Story: Lost in Paradise (At the End of the Day, Am I Not Just a Man?)
Updated: Dec 12, 2020
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December 11, 2020 (There is No Discussion this week)
“God will make a way, oh yes he will. I don’t care what you are working through; God has already worked it out. Just keep holding on, I said just remain strong, it worked out, I said, it worked out.” There was an art to preaching and staring out at my congregation of 10,000 I had mastered the art. Life was good! The church service was at its peak, folks dancing in the aisles, a few running around the church. The band pumped, and the choir was waiting for their cue.
I wanted to praise God for all I was looking at and feeling, but what I knew for sure was I had cut God out of my way of life. It seemed we could not agree on how I wanted to live my life. I was just a man and had many needs and longings, I knew God thought differently. Walking back to my study with my two armor bearers, I could hear the choir in the distance singing, “God’s got a blessing for you.”
“Pick her up she will be outside by now,” directing one of my armor bearers as I stepped into my study.
The migraine headaches were growing worse. “You can take off now,” I told to my other armor bearer. “I just need a minute to relax and rest my head”. I could still hear the people rejoicing from my office. My head was aching so badly I could barely keep my eyes open. I realized I had to get up and change clothes.
Everyone in my life had their place and the schedule I had them on. I had selected the women in my life. It had been benefiting for me to pick up right away in my ministry that some women thrive on men they saw in powerful positions and most of them you don’t have to spend a dime on, all they required was to be a part of your world in some form. So I couldn’t figure out why my wife had abandoned me the way she did. I showered her with everything a first lady should have and practically lost everything because of her.
“Pastor, he has picked her up and will be there by the time you get there.”
“Ok, grab my things and let’s go.”
The drive to my usual place seemed long tonight. I had not thought about my wife for a while, laying my head back as I thought about when I first saw her.
The ordination service at our National Convention had been the highlight for me. The woman who would be by my side was beaming as she watched me receive my ministerial papers. We had not met, but learning from others she was watching me.
I had been a part of this organization for years and had already received offers from several churches to become their pastor. It had been my hope to set up my church as I explained when denying their offers. It pleased the bishops over the installed ministers that I start a new church. Rather than pastor an established one because this would be a gain to the organization. From the time I knew that being a preacher was a calling on my life, I never glanced back. Every step I’d taken was to fulfill the purpose for my life, not only to start my church but to establish my organization someday.
Choosing the perfect wife is one of the most critical aspects of a man in ministry, if being a pastor is part of his agenda. When I first saw my wife, I felt she was the one. She was the right look, the right size and polished, coming from a line of preachers in her family she understood protocol. Yes, she was the one that would be by my side as I progressed through life. Our courtship was short because I was so well accepted in the church circles and I found out later that she had likewise been inquiring about me.
I continued at my home church long enough to get married before leaving to start my church. A storefront church was where I preferred to start. I knew the people I needed to surround myself with. Understanding human nature is essential to any leader in an organization, church or business. I had taken a summer position with a private psychiatric hospital while studying in seminary. I learned while there what was most significant to individuals is to know they’re loved, seen and heard. For me in addition, I was looking for loyalty.
My wife had a natural manner with people and they loved her. She sensed what was important to a person without having to work at a psychiatric facility. Sometimes irritated by her, because what I worked at so hard to do seemed to happen so natural for her. Therefore, I couldn’t accept why she refused after twenty-four years of marriage to not stay with the agenda.
My head was pounding. “Take me home” I yelled at my driver. “Call and let her know I am not coming; tell her she can stay for the night or take a cab home”. My wife did this to me and I hated her for it. I realized they expected it of me to take another first lady, but I needed to let a decent amount of time pass. After taking a hot shower, I laid across the bed. I hated being in bed alone. It had been a year since my wife passed and trying to hold my congregation together until the rumors of suicide ceased almost destroyed what I had built. The death certificate had the cause of death as a massive heart attack.
As I was lying down across the bed and recalling the day, my wife informed me she was filing for a divorce. It seemed like a gigantic movie screen opened up in my bedroom. I saw myself pulling her by the arm to her walk-in closet and showing her all the mink coats and hundreds of shoes, the diamonds and pearls I had made affordable for her to live in luxury. The cars she drove as I picked up the keys and threw them at her.
I was on two of the national church boards and recently approached by a group to run for City Council. Now she wanted a divorce. All I had invested in her for the future. With my hands around her neck, not only scared her, but scared me. There was no further mention of divorce and all the arguments we had been having ceased from that day.
Life had been wonderful for a period. A pastor’s home life must be stable in order to stay focus on advancing his church. My wife seemed back to her normal self. I focused back on my projects to add a youth center to our church. Parents seeing their children happy and taken care of, our church growth showed they were pleased. Running for City Council was something I placed on my secondary list. Right now I had other plans for my future.
At the time we purchased our building for the church, we likewise purchased the adjoining properties on both sides of our church. I had a heart for our youth and for our seniors. One side was going to be an assistant living complex for seniors. It would have a state-of-the-art fitness center which catered to their physical needs as seniors.
