After four years of vigorous seminary education, Mr. Jones was ordained as a priest, landing a huge job as an assistant pastor for a big Anglican Church. As you can imagine, Father Jones and his wife were excited. The years of sacrifice had finally paid off … or so it seemed.
Father Jones had felt “the call” to serve God as a priest since he could remember. As a young boy, Johnny loved to serve as an acolyte and to pretend to be a priest like Father Richard. As a young man, Johnny always knew where he was headed, even when it seemed that at times he was lost while in college.
After he married his best friend, he knew it was time to become what he was predestined to be: a priest.
After a year of serving in the priesthood, unexpected misfortune knocked on Father Jones’ door in the form of a tragic car accident that took the life of their 2-year-old daughter. For months, Father Jones suffered a deeply entrenched depression that consumed him. The worst part of his suffering was not his emotional pain, but rather the daily effort to mask his pain from the people he was serving.
Months of insomnia led to seeking mental solace during a family vacation. Two nights of insomnia while on vacation led to seeking relief in the use of marijuana, which was legal in the state where he was vacationing. On the night Father Jones smoked his first marijuana cigarette he was hooked, due to his addictive nature.
He felt relieved from his depression and was able to laugh for the first time in what had seemed to be an eternity.
Little did Father Jones know that the loss of their baby girl would not be the only tragedy that would knock on his door. Rather than seeking professional counseling, Father Jones harbored a secret drug addiction that he justified to himself as mature and wise self-medication. His private marijuana use seemed to make him a kinder, gentler and more concerned shepherd in his own eyes, and the eyes of his parishioners.
But Father Jones’ untreated depression left him vulnerable to the flirtatious antics of a middle-aged divorcee with a tumultuous life. The affair was so toxic that it slapped him into reason.
Father Jones realized that in order to be the man of God that he always wanted to be, he needed professional counseling.
He submitted his resignation, confessed his sin to his wife and family, and sought the counseling that he needed for so long. After much hard work and tears, Father Jones has healed and is living happily with his wife and new baby. He no longer desires to serve as a church pastor, but loves his job as a hospice chaplain.
What happens to pastors after they fall?
That depends on the pastor, but in the case of many, these fallen soldiers of the Cross often become the best of servants of the Lord Jesus Christ. Many “fallen angels” move on to live private lives that are focused on the things that really matter: God and family.
Adultery is never justified in the eyes of God, but neither is pride, nor slander, nor judging, nor thinking we are better or less susceptible to sin than others. Pastors who “fall” are reminders to all of us that anyone can fall – regardless of how much Bible we know. They are also living reminders that repentance is for everyone by the power of the blood of Christ.
Rev. Juan C. Rivera of Bluffton is a Latino missions consultant and counseling therapist for Jamison Consultants.