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Uncle Dexter & John Calvin & Me


Photo by Caleb Woods on Unsplash


February 20, 2024


You have no idea how much I wanted you to be my father Truly You have no idea

You were my father’s brother I saw you as the purer, dare I say perfect version of a father So unlike your brother

My abuser

In you

I saw the keys to acceptance and pure fatherly love And through that

To the very throne of God I would have been wholly content

To bow before the throne And worship God

My God

With all my being

I longed for your embrace I longed to be held close in your arms With not a hint of expectation of that… thing… That thing I was too young to understand That thing I was helpless to provide As a little girl As a daughter That thing I was forced to do


I’m sick Just remembering Your brother And I’m sick

Sick

Sick Because you knew And I knew you knew And you did nothing


For a time When I was very young You were as enchanted with me

As I was with you


And then You became a Baptist Minister And just a short while later

You had some sort of epiphany

And you became a Reformed Baptist Minister

And that was when it all came apart

That is when it all fell down


I kept chasing after your love

Your approval

Your acceptance

For so much of my life

Too much of my life

I was desperate for you, the purer, dare I say perfect version of a father


But who was I kidding?

I knew it was too late

My father was gone

The hope of a father was gone

The time was long past

It was the missing piece of me

And there was no making it whole


No matter how hard I prayed

No matter how good I was

And I was good

I was so very good

I did so good for so long

There was always that missing piece of me

And it would never be made whole


I kept asking you about your faith

I kept trying to understand

I desperately wanted to understand

So I could accept it

Embrace it

Because maybe then

You’d love me

Because if you loved me

Surely God loved me

But if you couldn’t love me

How could God?

How could anyone?


“God is perfectly holy. He cannot tolerate being in the presence of sin,”

You explained


“We have a savior who covers our iniquity with his sacrifice, so God sees us as sinless and blameless,”

You explained


“But we must be called by the Holy Spirit, the ability to respond to God’s saving grace is something God gives us, we cannot choose it, we are helpless and hopeless on our own,”

You explained


“So not everyone has an opportunity to choose God?”

I asked


“No!”

You said


“God withholds his grace, and we are powerless without his grace. There is no salvation without God’s gift of grace. It initiates from him. It only comes from him,”

You said


“So God decides some people will be saved and others will go to hell? And he decides that before we are born?”

I asked

Baffled

Baffled

Baffled


“Yes!”

You responded


It was clear you were so glad I finally figured it out!

So that was nice

That you were proud of me

But that good feeling didn’t last long


“I just don’t get it,”

I said

But only in my head


“Oh, I see, I get it,”

I said

Out loud

To my Uncle Dexter


“How do I know if I am saved?”

I asked


Wanting desperately to be In

And no longer Out

Wanting desperately to be accepted

To just be loved

For who I was

For who I am


“You shall know them by their fruits,”

He explained


And then he read me the Fruits of the Spirit

And in spite of the fact there was nothing good in me that wasn’t from God

I checked myself against the fruits

And figured I was doing pretty darn good

I figured I was on the right track, anyhow


And then, later, when I was 31

(No longer a child at all)

He sat across from me in my living room

In the old house I rented

In the small town where he lived

Where I had moved to be

NEAR HIM


I had to be near him, you see

So I could be saved

So I could BE SAVED

But really

I moved there

So I could feel loved

So I could FEEL LOVED


HA! Now we’re into the CAPITAL LETTERS

That means shit got serious


I was dating a man

I was hopeful

I was 31

(No longer a child at all)

The proverbial clock was ticking

I wanted to marry

Have a family

That wasn’t so bad to want

Was it?

Everyone wanted that

Right?


Let’s travel back, now

To my living room in the small town

Where I had moved

To be NEAR HIM


Uncle Dexter sat across from me and read from his Bible:


“You cannot carry hot coals against your chest without burning your clothes, and you cannot walk on hot coals without burning your feet.”

That’s from Proverbs;

Proverbs 6:27–28

To be precise


He wanted me to give up the man I was dating

He wanted me to be pure

And blameless

And sinless

And Pure

Pure

Pure

Pure


He didn’t get that I could never be pure

Pure wasn’t in the realm of possibility

Not since I had been a very young child


And just now

As I write this pain into a poem

Curious,

I go back and read that scripture


Uncle Dexter didn’t read this part:


“The same is true if you have sexual relations with another man’s wife. Anyone who does so will be punished. People don’t hate a thief when he steals because he is hungry. But if he is caught, he must pay back seven times what he stole, and it may cost him everything he owns. A man who takes part in adultery has no sense; he will destroy himself. He will be beaten up and disgraced, and his shame will never go away. Jealousy makes a husband very angry, and he will have no pity when he gets revenge. He will accept no payment for the wrong; he will take no amount of money.”

That’s the passage that follows;

Proverbs 6:29–35

To be precise


And it didn’t pertain at all to my situation


NOT. AT. ALL.


I’m shocked to find this!

I’m shocked he took those verses out of context!

In order to punish me

In order to contain me

In order to control me


I see it now

Quite clearly

I’m saddened

But not surprised

To know


My Uncle Dexter was a FRAUD


So you see, when Calvin

(“My buddy Calvin” haha)

When Calvin says works are nothing

And even a heart open and willing to receive Christ

Is nothing

Like filthy rags

And that only God can choose us

We cannot choose Him

And you will know them by their fruits…


I think of my Uncle Dexter

His “fruits” were


Condemnation


Judgment


Disdain


So after a while

I moved away from that small town

Because I couldn’t be a Calvinist

I just couldn’t

I was just that evil

I could not be in his presence


Be gone,

He said


I never knew you,

He said


You are not one of Us,

He said


I thought the pain of losing him might kill me

But it didn’t


I Persisted

I Persevered

And I studied

And I prayed

And I sought Truth


And one day

I saw a little light

A long way off


And another day

A long time after that

I realized the light

Was the light of dawn


And even longer after that

Many years after that

I realized I was basking

In the full bright shining light of

God’s love


And I said

Out loud

Real loud


“Uncle Dexter is in hell!”


(Except I don’t believe in hell

Uncle Dexter cured me of that sickness

I can certainly thank him for that!)


And when I considered taking Reformed Theology

I was so so so scared

I didn’t want to face the demons


“No better time than the present!”

I thought


“Pay now or pay later!”

I thought


I knew it would be so so so hard


I went to that first class

And thought about dropping


And the next class

And thought about dropping


And the class after that

And, honestly

I still think about dropping


But I won’t


My friend Stephanie is with me

And she encourages me

She just plain loves on me


And the professor is very kind


Then one day

Just a few days back

When I was reading Calvin

I said

Out loud

Real loud


“John Calvin was an asshole!”


And then I laughed!

And I laughed!

And I laughed and laughed and laughed!

I realized it was joy I was feeling


And I got a little bit free


I fantasize

That someday

I’ll meet John Calvin


I’d like to tell him what pain he has caused

Millions and millions and millions of people

But I won’t


I won’t need to

Because in heaven

That sort of thing doesn’t matter


We are reconciled

We are no longer adversaries

We are One


Someday

Someday soon Uncle Dexter & John Calvin & Me

Will have some heavenly biscuits and tea

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