Implementing The Emotionally Destructive Marriage: Is It Worth Church Discipline? Pt. 4

Morning friends,

I am on my way to California – pray for safe travels. Hope to arrive on Friday afternoon.

Moving Beyond People Pleasing will be starting February 9th. If you are someone who has trouble setting boundaries, is easily manipulated into saying yes when you know you should say no, or keep paying the high price of being too nice, this class is for you. For more information click here.

This month I have been helping you “see” your shadow side. Robert Lewis Stevenson’s story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is a great example of the split where the one side (Dr. Jekyll) is completely unaware of his shadow, Mr. Hyde.

Don’t get your shadow confused with another psychological term “disassociation”. Disassociation is something all of us do, like zone out when you’re driving over a long stretch of boring road and all of a sudden you “wake up” and wonder where you are. Disassociation is also a natural (and good) response to trauma – where you “zone” out during the trauma and later don’t remember what happened. However, some people who have been repeatedly traumatized in childhood, may develop something that is called Disassociation Identity Disorder where their personality has failed to develop in a whole way and instead is fragmented into various “selves” which feel very separate and unknown to one another.

Try to think of some biblical characters where we see “shadow” selves get the best of them. For example, David, who is described as a man after God’s own heart, also had a greedy, selfish side and sometimes that side got the best of him (2 Samuel 11). When Nathan the prophet confronted him on his “shadow” David saw it, owned it, and humbly repented. (Psalm 51). On the other hand, King Saul was envious of David’s popularity and sought to have David killed (1 Samuel 18). However, Saul continued to be “unaware” of his envious side. He wants to “blame David” instead, and because of his continued blindness, it continued to control his decisions, even when he made claims of repentance (1 Samuel 24).

Implementing The Emotionally Destructive Marriage:
Is It Worth Church Discipline? Pt. 4

In this series of blog posts, I’ve been explaining my response to a recurring situation that some women face in evangelical churches, that of formal disciplinary action taken when the woman begins to implement natural consequences as explained in Leslie’s book. These last two blog posts deal with self serving ways my husband used Scripture against me and my conclusion in this church discipline issue.

“The intentions of a person’s heart are deep waters, but a discerning person reveals them.” (Proverbs 20:5) Since the beginning of our marriage, my husband has used this verse to justify why he doesn’t have to be emotionally transparent with me. It excuses his tendency to “not tell everything” he knows and shifts the onus to me to be discerning enough to ask the right questions to “draw out” his heart and to “really know” him. It conceals the explanation for any questionable behavior behind a thin veil of, “You don’t know me very well because you don’t ask the right questions.” However, even when I did learn how to ask direct questions in a gentle way, I observed that he doesn’t really answer them. Instead, he changes the subject, answers with a question, or redirects the focus of the conversation back to me.

Taken in context, this isolated comment on human nature takes on a completely different meaning. Starting in Proverbs 10, Solomon presents pithy, descriptive sayings that illustrate “the way of wisdom,” which begins with the fear of the LORD. Among these are the following:

“Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire;
He breaks out against all sound judgment.
A fool takes no pleasure in understanding,
But only in expressing his opinion.” (Proverbs 18:1-2)

From these verses we can reasonably conclude that just because it’s difficult to discern all of one’s motivations, this doesn’t mean that one is justified to obscure and follow his own thinking. God rightly calls this person a fool, not wise, when he isolates himself from revealing himself in a relationship and doesn’t seek to cooperate in understanding the deep waters of his own heart.

Throughout our marriage my husband has kept himself aloof from close relationships. We have lived in eight different cities in our twenty-six years of marriage, moving whenever his vocational desires metamorphosed. He does not maintain connections with previous friends or anyone in his family, except his parents, who reach out to him without probing into his life. Naturally, this constant shifting of community and loss of close friendships has caused me great emotional pain and created a persistent sense of isolation and loneliness.

