While I waited in the car with the kids, my husband stayed behind and told The Preacher that we would be leaving.
This was actually the second time he told him. The first was the day The Preacher administered ‘The Shunning’ three months before. My husband agreed, at The Preacher’s suggestion, not to leave in the ‘heat of the moment’ but to wait a period of time—perhaps six months—when we could think more clearly. It seemed reasonable, to our way of thinking at the time.
But we didn’t anticipate that for the next three of that six months, we would be subjected to yet angrier tirades than ever before and delivered now…. very deliberately for *our benefit*.
“The Panty Sermon” answered any doubts that we might have had as to whether or not we should stay for that six months.
My husband verbally delivered his final resignation that night, but not without committing to stay at least until he could be replaced as the youth director. He had assumed he’d be allowed to continue teaching in the Institute.
We were to be leaving for youth camp on the following Monday. Paul had been busily collecting monies and applications from the kids as well as making all the usual preparations. He assured The Preacher then that we fully intended to fulfill that obligation also and any other duties that needed our attention before taking leave.
The Preacher told him that he needed to think about that and would let him know the next day what he decided.
The next day was Thursday. We always went visiting on Thursdays and the kids looked forward to the activities planned for them at the church while the adults were visiting prospects. A few hours before time to be there, Paul heard from The Preacher.
His answer? “Don’t come back”. Paul, not certain that he had heard right, asked him, “Don’t come back?” and The Preacher verified that that is indeed what he said. Paul asked him about camp, institute, even visitation, and to all he replied, “Don’t come back. We’ll take care of it all.”
All along, my husband held on to the belief that The Preacher, in spite of the obvious tensions between us, would be gracious and kind enough to let us go as ones whose work was finished there—as the friends and co-laborers we were for so many years. He was shocked and bewildered to discover that he was dismissing us in the same way he would an incompetent employee deserving of nothing more.
Paul called me as soon as he got the word. Upon hearing this, all that I had secretly feared became reality in that instant, and I was overwhelmed with grief. I can’t say that I was shocked that he would do this, but I was shocked at my reaction.
For months I had been so uncomfortable there that I would go to the ladies’ bathroom and feel instant relief for a short time—in the safety of that tiny boxed-in stall—subconsciously hiding until it was time to go home. I longed to be free of that place, but at the same time I ached at the thought of being without it. What a psychedelic mess of emotions!
Even our older kids, upon hearing the news, were shocked and they were the ones who were the most out-spoken against him! No one had allowed themselves to believe he would go to this extent. Even after all he had done up to that moment.
The hardest part was telling our young, clueless kids that we could not go to visitation and worse…..camp. They had a hard time comprehending as we had a hard time explaining why they couldn’t go to visitation that night, or even to camp on Monday.
After some discussion and finally realizing that in order to minimize the damage from this abrupt change, we decided that we would swallow pride and ask The Preacher if all of our kids, at least, could go to camp. The speaker that week of camp was their absolute favorite and they had been looking forward to going even more because of that. My husband and I had taken the teens to camp for eighteen of the nineteen years we were there, and we took all of our kids with us from the time they were born.
Once again, he said he’d think about it, only to call us and tell us he decided that only the younger three could go (and at that, reluctantly). Paul said, “No thanks”. Add insult to injury here.
At this news the older kids decided that they would drive to camp on their own a couple of evenings so they at least could see their friends and hear their favorite speaker. Once The Preacher got word of this, he strategically got word back to us that if they came, he would not allow anyone from the youth group to speak to them.
Later, my husband questioned both The Preacher and the one by which his message was sent as to its validity. The Preacher denied saying it, and the other conveniently ‘didn’t remember’ him saying it.
Finally, if there was any doubt that this man was all as bad as we now perceived, it was completely vanquished at that moment.
I guess you could say that the veil was covering our eyes. As long as we stayed there, we would have to wear the veil. It prevented us from clearly seeing him, and it also prevented him from really seeing us—this way the *blind could lead the blind*.
We could see through the veil, but only enough to navigate in that familiar, walled-in world. The Preacher didn’t know it, nor did he intend it, but he actually did us a favor. He inadvertently ripped off the veil that obscured from us his true character as well as the character of that place we called a church. Only then, could see well enough….
to find our way out.