Murray was a solid citizen. He had been a member of the church for thirty years, and had been married to Denise for forty. They had gone through a massive doctrinal shift ten years into their marriage, had come to understand the doctrines of grace more fully, and had been part of the community life at Grace Reformed in all the years since. They were beloved by the whole congregation. Murray had even served several terms as a ruling elder.
And so it was that when Denise was diagnosed with cancer the entire congregation took it really hard. There was a brief battle, but the cancer was well advanced already, and it was not six months before Murray was a widower. And that is when the oddities began.
About six months after her funeral, Murray began missing church, showing up only sporadically. After several months of that, the pastor took a moment to inquire about it with Murray’s oldest son, married and with a couple kids—and a deacon in the church. “Thanks for asking, “he said. “We had a conference of all the kids just last week, and were going to come to you about it. Dad reconnected a couple months ago with an old high school girl friend online. She’s a Christian, and seems real nice, but all of us kids are varying degrees of very much not happy about it. But we also realize that that’s Dad.”
The pastor asked a couple more questions, and realized that the family might well have had a far deeper understanding of where their father was spiritually than he did. He followed it up a few days later with Murray. He found out then that Murray was now engaged to be married, and they discussed the issues of “suddenness” and “rebounding” for a while. Murray did not appear to be listening that closely, and then took the opportunity to request a transfer of membership to his fiancé’s church, a large megachurch on the other side of town. A few follow-up questions revealed that Murray knew next to nothing about the doctrinal issues involved, and as the pastor was driving away he realized that all the theological gravitas in that household had been coming from Denise. And when God took her home, He had taken away almost all of Murray’s doctrinal ballast.
As it was clear that Murray needed some ballast, the elders approved the transfer at their next meeting.
All the characters and situations in this Fifty Ways series are entirely fictional. The patterns being described, however, are not entirely fictional, and will no doubt be recognized instantly by any experienced pastor.
Image from Unsplash, by Mantas Hesthaven, @mantashesthaven