Couple the proverb about a person’s intentions with 1 Corinthians 13:7, “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things,” and my husband feels that he has a watertight case to assert, “You can’t know my heart, and the Bible requires you to be charitable when there is any possible way to interpret the data of the situation in a positive light.” However, Paul opens the chapter by pointing out that actions done in the name of love, such as communicating fluently in different languages, understanding all the mysteries and knowledge of the universe, and possessing faith to move mountains, but devoid of genuine love are meaningless. In other words, doing whatever you please and calling that love is entirely different from actually loving another person. The first kind of “love” will be characterized by the contraindications in verses 4-6, and 8-12, and true love will look like the rest of the chapter.

One of our previous pastors who is biblically grounded and passionate about his relationship with God explained to a close friend of mine who is also in a difficult marriage, “Generally women who are healthy know what love looks like.” This was in the context of her observing hurtful words and behaviors from her husband. Our pastor was saying that when a woman who follows Christ’s lead does not feel loved by her husband, the problem likely lies not in some flaw in the wife’s perception, but it has to do with the husband’s skewed view of what love really is (more on this topic in another blog post). Therefore, for my husband to require charitable judgment from me without demonstrating a loving life himself isn’t love at all. Rather it’s spiritual compulsion where an emotionally destructive person has license to treat me however he wants and to expect unreserved love in return.

When I found that our last church was not supporting my efforts to diagnose and heal our marriage and excluding me from fully using my gifts in ministry, I asked my husband if we could look for a different home church. I was not alone in my prompting to do this, as at least seven families who had been active in the church in the past had placed their membership at other local congregations over a period of five years.

My husband didn’t consider my opinions about the church’s lack of application of doctrine or my need for relationship as valid. Rather, he was mostly concerned about getting a strong character reference for his next full-time position and keeping the tuition reduction from attending a church in the seminary’s denomination. (tweet this)

He argued that this church was good for our children, and I was the only one who had a problem with it. Couldn’t I consider the needs of my family over my own? When I asked my husband if we could spend time with another family in leadership, my husband was far too busy supporting our family for that. When I requested that a new family with children our children’s ages be added to our small group, they were invited to join one of the other pastor’s groups. When I asked my husband why he didn’t consider my interests when talking to the pastor of member care about the makeup of our small group, he said, “I think you consider your spiritual desires and needs too highly.” Essentially, what I wanted or needed didn’t matter at all.

From the beginning of biblically recorded time, God pronounced curses on the serpent, Eve, and Adam in Genesis 3: Satan would always be at enmity with the children of man, Eve and Adam would have extreme toil in childbearing and providing for the family, respectively, and Eve and Adam would tend to be at enmity between themselves, left to themselves.

Nothing changed about the state of the fallen created order until Jesus Christ provided a solution in His life, death, and resurrection. Then Paul the Apostle describes a new created order for male-female relationships in Colossians 3 and Ephesians 5. Both the husband and wife are called, not to “be nice” and “do better,” but to be transformed by their respective identities in Christ. Instead of the wife being “against” her husband from Genesis 3, she is to place herself in harmony with her husband’s authority, “as to the Lord,” or in anything that their LORD would ask of her. Equally important, the husband is required to love his wife as Christ loves her. He is no longer to “rule over her” (Gen. 3) as her god but to empty himself of himself for her, just like Paul in Philippians 2 describes that Jesus did for every believer.

My husband continually expects me to submit to his authority as suits him, while disregarding the commands he is required to follow and laughing derisively at me when I explain how I am experiencing a deeper identification with Christ’s character in me. I’ve found that Colossians 3:18 and Ephesians 5:24 don’t bind me to serve my husband’s preoccupation with self when he makes demands of me that Christ does not. Instead, the onus lies on me to calmly, but firmly, point out how my husband is attempting to “rule over” me instead of loving me.

Read part 1, part 2 and part 3

Friends, what Scripture have you had used against you in your destructive relationships and what ways have you learned not to be bullied by the misuse of Scripture?


  1. Pete on January 27, 2015 at 7:40 pm


    Please link to parts 1-3…


  2. Becca on January 27, 2015 at 9:01 pm

    Which Scripture? Oh boy, where do I start? It wasn’t until I chose to seriously study the word “submission” and “headship” did I learn the real meaning of a Christian marriage and was set free from feeling like I had to stay in an abusive marriage.

