Emily. I'm glad to be a part of what you're doing. People leave churches and never come back because of the abuse of leadership. There've been several books written on the subject. The offices of Christian counselors are full of people who've been spiritually damaged by others who twist scripture to fit their own agenda, and the Pharisees themselves are often unaware of their own sin, at least on a conscious level."
"What do you mean? How could they not know what they are doing?"
"They know what they're doing, don't get me wrong. They know. Like many people who choose to do wrong things, they just never go there consciously. They think being a leader means they need to be an example, but they take it to the extreme. Some try to be perfect, which is impossible, so they and all their supporters pretend they are perfect. I think Jesus said it best when He said, 'Get the beam out of your own eye! How can you see to get the speck out of your neighbor's eye?' They are blind. Jesus also reminds us to 'Take up your cross', and since He calls it ours, it's something we already have. If a person refuses to take up their own cross, take a good look at themselves, their own sin and why they are who they are, a very painful process, then they never grow. When it's obvious they've messed up, as we all do from time to time, they'll deny it and blame anyone else they can find. The alternative is way too scary for them. They'd have to let go of so many delusions that make them feel important and safe. Pharisees crave the spotlight. They also have trouble giving and receiving love and from the elevated position they've placed themselves in, that's no problem. No chance a Pharisee has to feel those uncomfortable emotions."
"But….what about Wolfman's story? That minister was intimate with his wife. Seems to me he stepped off the pedestal, way off."
"Nope. Sex can be nothing but a power trip. He probably believed what he told her on some level. Pharisees often believe what they preach to others, but subconsciously they know the truth which they run from daily. In their belief system, once again, there's no chance they have to take a good look at themselves and their own behavior. They believe being a new creature in Christ, all things are passed away, means their past is completely gone, so why dwell on it? But they are wrong. If a person's past was completely taken away they couldn't walk anymore, or talk, or spell, or drive a car, all things we've learned in our past. The past sins are gone, forgiven, but the wounds left there by their own sins and the sins of others still reign in their lives, and if they never take a good look at those wounds, the sin itself will continue. You see? The sin is forgiven but the wound is still there, wounds that sometimes take a lifetime to heal."
Alden paused to take a drink, but he obviously had more to say. "Go on,” I say.
"Once, in counseling, I had a woman insist her past was gone and there was no need to go there, then in the next sentence, she admitted being scared when she's left alone in a house at night. This caused problems in her marriage. I was so glad she gave me an opening. It's obvious she learned to be scared somewhere in her life, so her past was not completely gone and she was living with the result of it every day. We spent three years figuring out where her fear came from, among other things. She took up her cross!"
Alden continued..."Remember, Pharisees wouldn't exist unless we let them exist. We give them the power over us. So many people feel unworthy and crave having someone between them and God. Jesus is the only one worthy of that position."
We finish up our lunch and walk outside into the sunlight.
“I’ll be the counselor in your chat room, and thanks,” Alden says. “See you online tonight.”
“You’re welcome,” I say. “I’m glad for the professional help!”
I make Alden an administrator, with access to the EARL e-mail and the ability to open and close up the chat room.