dear unnamed pastor,

for a very short time, i was under your leadership because, for a very short time, i was part of your ministry. i had already been part of the nursery and had seen these amazing relationships built between people that i knew i could never get by only being in the nursery. so i asked and you said i could join your ministry and help in a particular area. you had given me a chance to prove myself and i was excited to lead well.

only i didn’t. it wasn’t that i didn’t love where i was, what i was doing or who i was with, just that my inexperience with this particular position demanded the attention of all the passers by. and, being young, i didn’t notice.

one day, you called me into your office to discuss my experience and leadership. i had expected something different than i received. you spoke a lot (i remember that) but the only words i can still hear are the ones where you tell me that i’m unfaithful. that i haven’t proven i could be trusted with a little, so why should i be trusted with a lot? and i didn’t defend myself with explanations of why particular events had happened, though in retrospect, i realize that was the right move.

i know you must have said more in our meeting. i’ve spoken with you before and after that day and i know what an excellent talker you are. but all i can remember is sitting in your office, wanting to run out the door crying and never return. you had called me unfaithful and i was. it was embarrassing, shaming, devastating. i quit shortly after that.

honestly, it wasn’t where i was supposed to be doing ministry. i see that now and i think i saw it then. but it took me a long time to realize that not only were you right but that your motives for telling me what you did weren’t so that i’d be embarrassed, just so that i’d be able to grow and learn and mature into the person God made me.

i was 21 when i got my third tattoo. i already had a Jesus fish on my hip and the kanji symbol for hope on my left shoulder blade. it was time for the third, and after weeks of searching, i finally found the symbol i knew i wanted imprinted into my skin forever.

“faithful” is written in kanji because of what you said to me that day. because when i felt that wave of nausea hit me as i realized i hadn’t loved the people i was leading faithfully enough, i knew i never wanted to give anyone ground to declare that i was unfaithful in any way again. i need that constant reminder to be faithful in whatever i’m doing. i have my third tattoo because of you.

i was talking to a friend of mine the other day about this conversation that so definitively shaped much of the woman that i am now. the conclusion that we came to was that not only do you probably not remember this particular talk, but that you probably don’t remember that i was one of your leaders. and that’s not a bad thing. at that stage of my life, i was in no condition to lead.

sometimes when i’m sitting on the giant tire in the playground watching my sunday school kids, i wonder if they’ll remember any of our conversations as defining moments in their lives. i wonder if the things i say to them will have as great an impact as what you’ve said to me. it’s nerve-wracking to think that one rebuke, one instance of justifiable convincing (i take issue with the word “conviction,” but that’s another subject entirely) will shape their futures, depending on how they see it. it is such a huge burden to bear, but one i’m thankful to be entrusted with.

and so, my dear pastor, thank you. thank you for calling me unfaithful because it has redefined the path i was taking. thank you for caring enough about your ministry to help me grow. thank you for igniting the intense drive to never again be known as someone who is unable to be trusted with a little.

with love.