    One of the main verses used against me was in Ephesians 5 “wives submit to your husbands.” Okay, yuckky verse. But what does it really mean? Many like to assign the military meaning of hierarchy or subordination to “submit.” That is incorrect. Submission is translated from hupotasso meaning “support or carrying a burden.” If wives were meant to be subordinate to their husbands, the word “hupeiko” (meaning submit to) would have been used. In the next paragraph children are told to obey their parents. The word there that is used to mean “obey” is hupakouete. Again, this word was NOT used for wives towards husbands.

    Another section that I had to sort out and be released from was “the man has authority over his wife.” Look at I Pet 3:7 “The same goes for you husbands: Be good husbands to your wives. Honor them, delight in them. As women they lack some of your advantages. But in the new life of God’s grace, you’re equals. Treat your wives, then, as equals so our prayers don’t run aground.”

    Another verse for better understanding is I Cor 11:3 where our translation typically uses “authority” or ‘head” We mistranslate that to mean what we normally translate “authority” or “head” to mean, “hierarchy.” The original word is “kephale” which means “source of love and comfort.” It does not mean “head,” as in a boss or someone in charge. Read that passage again and where it states “authority” or “head,” use “source of love and comfort.”

    When we apply the correct meanings to the translation, God’s structure of marriage is very beautiful. I hope someday I can experience that kind of relationship.

    • Rebecca on January 31, 2015 at 11:38 am

      Becca, you make excellent points, solid and clear. I’m with you all the way to your conclusions and back. I see exactly what you are saying (Next time, if the Lord gives us a next time, maybe cite your text source/s: Westcott and Hort? (–I assume), Textus Receptus?, Nestle-Aland?, et. al. 🙂 )

      The issue, in my experience, is that everyone will simply use the Greek (see examples below) to find what they want to justify. I offer an alternative approach below that could possibly (Lord willing, with enough fervent walls-of-prayer behind it) work better because it worked for an equally serious issue -maybe even more serious: slavery.

      For example, see Rebecca Jones (Beneth Peters Jones, Ribbing Him Rightly: The Christian Wife, 2nd. ed. (Greenville, SC: BJU Press, 2000), 24-26, 39-40. –Jones is the wife of Bob Jones III, the current president of Bob Jones University. –I was a student there. They have their own team of Greek scholars, as you can imagine. They claim that a wife is to bring “all things” under her husband’s headship, which she explains is “actively gathering, ordering, and submitting to your husband’s control all those things that are under your supervision (including the checkbook and the children),” —A wife is always to submit to her husband unless he commands her to do something which clearly violates Scripture. So, see now, it’s even a bigger quagmire as you fight over –NOW- two sets of Greek passages (the “submission” passages and the “does it violate scripture” passages). Becca, I’m not certain, but I don’t know of a way to “win” arguing from the text alone. It is pure quicksand.

      We must never forget, as I am certain you already know, to bath this whole debate in fervent prayer because so many “experts” go right to the Greek easily positing models which give the husband nearly absolute power and authority. Evans, for instance, states that a wife must never find ways around obeying her husband. Evans, Marriage without Divorce (Christian Womanhood Publications: Crown Point, IN: 2000), 22-53. Submission: Are There Limits? (Denver: Tri-Ministries), 36-42, 49, 52.

      Becca, it gets just so dogmatic. See Hyles, Woman the Assembler: Making Your Husband a Leader (Hammond, IN: Hyles Publications). Hyles argues that short of actual physical abuse, a wife should bite her tongue in response to her husband p. 8-46, adapt more than the man since he is the head. Furthermore, due to the husband’s great authority, she should never try to change him. Even if a husband is a tyrant, the wife should yield and give it to God. God has ordained a rigid domestic authority structure. The husband is the God ordained leader for the home. His authority is great (he has the final authority and is to be obeyed) and it is extensive (it extends to every domain of life).

