I’m Sorry… What Did You Just Call Me?

I’m going to be really honest for a moment. Sitting down, under those circumstances, was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. I still remember the expression on the youth pastor’s face. When I hear people talk about misogyny in the church, I think of that moment. I think about things he would say to me, things he would say to my daughter (I’ll get to that in a later post)… looking back, the signs were all there.

As I reluctantly took my seat, he was emboldened to speak his mind. Something he would soon regret. I remember the moment, forever seared into my cerebral cortex. With a smug look on his face he asked, “Do you know what’s wrong with you, Deirdre?” (For the record, it’s NEVER a good idea to ask a woman if she knows what’s wrong with her. NEVER. No intelligent man, LET ALONE GODLY LEADER, would EVER be so arrogant as to assume that he has the right to possess the thought, let alone say the words.)

He didn’t give me a chance to answer the question. (And I most certainly had a few answers for him… colorful, vivid, descriptive answers for where he could shove his question. By this point, taking the high road was becoming increasingly more difficult by the minute.) But, let’s be honest… he wasn’t interested in anything I had to say. All he cared about was making sure I knew he wielded the power as the next four words escaped his mouth: You’re like a hernia.

I’m sorry… what did you just call me?

I guess the look on my face was something to be reckoned with, because all the color drained from his face. I remember what happened next like it was yesterday, and I will for the remainder of my days on this earth because it’s one of the reasons why I love my husband so much.

I looked at him, mostly for confirmation that my ears weren’t deceiving me, and then his eyes met mine. He began shaking his head in dismay and waved his hand as a sign for me to do what I had LONGED to do for the past 20 minutes: Speak the TRUTH without fear of the consequences… without caring about the youth pastor’s threat of tattletaling to our pastor. My husband knew he was witnessing a clear abuse of power and, instead of defending my honor, he let me defend it myself.

I asked the youth pastor for clarification. My response went something like this:

Well, I guess the big question is what you’re planning to do with me. As far as I know, you deal with hernias in one of two ways: you surgically remove them or stuff them back into place. So which is it? Do you want to remove me from the youth ministry or put me back into place… whatever you think that place might be? Inquiring minds want to know. (Yes, I did say that last part. It was snarky and not remotely helpful in diffusing the situation, but under the circumstances, I give credit to the Holy Spirit for the restraint because I was genuinely consumed by righteous indignation. In what universe is this acceptable?) And where in the world was it coming from?!?! How was it possible that I could lead a group for five months, have documentation of every activity… including requests for approval of ALL activities… and be called a hernia by the person who granted me the permission? Not once was a concern EVER voiced… until these kids stood in front of the church and told them how much they were learning from me.

The youth pastor tried to say he misspoke, but seriously, even Lance Armstrong couldn’t back peddle out of this one. And for the second time that night, my husband reminded me why we’re married. He called the youth pastor out on the spot. He told him that for the first time that evening he WAS speaking the truth… that he actually did see me as a threat that needed to be dealt with, that he was obviously threatened by my intelligence and how much these kids were responding to my time with them. He told him I had absolutely no interest in taking over his job and that I was probably the biggest asset he had… but that his insecurities blinded him from seeing my strengths, or maybe it was just his jealousy that kept him from acknowledging them. And with that, my husband stood up, looked at me, and said, “We’re done here.”

Yeah… my husband is the BEST.

We got in the car and didn’t say a word for a while. I think we were trying to process what happened. Eventually, my husband mentioned something about reaching out to the pastor. Obviously, the lead pastor would deal with this and make it right. There were WAY TOO MANY things that needed to be brought out into the light and addressed, right? (Again… never assume anything. We never imagined things could get worse than this. But they did.)

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