On their side, the seniors would have an upscale rehabilitation wing. Many seniors were having surgeries requiring short or extensive rehabilitation. Most of these facilities, the environment was cold. My aim was to generate an atmosphere of warmth by keeping them close to home and their friends. The other side of their building would be an entertainment center with a theater, coffee shop, game area with board games and a library. This construction will be multi-level with glass elevators.
Our Youth Pastor and his staff got with the youth to find out what they wanted in their center. I was pleased when given their list. Showing at the top of their list they requested a study hall and tutoring center.
We presented the proposals to the church; the members were in full agreement. The funds started coming in before we had opened a building fund account. Even if God and I could not agree on my lifestyle preference, God saw my heart. He knew I loved the people and my primary interest was my congregation wellbeing. I loved the people that had trusted me to be their leader. The thing about church, individuals can pick up and leave anytime they feel like it. Our congregation had been increasing for over twenty-five years.
It was Monday and without stating everyone knew an automatic “Do not Disturb!” sign hung over every pastor. The phone ringing on the nightstand was my private one. “I will not have you stand me up again; who do you think you are? And what did you mean, catch a taxi home”? I didn’t respond, but just hung the phone up; I didn’t have the time or tolerance for this bull. I called my head armor bearer, I instructed him to send her some flowers and a hundred dollars’ gift card. Needy women were the simplest to manage, they’re not for the public life of any leader.
I loved my wife and didn’t understand why I had a desire for outside women. My wife fulfilled every desire I had. Why isn’t enough not adequate for some of us? As much as I enjoyed the quietness of Monday’s, I hated Monday’s. I hated my wife for leaving me like this.
I look back when the doctor informed us we couldn’t have children; she felt guilty and I let her bear the guilt. It was not until later in our marriage that we found out it was not her but me. I had blamed her for me not having a legacy. No children and a husband that had other women became too much for her and I could see it. Each time she found out, I vowed on my knees while pleading for forgiveness that I would stop. The only one that stopped was her believing me.
Her only sibling, her twin brother, had pleaded with her not to marry me, but her parents were proud of her decision to be my wife. It was not until two years after our marriage that her mother approached me and expressed, “God’s not pleased with your actions and that the consequences could be deadly.” It is something about when an elderly mother looks in your eyes and says certain things that you know the world stopped for a moment; this was one of those occasions. I believe my wife’s family would have barred me from her funeral if they thought it would not harm their daughter’s last memory in this life.
My congregation loved my wife, but they still expected me to get married again. My chosen love objects were all contending for that position, each had thought they were the only one in my life. Silly women, why would any of them assume I would choose to bring them out in the light to be in my world? They knew the woman I married and none of them could compare to her. They were my play toys, ones to fulfill my fantasies, my lust for more. Now they demanded to be by my side. What a joke. I didn’t realize I was laughing out loud until I dropped to my knees and I could hear the peculiar sound coming out of me, such a sinister laughter.
“Oh God, help me” I could hear the words in my mind. I was reeling back and forward. The scream came out before the words. “God’s not pleased with your actions and the consequences could be deadly” I could hear my wife’s mother’s voice as if she was standing in the room beside me. As I crawled to get my phone off the nightstand, I knew I needed to call for help.
“Oh God, what have I done?” My entire body was shaking out of control. “Hey man, can you get here right away, use your key.” My best friend was on his way, he could tell something was wrong, he didn’t ask questions and said he was on his way. We had been friends since childhood and ordained together, but he took an existing church that offered him a pastoral position.
When I opened my eyes I saw my friend, but nothing else looked familiar. “Man, you are in the hospital, they think you were having a nervous breakdown,” my friend informed me. A nervous breakdown I had no reason to be having a nervous breakdown. When I went to move, I realized I was in restraints. The word that I could not get out of my head were filling the room “Oh God, help me.”
I found out later that when my friend got to my house; he said I was shouting to the top of my voice. It appeared I was in conversation, talking to myself as if there were two of me. The funny thing about when you call God you find out he was always there. I think what happened as I was thinking about the death of my wife and the other women I realized God saw it all. Watching me preach his word, deceive the woman who loved me and I promised to love only.
The other women I brought into my life, my wife's life, my church. Every woman whose body I entered over the years. God saw it all. As I stood in the pulpit service after service professing that God was real. He watched. When I read from his book and served his communion. He watched. He never left me. I believe what I realized that Monday afternoon. That God saw it all.
The choice not to get married again was easy. The choice to tell the women in my life that it was over, prove not to be easy. One went to our church Board of Directors, one even went to the National Board of Bishops. Each when they realized they would not be the next First Lady. One sued me and the scandal hit the newspapers.
It was a year before things settle. The ministers of my church kept the construction going. I turned my pulpit over to my Assistant Pastor for a year. My first Sunday, back before my congregation was bittersweet, standing there I knew I had destroyed mostly everything linked to me. I was not the same man and realized that I was not just a man; I was God’s man. God and I now had the same plan for my life. I smiled as I knew God was watching.
Thank you for joining me for Friday at Sundown. Remember… Just Breathe!
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National Domestic Violence Hotline can help victims, survivors of domestic violence. Call 1-800-799-7233. Chat w/ an advocate on our website. National Domestic Violence Hotline: www.thehotline.org/
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