When my friend, Donny, invited me to visit with him and Ted Haggard, I jumped at the chance. I raced to a local hotel, and joined the conversation in progress. You can read Donny’s excellent series of articles here.
I arrived with a healthy dose of cynicism, even though my wife tells me I’m too trusting and too forgiving. Before me sat a man whose face I’d seen on the evening news, and whose story offers a moral fable to anyone willing to listen.
Emotion gushed from him. Contrition. Anger. Sadness. Humor. I could see why he rose to the levels of leadership he did–Ted Haggard can be a force of nature. He admits his wrongdoings, and freely talks about them. He shared painful parts of his life that made me feel like I was treading on holy ground. Embarrassing stuff. Hypocritical stuff. Sad stuff. Vulnerable stuff.
At times I got the sense I was viewing a stop-motion snapshot of a fast moving object. He has not finished working through his moral/sexual issues… but he’s come a long way. I’m sure his answers to Donny’s questions will be different a year from now. He’s still moving. Still changing. Still in God’s school of redemption.
It’s not my place to tell his story… I can only tell mine.
Mine is that I believed him. I think he’s being real. In my Inner Mess book, I talk alot about secrecy and how it feeds our guilt and shame. Ted recounted 30 years of highly public ministry, and yet a deep secret shame that got “shouted from the rooftops.” Who can’t understand that?
Could he be faking it? Of course. Could I be naive? Maybe. But I can’t operate under that assumption. I don’t want to be that cynical. I can’t see his heart. I can only take him at his word, and if I get burned, so be it.
Should there be ramifications? Yessir. Who should inflict them? Not me. Probably, not you either.
Perhaps this Scripture applies:
“I am not overstating it when I say that the man who caused all the trouble hurt your entire church more than he hurt me. He was punished enough when most of you were united in your judgment against him. Now it is time to forgive him and comfort him. Otherwise he may become so discouraged that he won’t be able to recover. Now show him that you still love him.” 2 Corinthians 2:5-8, NLT.
In the movie, Notting Hill, Julia Roberts plays a famous actress, Hugh Grant a working-class bookseller. In a famous scene, Julia’s character says, “I’m just a girl, standing in front a boy, asking him to love her.”
That scene flashed into my mind while I visited with Ted. In that moment, in that hotel lobby, he wasn’t a famous celebrity. He wasn’t a mega-church pastor. He wasn’t the leader of the nation’s evangelicals.
He was just a guy. A messed-up guy, like me. Like all of us. A guy who’s trying to put his life back together; trying to be true to his heart and family and God. A contrite guy reaching out for God’s healing. And the church’s acceptance. I’m just a guy, sitting in front of some brothers in Christ, asking them to love me. How can you possess an atom of compassion and say no to that spirit?
Doesn’t Christ’s Cross pay in full for every sin? Isn’t the Gospel about hope through Christ for the worst of us? And the worst parts within us?
Ted talked about his pastoral friends abandoning him. He admitted he brought it on himself, but he felt shunned. On the same day we met, I heard of another pastor who had a moral failing. I found him on Facebook, and messaged an offer of friendship, prayer, and redemption. I’ll leave the consequences to others. Could it be that we’re too quick to gang up on a brother who messes up? I can’t say. I just know I’m going to change my ways.
I felt humbled after our meeting. Introspective. Moved.
Most of all, I felt grateful… to God… for his mercies… new every morning.
I’m glad for that.
I pray God’s best for Ted Haggard and his family.
[Donny… thank you for inviting me]