"Did you ever get any closure from your deal with the denomination?" I asked.
He was either letting the word sink in with the shock or just taking a drag but I didn't look to see which.
He continued. "I was dead wrong, that was my closure. Oh sure, they may have constructed the gallows, thrown the rope over the top, and shown me where they were, they may have a dysfunctional view of holiness and a terrible way of working it out but I made my choices and put my own head in the noose. The truth is I lacked integrity and submission to authority."
Now I was frustrated. I had a picture in my mind I wanted this to fit and this wasn't helping it. When this stuff happens it's better just to remain silent. Talking as you are having your world rocked usually makes you look dumber.
"And Devin- you need to know this- you need to let this bitterness go. Are a bunch of those guys jerks? You BET. They have been for years. But they aren't losing any sleep over you. Stop losing it over them. God wants to take some of that edge of arrogance off of you. They didn't take anything from you that you hadn't already given up. Did you walk too boldly? Maybe. Did you shove the dysfunction in their collective faces? You bet.
"Think of it like this- you're a nerd, right? You like Lord of the Rings. "
I parried with a smirk, "You have the sword of Aragon from the movie."
"Yes," he drawled, "but you read the book." He grinned back.
I laughed. Literally, the day before I had started rereading The Hobbit.
"When Frodo leaves the Shire with Gandalf to go destroy the Ring, remember?"
"It's like you're Frodo, you've left the Shire for something huge, bigger than yourself, to do something that you aren't trained to do and will test you like never before. It's scarier and bigger than you could have ever imagined and you are having a blast.
"It's like all of that happened and then the other people [I refrained from correcting him and saying, "Hobbits"] got together and said, 'Well, we are kicking him out!' ... after you've already left. You decided to leave. You were already gone. They did the only lame thing they could think of and took your credentials. You had already left the Shire.
"... I wish I would have left like you did: with integrity."
If the confession's brutal honesty had floored me the analogy and closing buried me. No one took anything I had not laid down.
Sometimes we (and by "we" I mean "I") are so busy playing victim we fail to own up to our own choices. In a culture of shame we ("I") are so ready to assume that we did wrongly that it is often other's that have to point our our value.
And this is what I find so jarring about Jesus. He looks at me, through all of my stuff, and not only says, "I love you," but that he actually likes me and is even proud of some things I have done.