Most of my memories of my childhood are pretty shady. In fact, I thought on Sunday that I was 29. I’m 28. I have a bad memory.
But there is one Saturday that sticks out in my mind, and it comes back to me now and then. It was early in the morning when my parents called. I was a sophomore/junior in college. I was getting ready to go for a run with my roommate. I had on blue pants and white tennis shoes. The wind was blowing, and there were cold, grey clouds in the sky over Lake Michigan.
I sat on my bed while my parents told me that my pastor from back home had left the church because of numerous extramarital affairs. I remember being in disbelief, crying, shaking my head, focusing on a nail hole in the wall. When they hung up, my roommate got her shoes on, and we went outside. We ran a long way. I didn’t talk much, and she didn’t try to make me. I was crying, and she let me, and my ears hurt from the wind.
Her dad called me the next day because he was a good pastor and a good dad, and that’s what they do. I put the phone up to my ear, heard him say, “Adriane?” and handed it back to my roommate. I laid down on the bottom bunk and started crying. I cried more over my pastor than I did when my grandmother died, and that still makes me feel guilty.
But then my confirmation pastor called to see how I was holding up. He was friends with this same pastor, and when I heard the catch in his voice, I started crying, and he started crying too. It was harder on him than it was on me. I sat at my desk in an ugly, tan-walled college dorm room under flickering fluorescent lights while the sky outside turned a blueish black like it did so often over the lake, hearing a grown man cry over the phone.
It doesn’t matter that the pastor who was crying on the phone slapped me the day I was confirmed. Or that he told me to give up my master of arts studies when I got engaged, even though he knew it was the last thing I wanted him to say. Every time I hear from him or about him, I think of him crying too. It had an effect on an impressionable kid.
A few months later, he sent me an e-mail about an article I’d written about that confirmation slap. It said, “Adriane, what a wonderful compliment to be mentioned in such a wonderful article. I would like to say that I remember all my words exactly as you wrote them down -and I think it’s coming back – but you have made me out to be better than I am. The paragraph where I explain to you the significance of the slap made me cry. Partially for my lost bravado and confidence in the Word and partially for my cynicism, depression and apathy too many times since your confirmation. I am inspired to be better by what you wrote. Plus the article is a meaningful contribution to the teaching of the faith. Your work will help many others who read it. Thank you very, very much.”
And reading that makes me think about crying in a ugly dorm room in college over a pastor who lost his way. And I think of another pastor crying over a fellow brother. And I sometimes still cry too because, well, I think that’s what we do.