“I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus….” (Galatians 6:17).
My son is trying to find a good used car for his daughters. Since their big brother graduated this year, Abby and Erin will be driving themselves to school this fall. Twice Neil has found possibilities, but wisely took the cars to a trusted mechanic for his appraisal.
Today, it fell to me to drive the second of these cars to the repair shop. Our mechanic friend studied the car, drove it a bit, then recommended we not buy it for a number of reasons. Then, he said, “Come here, Reverend. I want to show you something.”
“See those dirty stains on the seats?”
Each seat carried rust-colored stains in wavy lines.
“This car has been flooded,” said Rick. “And here is something else.”
There were scratches–horizontal, odd-looking lines–on the hood and the trunk. “This is where things scraped over the car,” he said.
I thought of the 100,000 automobiles that were ruined in Hurricane Katrina’s floodwaters. In many cases, the water was six to ten feet deep, and lingered for weeks. I’ve seen photos and heard stories from friends who drove boats over parking lots where all you could see were the tops of cars. It’s easy to imagine something being dragged across a flooded car.
Eventually, the cars were towed and left under bridges and interstates for months before being disposed of.
Later, we learned that some people were doing hasty repair jobs on the flooded cars and passing them off as normal. “Buyer beware” became the mantra.
I said, “Thank you, Rick. I would not have known what to look for.”
Our mechanic friend saved us a lot of headaches and heartaches, and doubtless a good deal of money in repair jobs.
People go through storms in this life, and like that car, carry the scars and stains for the rest of their days.
Some of those stains and scars are visible, if you know what you are looking for….
—anger that seems to have no basis in reality. A floating hostility will attach itself to whatever target (or victim) is handy.
I once pastored a church following a huge split where people had fought verbal battles and took no prisoners. Years later, a few members still carried deep anger over what had been done or said. The stains of that church storm were imbedded so deeply only the cleansing power of the blood of Jesus Christ was sufficient to remove it.
–a sense of entitlement, the feeling that “the world owes me big time after all I’ve been through.”
Such a church member can be a major pain to everyone around him. Pity the new pastor who walks into a congregation without knowing the human traps laying in wait. For members who feel they are owed a great deal in life, nothing the pastor does will ever be enough. They are chronically dissatisfied and will spread their poisonous infection to the rest of the church.
–an all-encompassing fear of conflict and trouble. After the nightmares they have been through, they will do anything to avoid similar crises in the future.
A quarter of a century ago, I experienced this syndrome personally. The church I left had been embattled from the first day I arrived, and the one to which I came was trying to recover from a stormy pastorate which had decimated the congregation. If it had been up to me, I would never have led a church business meeting or attended a deacons meeting again. A few of the really ragged ones were enough for a lifetime. And yet, every church deserves a healthy pastor and a solid program. So, I had to face my fear of conflict. Eventually, I recovered and was later able to assist other churches going through their own storms.
–a distrust of the Almighty. “Where was God when my house was destroyed?” “If Jesus loves the church, why did He let them run off our wonderful pastor?” “If God is good, then why did my mother die in that flood?” “Why did God let that church mistreat my father the way they did?”
There are answers for these questions. However, just voicing their distrust is for many war-veterans the beginning and end of their theological musings.
On the other hand, many of the stains and scars of life’s storms are not so obvious and can be unearthed only by those willing to look beneath the surface or who are skilled at people-helping….
–A church I pastored had a leader who criticized everything and was satisfied with nothing. Only when I called on him at home did I learn of the daily physical pain the man lived with. Something in his past had scarred him for a lifetime.
–A deacon with enormous influence and leadership skills built a strong following in every church and then fought his pastor for control. His poor pastors were no match for the man’s tactics and were frequently left bleeding in the road. Someone who had known the deacon most of his life told me his father had been a pastor and he suspects that God had called that deacon to preach early in life, but that he resisted. Whatever went on inside him back then seems to be continuing today, with his relationships paying a huge price.
I quickly admit that I’m no psychiatrist. I’m not one of these people who can see beneath the surface and tell what’s going on with people. I tend to take them at face value, and often turn out to be wrong about them.
So, since I do not know how to take this train of thought any further, I’m going to leave it at this point. It’s one of the privileges of owning my own blog and not being responsible to an editor.
Perhaps readers will know where the matter goes from here. Comments and additional insights are welcome here.
I will add this perhaps unrelated thought: scars on our bodies tend to fix forever in our minds the history that was occurring at that moment. A V-shaped scar on my left index finger is the result of this 5-year-old reaching up to the hot stove to take hold of a pot. How that melted my skin into a “V,” I’ll never know, but there it is. About the same time, I received the scar at the corner of an eye, the result of being chased by a big brother and falling onto the broken rim of a galvanized wash tub. And one more. What appear to be frown-marks between my eyebrows are scars from the time I was riding in the funeral home car and a fellow in a pickup truck ran a stop sign. We broad-sided him and my forehead broke the dashboard.
Some things we never forget. The scars see to that.
Another great post, Joe. I really appreciate these honest observations about the struggles that some with church leadership (the pastorate in particular).
So many scars…my pastor-father was asked to resign three times and did. He said he really didn’t know how to avoid doing something he might regret, so he trusted the Lord. Well, eventually all those who had “run him off” repented and asked forgiveness of him, but the scars on my mother led to her early death of a stroke. the scars on this pastor son led to distrust of leaders, especially those who are so buddy-buddy at first, but usually turn against the pastor (me) when my self-differentiated actions did not meet their expectations. Only forgiveness and the strength of God have led to peace and healing. It is hard, but I tried hard to never let my anger get in the pulpit or in pastoral care and staff leadership. However, I’m certain at times it did, and did so especially my wife and daughters whose forgiveness continues to strengthen me. However, every person experiences pain and relationship problems in life and pastors are wrong to whine and gripe rather than loving and forgiving. Take a stand and expect someone not to like it, but take a stand anyway. Build relationships and always take advice from healthy, mature Christians in the church. The pastor is not pope of the church.