When I went to church last Sunday (for the third week in a row, PLEASE CLAP), I asked the pastor for a favor. I DID NOT ASK FOR MONEY, or for stuff, or any material assistance whatsoever. It was an odd favor and I was technically asking the church, not him personally, but I felt moderately safe in asking.
This is highly unusual for me. I hate asking for favors. Not least because of all the times I’ve worked up the courage to do so, and been not only refused, but chastised for even thinking it was okay to ask.
But the pastor of this church has known me for some fifteen years. He knows I’m saved, he was there the night that it happened. He knows that I don’t participate in the Drinking-Smoking-Using-Drugs Triad. And in spite of all my personal problems, of which there are MANY, he knows I’m an honest person who stays on the right side of the law.
I reminded him anyway. Just in case.
So after getting him to acknowledge all that, I made my request. (Sorry for the vagueness but I’m not quite ready to go into detail.) At the same time I made it very, sincerely clear that if the church could help me out with this, I’d be happy to do some volunteering for them in my field(s) of expertise.
I DID NOT remind him of my bitterness over all the other times I tried to serve in the church and was rejected. We’d had that conversation years ago and it hadn’t gone anywhere. I wanted this opportunity, if they would give it to me, to be a fresh start. His answer?
We talked about what I was asking for and the help that I could provide, especially if my request was granted. It wasn’t a quid pro quo in my mind, more like, “Please please help me, I need help, and if you help me I can also help you, win-win!” He seemed to think it was reasonable or at least okay, but cautioned that he had to check with his wife. She’s more or less the church’s office manager and in charge of the areas in which I was offering to assist. I assured the pastor that I didn’t intend or wish to step on her toes in any way; but he made it fairly clear that she would have to approve this as it touched more upon her domain than his.
Unfortunately, she and I have butted heads a little in the past. We’re not really friends, though I do respect her (being married to Pastor Hardass as I used to affectionately call him can’t be easy). In fact, on the day years ago that I went to tell the pastor I was leaving the church, she intercepted me to have a confrontation about a mild little spat that we’d been involved in on Facebook. (She probably doesn’t remember. She couldn’t even remember my name for the longest time.) So I was a little nervous about things, but he assured me he’d get with her and see what they could do for me.
Sadly, I haven’t heard from him since, and my brain has taken this opportunity to start throwing Molotov cocktails again.
You know they’re not gonna let you do it.
They’ve had all week to come up with a plausible excuse.
It’ll probably be something like “Our insurance won’t allow anyone to blah blah blah.”
He’s waiting to tell you in person when you come back to church because he knows you’re gonna overreact.
Like you always do.
They will never let you serve God in that church. You’re not good enough. You’ll never be good enough. That whole family holds you in contempt. You might as well start going to bars and nightclubs again for all the difference it makes to these people.
And so on. My brain, as you may have learned from my other posts, doesn’t allow logic or hope to slip through the cracks, like “JUST CALL HIM YOURSELF, MORON” or similar. In fact, the thought is paralyzing. Thanks, brain!
Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell
Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts. (KJV)
Thinking about this favor I requested, I’m reminded of James 4:3. I’ve been wondering today whether I “asked amiss” when I made this appeal to the pastor. Was it a selfish request? Too me-centered? Was reminding him of my non-screwups a little too on-the-nose?
To answer those honestly, I have to say “I don’t think so.” My request (again, sorry for the vagueness) wasn’t something that would cost the church anything tangible. It is something to benefit me, true, but the benefit would be “helping to keep me alive” (no, I didn’t say that to him). And as for prefacing my entreaty with “You know I’m not a bad person, right?” Well, I consider my relationship with him close enough to where that was not out of line. And it was just the two of us, in a quiet corner of the sanctuary after service, while a handful of people went in and out doing their own thing. Nobody else was there to be offended.
Meanwhile, Back in the Trenches
If you’ve read my last several blog posts, you’ll notice my language is increasingly defeatist. Part of what’s been eating me up this week is this lack of word from the pastor, and the strong feeling of impending rejection. AGAIN.
Last night, I spent a large portion of my non-sleeping time researching a certain manner of death. My traitorous brain encourages this sort of thing:
When the pastor tells you no this Sunday, and he will, that’ll be all the confirmation you need.
You can finally stop kidding yourself.
Nobody’s going to rescue you. Nobody wants to help you. Everybody is sick of you. They just want you to quietly go away.
You can do that.
Eventually I pulled myself out of the sucking quicksand long enough to turn on an audio Bible, and listened to the Gospel of Luke until I dropped back to sleep. But the damage was done.
So yeah, I am definitely not in a good place mentally right now. Still applying for all the jobs I’m capable of applying for, still churning up loose change on the survey sites, and still trying to remember whose child I am while my own neurons conspire to wage chemical warfare against me AS USUAL.
Part of me just wanted to write all this down so I can say, “See? See how they still reject me over a decade later?” when the pastor inevitably says they can’t do the thing I asked for.
It occurs to me that this might fall under “asking amiss” because even though it wasn’t, itself, a bad ask, the expectation of refusal is what’s amiss.
If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? (KJV)
I’m planning to try, at least until Sunday, to remember Luke 11:11-12. I’m not asking for lobster and filet mignon, after all.