Photo by Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta
God is real. God is all things. God is one.
If this is the truth, you will find God everywhere when you seek Him; like in your home, or better yet your heart.
I officially became a Christian in the early 1990s. And it’s no secret that I also respect other faiths, especially Buddhism. (Other Christians seem to have an issue with that, but it’s their problem if they choose to be judgmental).
Other Christians may also have a problem with the fact that I go to more than one church and I do not go very often. Yeah, I’m “one of those” (that’s how a pastor, who I’ll refer to as “Pastor D,” phrased it).
You see, I had a “favorite” church for sometime. What I love about this church (where I’m a member, but still do not consider it a “home church”) is that they have services on Christmas Day unlike many other churches. Also, they have the best Good Friday service. These are the times when I truly love to praise Christ in an open-setting.
But my “favorite” church is missing a little something. I can’t quite pinpoint it, so I continue to seek. A few months ago I tried a new one. This is the one where Pastor D speaks. The first time I liked it. They had a great live band. It was low-key, as in people and the pastor wore jeans, and I really did enjoy the sermons.
Pastor D said that if I came to the church three times I’d get a t-shirt; which I never did receive after my third time. Then I missed a few weeks, because as I said, I’m not a frequent church goer; especially after the last service which happened to dwell on giving 10 percent of your salary to the church. Big turn-off.
Even without church I have a very close relationship with God. I pray a few times a day. In fact, it’s the first thing I do in the morning. My husband is equally as spiritual. We pray and meditate together, regularly. My husband goes to my churches with me on occasion; as I go to his on occasion. He still goes to the same church he did growing up.
In addition to going to my “favorite” church and the Pastor D church, I sometimes visit others, as well as the Dharma Buddhist Center. But all of this is no one’s business except God’s.
So, for a few months after trying Pastor D’s church, every week I was hounded by him via FaceBook e-mails. “Are you and your husband coming this week?”
The answer was often a polite, “No, not this week.”
In addition to the emails, Pastor D also put me in two prayer groups on FaceBook and would message me on a regular basis. At least three of these messages were what Pastor D referred to as “butt calls” where he sat on his phone and my number dialed accidentally.
Pastor D was overwhelming. It seemed like I was being forced to go to church because every week I had to come up with an explanation as to why I wasn’t going. If I said, “I’m just not feeling it,” I’m sure that wouldn’t sit right with him and I’d have to explain further.
Truth be told, if I go to church, or any spiritual/religious organization, it’s because I want to go, not because I’m guilt-ed into it.
A few nights ago I was watching an episode of “Dating Naked” and the two main contestants had to let dates go because they were too possessive. This reminded me of when I was single. I never liked boyfriends who made me feel trapped or smothered; those who would pout and call me names if they didn’t get their way.
The way Pastor D was behaving in his emails brought back those ugly memories of relentless boyfriends and I felt so pressured, I couldn’t hold back my feelings anymore. I told him how I felt.
Like a spoiled child, he defended himself by writing, “Shut up! I’d rather be overbearing than have someone feel like they are unloved because no one is reaching out to them.”
If he actually took the time to READ my FaceBook page, he’d know how busy and how loved I feel. I have the greatest husband in the world. My friends are incredible. And I’m so blessed by God to have a career that I love so much I never want to retire!
Making someone feel suffocated isn’t “caring” — it’s obsessive. It’s manipulative. And it’s scary. It doesn’t bring someone closer to you (or God), it pushes people away. It’s like the telemarketer that never takes your name off the list. When someone or something is always in your face, you feel like puking your guts out. It does not feel good at all.
You have to let people be! God knows their heart and why they may not want to go to church. The best things in life take time to grow. You can’t expect someone to fall in love with a certain church overnight!
I felt so judged by this pastor and was very disappointed. I felt that him writing “Shut up” to me was so cruel and unprofessional.
I tried to rationalize and told him he wasn’t being very nice to me.
And again, like a cry baby, he overreacts and sends me a photograph of a dolphin’s tail waving “good-bye” to me. Very un-pastor-like!
Then faster than a greased rat’s ass, he unfriended me and took me off all his prayer groups on Facebook.
I was shocked. That was definitely was a first! I never in a million years would expect to be fighting with a pastor on a beautiful afternoon.
God gives us free will to choose and pastors should too. If pastors can’t trust in God and have to unfairly control people to go to church, they do not have good leadership qualities.
I’m hurt, but not broken. Behavior like this is exactly what turns people away from churches and Christianity in general. It’s so sad that Pastor D missed the point of what God is — free will.
Nevertheless, I stand strong in my faith and will continue to pray for God’s guidance. I trust He will let me know, whether He wants me in a church, or to pray from home as I’ve been. It’s His call, not mine. But it’s God that I trust. Not man. And I will continue my Christian practices, with my Bible … in my home and in my heart. ❤
As for the pastor, I hope he’s asking for God’s forgiveness not only for the pain he caused me, but because had he done this to someone who wasn’t as strong in their faith as I am, he would have turned that person far away from God. This is the exact reason why people hate Christians. And sometimes you can’t blame them.
Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta is the author of “On the Guest List: Adventures of a Music Journalist” — a POSITIVE rock ‘n’ roll memoir available on Amazon in paperback only: https://www.amazon.com/Guest-List-Adventures-Music-Journalist/dp/162903908X