The Illusionist

2007 – Broussard, LA

We waited patiently as our pastor finished up an important phone call in the other room.  His makeshift office was sparse, he was hardly ever there.  In fact, he never held office hours.  We were told he was too busy out in the community to be tied down such things…he needed freedom to minister as needed.  We finally heard him open the door and Barry stood up swiftly in order to be ready the moment he motioned for us to come in.  I on the other hand sat with my hands folded in silence.  I was so tired of meetings.  They always lasted forever and proved pointless at the end.  Our senior pastor and the majority of his close staff members usually had their minds made up about our issues even before we met.  So, it seemed silly to try to convince them otherwise.  For them to extend grace or to see things from another’s perspective was futile and a waste of time…especially if the opinion in question belonged to a female.  Simply stated…we were to submit with a smile.

Barry and I sat hand in hand, facing our pastor as he swung his foot impatiently.  He listened to our list of concerns: we were making a small salary, still living on the church grounds and had no health insurance.  We had faithfully served there for years and we were barely able to make ends meet.  I expressed our exhaustion and the fact that Barry’s responsibilities allowed for us to spend very little time together.  Even when we did have an evening to relax, Barry would doze off shortly after dinner.  I talked about wanting a family and how I worried that our busy lifestyle and lack of proper medical care was not fitting for a pregnancy.  My list went on…so many things to say…so little time.

We barely dove into the conversation when our pastor began to comfort us.  We sat there shocked.  That was not at all what we expected.   He spoke of things to come and how he believed in us so much.  He confided that he saw us helping another pastor and his wife plant a church in the future and how he saw Barry’s giftings as a strength for his churches.   He mentioned that the reason he didn’t want us to start a family was because we did not own a home.   He wanted us to feel secure when we brought another life into the world.  We sat there relieved…he did care after all.  He did love us and truly wanted the best for us.

He quickly dialed the number to a builder in the church and put him on speaker phone.  Mustering up all of his authority he told the builder who he had in his office and asked him to build us a house in the near future.  He also asked/told him to give us the same deal he gave to the other pastors on staff.  I heard the hesitation in the builder’s voice and I cringed inside.  Although we knew him and had a great relationship with him…times were getting tough.  For him to take on another low profit build was something I felt he would have loved a moment to think over in private.  But, he was not given that privilege and instead he complied saying that he would indeed build our first home and give us a deal.

In a matter of moments we went from planning our resignation to agreeing to build a home only miles from the church.  My head was spining…I was lost in the moment and the excitement of feeling as though things were progressing for us.  I wanted a baby so badly, I was willing to give in and stay as long as the agreement also included a child.  I thought the plans he mentioned sounded good and he was so kind and gentle as he spoke to us.  Surely things had changed…surely the tide was turning in our favor.

We sat there, finally feeling hopeful about the road ahead.

We sat there sealing our entrapment without even realizing it.

Our pastor sat there skillfully manipulating and controlling our future.  Securing his yes men… one illusion at a time.

3 thoughts on “The Illusionist

  1. It’s all true, Jana, and all equally heartbreaking. It’s also really difficult to be vulnerable and open, because then people can and WILL attack my vulnerabilities. However, like you stated in a previous blog and I agree: I will not be silent. I think we stand with great men and women of the past who say that also. I’m reminded of Elie Wiesel’s Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech:

    “For us, forgetting was never an option.

    Remembering is a noble and necessary act. The call of memory, the call to memory, reaches us from the very dawn of history. No commandment figures so frequently, so insistently, in the Bible. It is incumbent upon us to remember the good we have received, and the evil we have suffered. New Year’s Day, Rosh Hashana, is also called Yom Hazikaron, the day of memory. On that day, the day of universal judgment, man appeals to God to remember: our salvation depends on it. If God wishes to remember our suffering, all will be well; if He refuses, all will be lost. Thus, the rejection of memory becomes a divine curse, one that would doom us to repeat past disasters, past wars.”

    and “I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

  2. I have been reading your blogs. I can relate to some of your stories. I would like to talk to you and/or Barry about it sometime away from these blog comments. It could be facebook, emails, etc. I doesn’t really matter to me. Let me know. Keep the blogs coming, by the way. I love reading them!

  3. I saw this pastor and one of his staff, or his wife, talk many times in their home about other staff members. I knew what went on behind the scenes and often heard the bad things he’d say about some people before he told them they’d be helping another department or worse yet, another church plant in another city or state. It was heartbreaking to see him treat many of my friends with such coldness for a variety of reasons, some personal and some simply because they wanted something he was unwilling to give to them.

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