We all sat speechless. We were in shock.
For several years in addition to pastoring a church, I oversaw fifteen to twenty churches in our area. In the denomination I served at the time our district contained about two hundred churches and was divided into sections of churches and these sections were overseen by about eighteen pastors. I was one of these overseers.
One day I received a call from one of my superiors asking me to attend a meeting together with the other area overseers in our district. It was an unusual time for a meeting and I was concerned and unsettled as the event approached.
When I arrived at the location on the designated day, I was ushered into a room with seventeen other men who held similar positions to mine. We sat in a circle of chairs that were prearranged to accommodate the whole group. There were four or five empty chairs with reserved signs on them that were in the circle as well. When we were all in place, three key leaders in our denomination and our district overseer marched into the room and took the seats that were reserved.
Our District Overseer was very dear to us. We trusted him and counted on him as our leader and friend. He supervised the eighteen of us as we oversaw the churches under our care. We were a team, a well-oiled and crisp operating team. We all respected and trusted each other implicitly. But we had a sense that things were about to change.
The person leading the meeting called our attention to himself. He then prayed and asked God for wisdom to speak with clarity and to be understood. He then informed us that our beloved supervisor, who had kept his head pointed downward from the time he entered the room, had committed an indiscretion. He had been involved in an adulterous affair for a five year period of time while leading us.
Upon hearing the announcement, we all sat speechless. We were in shock. Then, one by one, we began to weep. Soon all of us were crying uncontrollably. We wept and sobbed for what seemed to be an eternity. Perhaps twenty minutes later our crying subsided, but we were numb; and we all felt that kind of pain that sits in the stomach but has no medical remedy.
I personally felt intense pain within, like a heavy weight fighter had hit me in my gut with his best punch.
I felt pain for my supervisor whom I loved and respected with every ounce of my being. I knew he must be overwhelmed with shame.
I felt the pain of betrayal. I felt a little as though he had let me down personally.
I felt the pain of loss. It wasn’t the loss of relationship or friendship. It was the loss of trust. I had given my full trust to this man, but that day, and for some time, I didn’t know to whom I could give my trust.
I am still reeling from this experience. I have never gotten over it. No, it doesn’t haunt my dreams or have me bitter. Nor am I stuck in life because of this experience. But it has caused me to look at life differently.
I look at the people I serve differently. I see them as sheep needing a shepherd who lives victoriously. I don’t want this message to cause condemnation for any who have failed and I am the first to restore a fallen brother or sister. But the people I serve need me to walk the straight line and not the crooked one. If I fail many of them will lose hope. The same kind of pain I felt that day will play itself out in their lives if I fall. Maybe they will quit, or fall themselves, or stumble into their own pain. The experience gave me greater resolve to stand.
This experience has also increased my awareness that there are great amounts of pain in our world from sin and its consequences. And the pain doesn’t just exist in those who fail. Certainly, those who falter undergo a great deal of emotional suffering. But children also feel the pain. Families feel the pain. Friends feel the pain. Districts feel the pain. Cities feel the pain. Churches feel the pain. Christianity feels the pain. Our world feels the pain. With every similar failure, a little more hope is lost, a little more doubt prevails, and a little more strength trickles away.
When I think of the pain we all felt and the uncontrollable weeping we found ourselves overcome by, I can’t help but wonder where the feeling of pain has gone in our culture for sin. Sure, when the media reports the shock of failure from some celebrity, or religious figure, we watch with intrigue. And we shake our heads in disbelief. But where has the pain gone? Where is the weeping over sin? Where is the sorrow from a loss of innocence and integrity?
“I am troubled, I am bowed down greatly; I go mourning all the day long. I groan because of the turmoil of my heart. My loved ones and friends stand aloof from my plague, and my kinsmen stand afar off. My sorrow is continually before me. For I will declare my iniquity; I will be in anguish over my sin.” (Psalm 38:6, 8b, 11, 17-18 NKJV)