      I do think the following argument might work if, again, enough fervent walls-of-prayer were behind it, just like they were for the slavery issue. Think about the relevance of the slavery debate in America one hundred and fifty years ago to the principle of allowing believers to make moral judgments about their marriage situation without having specific corroborating Greek proof texts. On the whole, the PRO-slavery writers were the ones who built their arguments directly from detailed Greek Scriptural arguments (check the literature of the period it is obvious and pervasive), whereas the abolitionists almost to a person mostly appealed to broad biblical themes of justice, love, brotherhood, kindness, Christ-like-caring, etc. Elizabeth Fox-Genovese and Eugene D. Genovese, American slavery historians, note that abolitionists, “increasingly retreated to the swampy terrain of individual conscience,” but PRO-slavery southerners “took great comfort in the Bible’s detailed demonstrable justification of slavery, which led them to attend carefully to the Bible’s pronouncements on other matters as well, for the Word of God referred directly, not abstractly to their society. (The Divine Sanction of Social Order: Religious Foundations of the Southern Slaveholders’ World View,” Journal of the American Academy of Religion (1987): p 55-215, cited by Wayne A. Meeks, “The ‘Haustafeln’ and American Slavery: A Hermeneutical Challenge,” in Theology (2002).

      If we go back “like a broken record” showing that the PRO-slavery writers were the ones who built their detailed arguments directly from Scripture (and did they ever proof text!), whereas the abolitionists nearly always appealed to broad biblical themes of justice, love, brotherhood, kindness, Christ-like-caring, etc. –maybe– we could keep the discussion out of the Greek. It sure looks like you have to keep the discussion out of the Greek because it is multiple-choice once you entire that quagmire. See David L. Balch, “Household Codes,” in Greco-Roman Literature and the New Testament: Selected Forms and Genres, ed. David Aune (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1988), 25-50; Let Wives Be Submissive: The Domestic Code in 1 Peter (Chico, CA: Scholars Press, 1981).

      Becca, it also gets really tough when you talk about “mistranslations” because that casts doubt on 1900 years of Greek scholars many of whom had access to source documents that are lost forever. Just Google “Q source” read the Wikipedia entry. We don’t have even a fragment of Q and yet look how it is the co-source for Matthew and Luke. -1900 years of Greek scholars got it all wrong? (It is certainly possible but that way lies endless complex labyrinths where abuse can hide behind translations.)

      God’s structure for marriage is very beautiful, especially as you have beautifully described it. You understand it well. But this battle is about power and male ego so it can only be won through constant prayer. We need to pray hard enough to move the very hand of God. Our arm of flesh will always fail against those holding onto male power bases. These are “the traditions” and the way it “has been done.” Men will fiercely defend these doctrines no matter how much they have to torture the texts. Traditional gender role theology has 1900 years of Greek scholarship behind it. So did slavery. The abolitionists knew they couldn’t play that game and “win.” With constant prayer and a focus on Christ-like-caring in Biblical Standards, they kept the focus on the higher place to go.

      That said, if the Lord burdens your heart that you approach it that way, then you go that way.

      I think the issue is how do we keep people humble enough not to abuse power. You have power, you have abuse. It takes almost no time. We women do it too. I get one (just one, Becca) good day under my white floral pleated skirt and bam, I start getting arrogant too. I constantly have to find my way back to God’s heart.

      • Remedy on February 2, 2015 at 12:04 pm

        How about simply “Husbands, love your wife as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her” and make a study of how Jesus handled people and situations. Jesus said the Gentiles ‘lord’it over you…..but not NOT so with you for whoever wants to be first shall be last and whoever wants to become great must become your servant. If we alp practiced what the plain texts say, we should not be suffering these troubles in a marriage between true believers. Matters should he settled easily. Beyond that, there is the teaching in I Corinthians 7 that says a woman should not separate, but if she does she is to remain unmarried or reconciled to her husband. No reasons for her separation are stipulated…..I believe on purpose. A woman must examine her heart, know she did all she could do and make her decisions as to how the Lord leads. Love does NOT delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. We must stand and speak for truth, not unrighteousness.

        • Remedy on February 2, 2015 at 12:06 pm

          And I do believe God will hold us accountable at least for how we handled the truth of His Word.

          • Rebecca on February 4, 2015 at 2:41 pm

            “And I do believe God will hold us accountable at least for how we handled the truth of His Word.” –Certainly true. PRO-slavery writers built vast and detailed arguments directly from Scripture (Walls of proof texts! –just survey the period literature), whereas the abolitionists nearly always appealed to broad biblical themes of justice, love, brotherhood, kindness, Christ-like-caring, etc.

