The confirmed report of Pastor Ted Haggard's gay affairs and drug abuse is like a dagger in my soul. My anguish surprises me. I have never met him, I have no ties to his New Life Church, and I know very few who do.
But many of you have asked me to share my thoughts with you. I guess you are hurting too, and you have a hunch that somewhere in this bleakness there's got to be a teachable moment or two.
If there is, it's long overdue. Let's take a look.
Why are we sad?
The five Haggard children come first to mind. They will have to confront what their father has done, why he did it, and what it means. Then, of course, there's his wife, Gayle. What woman would wish now to be the pastor's wife? Anger, sadness, embarrassment, unfounded thoughts of inadequacy, or even personal guilt would all be quite normal at this stage. Then, she must face the future.
Like a stone thrown into a still pond, the ripples of pain flow outwards. Close friends and co-workers have said they are dumbfounded, disappointed, and dazed. Churchgoers, no doubt, feel betrayed.
From a distance, from the outer ring in the agitated pond, the rest of us look on. Yes, their suffering makes us sad, but I think there's more to the trouble in our soul. We know we can't afford to lose more hope — a virtue already in danger of extinction.
Is there any man or woman out there worthy of absolute trust?
Absolute trust? No, not a one!
Saying it, surprisingly, is a great relief to me, and I'm smiling. Here's the first teachable moment. It's so simple! Things are trustworthy to the degree they give us assurance of a future outcome. Imperfect people, because we are imperfect, can merit certain trust, but not absolute trust. With human beings, there are no guarantees.
The distinction is important. I can love people, I can even make lifelong commitments to them, but if my happiness depends on their faithfulness to me, I am building a house on shifty sand. Yes, many people are trustworthy (and some more than others), but no mortal deserves our absolute trust.
The second teachable moment comes with homework included. How will I increase my trustworthiness? What will I do to avoid the sad ripple effect of broken trust?
I don't know the full answer to this, but I think it starts with humility. The humble person recognizes his weakness and acts accordingly. He's the alcoholic who stays away from the bar, the husband who flirts only with his wife, and the power shopper who uses only cash.
I'm sure there are many more learning-moments from all of this. Would you like to share a few?
God bless, Father Jonathan
P.S. A note to Kentuckians, I'll be speaking in Louisville next Saturday. Here's the information for any who would like to attend. It would be great to meet you in person.
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