I sat in the front row, quietly singing along. Suddenly I noticed the pastor on the altar make an exaggerated clapping movement. I looked, and to my surprise he was gesturing to me! He did the clapping movement again, and motioned for me to stand up. No smile appeared on his face; it was an urgent look, almost like a glare at me. My face burned with embarrassment once again all those years later, and I slowly stood and started clapping. I had the same exact feeling as before – if someone puts expectations on me to worship God in the same way as they do, and I don’t conform, something must be wrong with *me*. But by this time in my life, deep down I knew nothing was wrong with me; I am simply an introvert who has preferences just like everyone else has. Besides, I am quiet and was not causing any trouble!! WHAT was the problem??
As soon as his attention was off me and distracted elsewhere, I sat in my chair again. I also had lost my oomph for even “just” singing.
Later that evening, I was at a weekly smaller group church people meeting, with people I liked and felt comfortable around. We did our usual thing, probably eating snacks, laughing, talking about some deep subject. At some point, one of the guys looked at me and said, “Hey Colleen, what was up with pastorname this morning? Why was he making motions at you with a strange look on his face?” And two other guys piped up with, “Yeah, I saw that, too – what was UP with that??”
I promptly burst into tears and wailed, “I don’t know!!”
I told them what I’d seen from the front row and what I did. Obviously they could see I was upset. One of them said, “Well, Colleen, you need to talk to him! You need to tell him that he shouldn’t have done that – that it embarrassed you!” That freaked me out. But I’d known these guys for awhile, and I knew they’d known the pastor for awhile, so finally I said I would call him.
The next day I picked up the phone and dialed. “Uh, hi, Bob; it’s Colleen,” I greeted when he answered. “I, uh, would like to talk to you about something.” I proceeded to explain myself, including the fact that these three guys had encouraged me to call him. When I finished, he replied something like, “Well, Colleen, I didn’t mean to embarrass you. I, uh, I was trying to get people on their feet and clapping. I was looking around for some help in this, and spotted you. That’s why I motioned to you.”
I just said something like, “OK, well, please know in the future that I really don’t like attention brought to me in crowds, so please don’t rely on me again for that.” In my mind I’m thinking, “Why the intense urgent look on your face, then; if that’s ‘all’ you were doing?”
You know, it maybe would have been OK, had he just left it at that. But no. What came out of his mouth next was, “Colleen, I think you have ‘father issues’. Let me pray for you right now.” Can you say GASLIGHTING! “Oh, she’s telling me she was embarrassed by something I did to her. I’ll give her the ‘ole ‘I’m sorry you’re embarrassed’ non-apology, and then make her responsible for my behaviour.” Classic.
So he proceeded to pray aloud for me over the phone line, while I silently listened and rolled my eyes. At the time, rolling my eyes felt so…daring or something. So rebellious. I felt guilty doing it. But I was inching closer to the end of my rope with dealing with patriarchal behaviour. I wish I had just said, “No, thanks! Buh bye!”
I never sat in front row in his presence again.