            “Beyond that, there is the teaching in I Corinthians 7 that says a woman should not separate, but if she does she is to remain unmarried or reconciled to her husband.” –I agree but do churches follow that? Also, consider the divorce saying in Matthew 5:31 – 2 as an example: It says, “ Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce. ” But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of adultery, makes her an adulteress; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” –Do churches follow that? Do people really care what it says? My pastor just says to me: Oh, well, what are you going to do?

            I think we CAN be totally healed, it’s just our parents, our spouses, our children cannot heal us. They never could, right? Only the Lord God can do that. He is LOVE and gives this LOVE freely. We just don’t usually experience it the way we should so we walk around thinking it’s our husband’s job, or that we are meant to just live on scraps or be empty the rest of our lives, absolutely NOT. Have you really trusted in Jesus Christ as your Savior? I mean are you all in to the point where if Jesus Christ is just a Legend or a Lunatic or a Lair you have lost absolutely everything (All in)? There is no value in seeking to demonstrate the symbolism of the gospel (a good marriage) until you have first received of its substance—Christ Himself.

            Think about God’s love for you if you are His. Bible concepts are operating at dual levels (historical and spiritual) in the Word-of-God. Think about the Song of Solomon 4:9 “. . . You have made my heart beat faster with one glance of your eyes, . . .” Okay, historically that applies to that couple but it also applies to you and the Lord. All that has to happen when you are praying to the Lord God is for you to glance upward toward Him and God’s heart beats faster. That’s how much He loves you (–and that is how much He loves me too.) Anyway, it’s actually really unbelievable how much God loves us. God’s love is perfect and so He always responses to His children with perfect love.

          • Leslie Vernick on February 5, 2015 at 12:15 am

            God’s love is perfect and when he loves people perfectly it doesn’t always mean he has great or personal relationships with them. God calls us to unconditional love but not unconditional relationship. I don’t want people to think that if only they trusted in God’s love, living with a deceitful, abusive person would not have negative effects on my body, soul, or spirit. It does. God’s Word says it does.

      • Leslie Vernick on February 3, 2015 at 11:05 pm

        Thanks so much for these great thoughts and references.

        • Rebecca on February 5, 2015 at 3:27 pm

          “God’s love is perfect and when he loves people perfectly it doesn’t always mean he has great or personal relationships with them.” –Certainly true on the “great” part but the “personal part?” I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately. I could see you being right in this sense in history: No one really dwelled on or talked about having a “personal relationship” with God until the German Piety movement of the 17th century. The Bible never uses the phrase. Paul never tells the churches that they need better “personal relationships with Jesus.” The other epistles don’t talk about ways to “strengthen” that “personal relationship,” etc. Relationship with God is almost exclusively described in Scripture as a communal experience. Maybe the emphasis on “personal relationship” is a modern emphasis, more rooted in Enlightenment thinking than in Scripture. No end to the ways I can be wrong about things.

          “. . . I don’t want people to think that if only they trusted in God’s love, living with a deceitful, abusive person would not have negative effects on my body, soul, or spirit. It does. God’s Word says it does.” –Oh, I trust people didn’t think that but I see your point. I guess you can’t put enough disclaimers on things. My mother is 93 and destroys me (body, soul and spirit) with her hateful words: I am “. . . the daughter not worth having.” “God may love you but I don’t.” Only my sweet husband can deal with her. Somehow, she can say to him: “I don’t know how you keep your job” and he just laughs it off. It eviscerates me. She has to live with us for all kinds of reasons. I’ve been everywhere in God’s Word, I don’t know how to finish well with her. Many days I think she could outlive me.

          We are going to have a conditional relationship. We are going to have conditional respect. Just saying that feels good. –One thing about those German Piety movement leaders, they wrote that “SIN is insanity.” Sin (all forms of deceit, abuse) create train wrecks that destroy every one including the sinner. Preachers talk about the “pleasures of sin” for what? A day or two. Then a lifetime of broken relationships and separation from God in the hereafter. Sin is insanity.

