by Rhea Beaudry, guest blogger
One Saturday while waiting at the nail salon, I encountered someone whom I had not seen for at least 20 years. She had been a key figure in the moral failure of our pastor back in the 90’s. The people at my church went through a very, very painful and difficult time because of this. My husband was on the board of deacons and had been put in the horrible position of having to testify on the pastor’s side of the trial. Though he (the pastor) was definitely a perpetrator and no one could deny his moral guilt, the way the law was written in our area did not apply to his case so as to convict. It allowed him to “get off”. As it went, most of the vocal people on both sides of the issue ended up rejecting my husband and me for one reason or another, no matter what we said or did. (That law has since been changed and is much more specific and inclusive regarding ministerial sexual conduct, whether consensual or not.) At any rate, there were some very bitter feelings, and many, many people bolted and ran from the church and from serving the Lord. The church of our denomination in this town has split over and over since then, and exists as a small body today.
I wasn’t sure at first whether this really was she, or just someone who vaguely reminded me of her. The longer I watched her getting her nails done, though, the more I realized it was indeed she. Then she was finished, and went to sit under the nail dryer. She was facing me. Now I was caught between going to her and speaking with her, or just pretending she wasn’t there. She seemed to be doing that with my presence there. Her body language told me she was trying to hide from me. She kept turning her head away and putting it down on her arm. But somehow I knew that if I didn’t go talk to her, I would be beating up on myself later. Would I want to miss a God-appointment? In the early days during and after the trial, I had experienced people scooting over into the next aisle at the grocery store when they saw me coming, and other avoidances. I knew how it felt.
So I finally got up and went over to her as she was sitting at the nail dryer and I said, “C, is that you?? Remember me?” She acknowledged me and we spoke a few polite words of greeting and asking about each other’s children, etc. I so wished there were something I could have said to her when she mentioned that all of us who went through those times were deeply, life-changingly scarred…yes we were. It wasn’t the time or place for me to “preach”…I just maintained a smile of friendliness and tried to convey acceptance and warmth and interest. Before I talked to her, before she knew I was looking, I had noticed a deep sadness and lost, empty look to her. Even though we are the same age, she looked much older, haggard, worn. She was almost unrecognizable. She was very hard looking and seemed to be angry. But while we visited, she smiled a little and looked a bit more like herself.
I came away from this encounter feeling so sad. We were friends before any of these horrible things occurred. Our sons were little boys together. So much was lost; as she said, so many were scarred.
Yes, I was scarred too, changed forever–but by the Grace of God, I am still standing to tell about it, still on the Team, still alive in Christ. So many things were left unsaid, because there were no words with which to say them. Time and circumstance didn’t allow me to share any of those feelings with her. Though we live in the same town, I haven’t seen her for many years, and I probably won’t see her again for many more. I can only hope she saw something of the Lord’s love and presence in me—some quality that words can’t express. I am praying for her. I felt that was why God brought us together that day…for prayer, and maybe even a tiny bit of closure.
As the day went on, I was bombarded with memories of all the awful things that had occurred. I prayed for the umpteenth time for forgiveness for the judgmental attitude I know I had toward C and towards others, especially the pastor. I deeply resented the fact that my husband had to go through the wringer like that. He has never been the same. The experience took a tremendous toll on him.
I pulled out my book and started to read as I was sitting on the deck. I was reading Francis Frangipane’s “Holiness, Truth, and the Presence of God”. I came upon his story of a minister who was gifted in word of knowledge and discernment. He ministered to a man and was very accurate and inspiring. The man was impressed and invited three couples to come and be blessed under this ministry as he had been. The first two couples were ministered to in much the same way as the first man had been, with great revelation of their past, their present and insights into their future. Then he came to the third couple, and as he stood before the lady, he said to her, “I see that there was great sin in your past.” He paused to wait upon the Lord, while the woman squirmed, thinking her worst nightmare was coming upon her. Finally the minister told her that he had asked the Lord to show him what the sin was. The Lord answered, “I don’t remember.” For years she had been carrying the weight of a past sin upon her, unable to forgive herself or receive God’s forgiveness. That day she had a breakthrough.
That is Jesus Christ. That is Almighty God. That is how I want to be.
I am hoping that my inner thoughts and attitudes will be conformed to the likeness of Christ. This is only given by GREAT GRACE! It cannot be accomplished by me. The harder I try in my own strength, the harder I fall and fail!
I asked the Lord why so many old friends had fallen away from Him as a result of this experience and other horrific things that followed in the next few years; while my husband and I survived it and remain in the Kingdom. Very clearly He said it was because we have obeyed Him. And I know that we have, to the best of our ability. We have stayed on when others departed; we have tried and tried to maintain a servant attitude toward people who do not return the favor. We have interceded for needy people. I am learning that when I am obedient, my choices and actions are amply supplied with the Grace I need. I am not saying these things to boast. It has been at great cost. It has been a battle with my flesh constantly wanting to bolt and run, and my spirit wanting to hide. IT IS ONLY GOD’S GREAT GRACE that has kept us from falling off the edge of the world! I am so thankful to Him for His keeping power. There is a song that says, “Thank You for the broken road that led me straight to you.”