When you’re 16, the slightest influence can shape your view for the good or the bad for a very long time. Kids are so fragile. I’m thankfully recovered from your influence, probably nothing more than a momentary lapse in judgment, and realize it was just a mistake. But it was one of the great letdowns of my teenage years. Thinking about it still causes me to cringe.
My faith was so new, and I was so impressionable and curious with a desire to learn. The walk had just begun.
You’d served our small-town church a few years, there long enough to become “part of the community.” And you were a nice man, too, not the most dynamic evangelist with the deepest messages, but a nice man with a friendly disposition. Everyone liked you.
Always the fan of our high school basketball team you never missed a game and would occasionally drop by the late afternoon practices observing from near the doorway and the old water fountain. You were there that day during a practice break just as a friend and I made our way in your direction for a drink.
What happened next is the surrealist of uncomfortable memories.
You pulled us to the side, as if somehow desperate for our approval, and you told us the dirtiest joke I’ve heard to this day. You were my church pastor. The moment was completely out of context with our relationship. You might as well have slapped me across the face with a brick. Did that really happen?
Now, I wasn’t the most innocent kid on the block, and created as much mischief as anyone, but that moment was so sickeningly wrong. Now what?
For lack of knowing what else to do, I remember faking an awkward laugh and turning to the practice floor. I will always recall it vividly as one of the most displeasing and frustrating moments of young adulthood. It’s unfortunate when poor human judgment affects a young person’s outlook toward something so important.
For years, there was nothing else to do except block the moment from my mind, pretend it didn’t happen. But things were never the same again. I suspect you knew it, too, as I kept a respectful distance.
This isn’t a note about forgiveness, pastor. I never really felt there was anything to forgive. I’m sorry for whatever was present in your life that moment that you felt compelled to act this way. We all make mistakes. But I’ve learned that consequences are brutal.