Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Present Past

The kind of shock that comes completely out of the blue can have the sharpest bite. It’s those things which were not even on the radar screen the second before can startle you the most.

Any time that I, as a man, use the analogy of a woman being raped, I know that I’m making a terrible mistake. But that’s what it was like. A woman who was raped more than twenty years ago, opening the paper and—without any warning or premonition—seeing that haunting face of her attacker, not in the police blotter section, but being celebrated as a hero. I don’t think that I am embellishing when I say that’s the way I was hit in the gut.

I was simply on my way to the bathroom in very unfamiliar place. I was in the basement of the stone cathedral-like church, where my son and his wife attends in Minneapolis. I was on my way back to meet them, wiping the excess water (from the hand washing) on my jeans when I glanced to my right. It was their large missionary poster board. There were only two supported missionary families exhibited on it (maybe they support more but they may rotate them). I looked at the first family trying to figure out, from their strange costumes, where they were serving. It looked like some fancy Slavic traditional dance outfit. Then I glanced to my left. It only took me a millisecond to recognize the face of the man. The china-blue eyes and the goatee, now snow white. The last time I gazed on that face was in Cyprus, 22 years ago. Our parting was the most difficult thing I had ever faced and it would change me forever.

Curt was our missionary boss. I can’t get into it here as it is a very long story. I did skim it in the manuscript, which I posted a couple of months ago. But my encounter left me devastated and my Christian life in ruins. I hated him at the time. I hated him for a few years and the hate mellowed to despisement (if such a word exist). But I bet in his secret place (just like I kept the hate in my secret place) that he hated me too. After all, my experience with him was not the main reason that he was fired by the missionary agency, but it did open an investigation that eventually led to his dismissal a couple of years later.

Even though he and I both were from the Southeast, ironically, the last time I tried to contact him, way back in 1989, he was visiting Minneapolis and I was then living in Duluth. I didn’t know why he was in Minneapolis (rather than being in his home in Syria) but he was. He refused to meet with me, on the surface at least, saying that he was too busy. But I suspect that it was the hate for me, which had already taken hold in his heart.

It all came rushing back this morning. There he was on the glossy with his wife, previously with coal-black hair, now gray, and his two daughters (who sat in my lap the last time I saw them) now grown women.

But departing from that bad analogy I made earlier, I can’t demonize him like I once did. I could even see him being my friend . . . once again. It is not as much as about forgiveness as it is about learning. I’ve learned so much about the situation, about God and myself since then that I know that I was at fault too.

I’m not talking about the misguided fault (drawing from that bad analogy one more time) of the rape victim saying, “It was my fault because I shouldn’t have been in a vulnerable situation.” No . . . I’m talking about true fault . . . not a dismissive fault. At least 50% of the missionary disaster that became of our lives was my fault. Again, it is too complicated to discuss here but it has to do with the emotional baggage that Curt and I each brought into the situation.

When you are the true victim, which I thought I was for the first few years, the emotion is anger. Simply, they did that to me and it is so unfair. But when you realize that you were part of the problem, the emotion is fear. You fear that you are not as good as you had believed. You fear that because you are not good, that you will not be loved and you fear that you will perpetrate the same bad outcome again. When someone else is 100% to blame, you can escape them and escape future harm. When you carry one of the perpetrators in your bosom, there is no escaping them.

Lastly, there is the guilt. Not the Ted Haggard guilt. Where you have done horrible things, lied about it in the most profound way and then, with a smirk, say, “Well . . . only Jesus is perfect.” No, I’m talking about real guilt. It is the war in your soul (and mind) where you try desperately to cover your own sin (or allow God to cover it) and faults with the blood of Christ, only to see them melting through in places again (not that the blood of Christ is not good enough but that psyches are fallen). Redemption is not one big victory, but a process.

Those who claim instantaneous victory are usually lying to themselves. People who claim to have forgiven and forgotten once and for all, aren’t being real. Those who claim that the moment that they become Christians that they never have a guilt feeling again are usually self-deceived . . . or they, like Ted, are too narcissistic to ever have known true guilt to start with.

I’m finishing up this post, now two days later. The sting and fear have subsided but it reminds me once again of the battle that we are in.

My first post with my new (old) computer. It is tiny with an 8 inch screen. Now I can blame my typos on my inability to see the screen.


Anonymous said...

That would be such a freaky experience, to see his face like that...!


Anonymous said...

MJ, if I remember your manuscript, this Curt was the Nav control freak who messed you up BAD. And he's still got the prestige of being The Missionary? How many others like you has he messed up in his Missionary career?

M, the only thing similar that I've experienced is running into my ex-girlfriend COLD two summers ago. (At least, I'm sure it was her; same height, same voice, and she asked me by name.)

MJ said...

Must be shocking to have run into her.

I don't think Curt is any worse than any other missionary. He was fired and then started his own organization with himself at the helm.