Harry Keal sat in my living room and cried. I was not really surprised. The night before he had led the fight in the charge conference [church business meeting] to deny me a salary raise for the next year.
The raise refusal had nothing to do with money, although Harry and his cohorts said it did. “We can’t afford it.”
As usual, when others pointed out the obvious, that there was plenty of money, and it was just a piddling little cost of living adjustment, and no move was made to cut increases in anything else in the budget, the argument had to shift to other reasons why I should receive no raise.
No one would say I was doing a poor job, because no one could say that; it was not true.
No one would say they just did not like me; it would sound too petty.
No one would say that they had to do something to reduce me in size, because they were scared to death of me, because I knew all their embarrassing secrets, because it was so true they could not even think it.
Harry, as usual, had some farming analogy, which he considered ironclad proof, of why I should not receive a raise. It had to do with how farmers depended on the weather and the markets and when they were bad, they made less money. Steve Holaday, 45 years Harry’s junior, and also a farmer, said: “Yes, Harry, but all the other farmers in the neighborhood don’t get together and decide how much you can have from the sale of your crops.” It stunned everyone. Steve had adroitly turned Harry’s own analogy against him.
So the next morning Harry showed up at my door early, as farmers are wont to do, even though he and everyone else in the church was aware that morning was a bad time for me because of my chemotherapy, and sat in my living room and cried, but it was not in remorse for how he had tried to scuttle my raise. The pay raise was mentioned only in passing, as a doorway to his real concern, which was personified in young Steve.
“I have tried,” he said, “to withdraw from leadership in the church. I gave up official positions, to let younger people have a go at them. But I assumed they would come to me for advice and counsel. But they never do. Instead they even oppose me when I try to save the church money.”
Strange, yes, that someone would one day try to cost me money and the next day cry to me about their problems, especially the problem of getting people to respect their attempt to deny me a salary raise. Actually, that is not uncommon at all.
Harry had a few allies each year in the annual attempt to deny me a salary raise. They were the ones who leaned most heavily on me emotionally the rest of the year. They hated me, because I knew how weak they were. But they needed me, because I was their pastor.
Everyone else in town knew them. They did not dare admit their foibles to friends and family and business associates; they would use that knowledge against them in some way. I was the outsider. I alone could be trusted to hear their confessions, and say nothing to anyone, and not retaliate, and they hated me for that.
I am now the age Harry was then. I have withdrawn from leadership in the church. Younger leaders in the church do not come to me for advice and counsel. Thanks be to God.
I tweet occasionally as yooper1721.
Spoiler Alert: If you have read this column in the last 3 months, all that follows is old news:
I stopped writing this column for a while, for several reasons. It wasn’t until I had quit, though, that I knew this reason: I did not want to be responsible for wasting your time. If I write for others, I have to think about whether it’s worthwhile for you to read. If I write only for myself, it’s caveat emptor. If you choose to read something I have written, but I have not advertised it, not asked you to read it, and it’s poorly constructed navel-gazing drivel, well, it’s your own fault. Still, I apologize if you have to ask yourself, “Why did I waste time reading this?”
The story of how God tricked me into becoming a professional Xn is in my book, The Strange Calling, published by Smyth&Helwys.
My book, NOW THAT I HAVE CANCER I AM WHOLE: Reflections on Life and Healing for Cancer Patients and Those Who Love Them, is published by AndrewsMcMeel. It is available from Barnes & Noble, Amazon, etc. in hardback, paperback, audio, Japanese, and Czech.
I started this blog several years ago, when we followed the grandchildren to the “place of winter,” Iron Mountain, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula [The UP]. I put that in the sub-title, Reflections on Faith from a Place of Winter for the Years of Winter, where life is defined by winter even in the summer! [This phrase is explained in the post for March 20, 2014.] The grandchildren, though, are grown up, so in May, 2015 we moved “home,” to Bloomington, IN, where we met and married, and where we are known as “Bloomarangs.” It’s not a “place of winter,” but we are still in winter years of the life cycle, so I am still trying to understand what it means to be a follower of Christ in winter…