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  • Writer's pictureJoy Earle

Pasta Primadonna

"You see, Joy," he said, with an elementary principal kind of air. "Your behavior is causing people to see you as the prima donna you really are.”

Ok, I thought that prima doo doo was a noodle dish from Olive Garden — guess not.

In the late 1990s we attended a mega church (eye roll), the atmosphere was hands in the air, hollering, singing and always positive cause we loved Jesus. There was a dark side, and you really wouldn't know until you voiced an unwanted opinion, at which point you were kindly invited to "chat" in one of the staff members’ offices. On this particular day, Jeff and I were invited to come, and we brought our little ones thinking it would be a sweet time of fellowship, my, oh my, we read that one wrong! The kids were held back in the lobby with coloring to do and we were ushered into the Minister of Music's office where he had already seated his "witness" to the inquisition. I am not kidding, it was weird. He turned his chair to me and began reading an account of a situation where I was overheard commenting on the choir dresses donned by our "Celebration Choir.”

Let's stop here for one minute. Back then there was this warehouse out of Texas that sold sequined tents for the women to wear and called them blouson formals! Ugly? Yes, yes they were, but my crime was addressing the fact that the more robust women, when they twirled around, were reminiscent of disco balls from my college days. So, shoot me.

The next crime on the list was the fact that at times I don't appear to be enjoying the serenades coming from the platform due to the fact that my eyes express pain when someone sings off-key. In this case, their investigation showed that is was very possible that I was out of step with the other Christian soldiers and needed to be handled.

Again, let's stop and make note that this is a church of thousands in attendance, but someone was watching my eyes? I plead the Fifth.

The visit was winding down and he pounded the desk a few times, I cried and said I would change. He was gleeful and said, "We will help you be what you need to be." I was about to agree with him and just give in because I had never been yelled at in church except for a “fire and brimstone” sermon! What I did not anticipate was the cavalry in the person of Jeff Earle, the quiet, patient man of my dreams. He rolled up his shirt sleeves, told the fella to turn his chair to him, and listen carefully. "You will never speak to her again. If you ever have anything to say to her, you will say it to me and if I think it is worthy of being repeated, I will take care of it. You have no authority over my family." Boom! I was scared and slightly attracted by his behavior, all the while knowing this was going to be our swan song on the way out of this church. Can church members be fired?

Have you ever been so brainwashed and desperate for acceptance that the unconditional love of the Savior was not enough? Sadly, for me at that point in my life, the answer was yes. God gave me Jeff, he knew it was abuse straight up, and to protect his family it wasn't long before we found a glorious church with safe pasture and a sense of humor. We healed and thrived.

I am still a bit sassy and in need of correction — and God loves me. I am irreverent and find humor in what many may see as humorless — and God loves me. I am not a fan of sequined tent dresses to this day; however, they make for great costumes at Halloween. People sing off-key all the time around me and I have yet to cross my eyes or howl like a wounded dog. I am everything God wants, and I cling to that every moment of every day — and you should as well.

Be you, be free, and get yourself to Olive Garden and order the pasta prima doo doo. It's on me!

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