          • Leslie Vernick on February 5, 2015 at 5:22 pm

            Sin is insanity. That’s why trying to find a rational reason for the things people do wrong is going down a rabbit trail. Sin is irrational and insane.

          • Rebecca on February 6, 2015 at 1:26 pm

            Sin is insanity because we were made only for God, -just for Him. The more I work to fill my heart, the emptier it becomes. The more I work to get my dreams, the more they vaporize in my hands. How do we get to where we are only satisfied in Him, just Him? How do you do it? How do we? How do we get there once we have already laid our life at His feet? -Once we are committed to Prayer, Holiness and Godly living. -Pray even more for a soul even more hungry for God? -How do we let God reach beyond our emotions, -even more time alone with Him? Is it just more or is it something different?

          • Leslie Vernick on February 6, 2015 at 2:03 pm

            I think there will always be a tension because we are not “yet” what we will be. We still have the effects of the fall on our humanness and our world. God made humans to be in relationship with other humans, not just with him – he said it is not good for humans to be alone – even though he and Adam experienced fellowship. So it sounds as if you’re being a bit hard on yourself to expect to get there – a place of no other desires but God. Even Jesus had desires while on this earth. His deepest one was to please God and for God to be glorified, but his lesser desires – such as “if possible could this cup be removed” and his desire for his disciples to be able to “watch and pray” with him, were real, and when he didn’t see them happen, painful.

          • Rebecca on February 7, 2015 at 7:50 am

            “God made humans to be in relationship with other humans, not just with Him.” Do you mean keep them relatively equal? Fellowshipping with other believers vs. fellowshipping with God (prayer, Bible reading)?

            RE: “Couldn’t you stay awake with me for one hour?” I can’t even comprehended what would be a valid excuse for such insensitivity at that Christ’s terrible crisis? Even if they didn’t fully understand “this cup” is the full condensed “eternity-in-hell” for every last one redeemed poured right onto the head of Christ. Not painful, the ultimate pain. The disciples are often totally retarded (So I have some hope.) Take the two feeding events in Mark (one in chapter 6, 5,000 the first time; the other in chapter 8; 4,000 the second time). To me, the greater miracle is not the feedings. The real miracle is their question the second time: “Lord (even though we have seen you do this with 5,000), how will we possibly feed all these people?” That’s a real “now accepting implications” moment. Whoa, that’s huge.

            “So it sounds as if you’re being a bit hard on yourself to expect to get there – a place of no other desires but God.” I never even thought about it like that, that’s true but we’re getting off so easy. Everyone recognizes that Stephen was Spirit-filled when he was performing miracles (Acts.) Yet, he was just as Spirit-filled when he was being stoned to death (Acts, too.)

            Thank you for helping me. I appreciate that. What kind of a puppy-dog is Grace?  -The worst part is the middle of country with those flat roads for hundreds of kilometers, fighting sleep the whole time (even after a full night of sleep), just like the disciples.

          • Leslie Vernick on February 10, 2015 at 10:53 pm

            Gracie is a Bouvier Des Flounders – a Belgium herding dog. A great breed.

            God made us for relationship with him and one another. Every one of the 10 commandments have to do with relationship – the first 4 with him, the last 6 our relationships with one another. Obviously our relationship with God is first – we are to have no other gods before him. But our relationships with others is also important – to us – and to God.

          • Rebecca on February 11, 2015 at 4:24 pm

            -Oh, Gracie is a wonderful breed, indeed! Relationship with God is first and I just love being in God’s cave snuggling into His love and relish being His doormat (Just like we can be God’s slave without it being a total disaster.) People, well, I don’t want to be pulled into their caves or be their doormats. It’s so hard to be pleasing but not a pleaser.

  3. Rebecca on January 28, 2015 at 1:56 pm

    I never learned not to be bullied by the misuse of Scripture. I would get flush in the face and just become deflated and flat-lined. It takes one strong women to battle a male power structure. Too many psychological tools are used to shame and intimidate. Some men in the church are very kind and noble but the system requires obedience. Due to human depravity, those with greater power will often abuse their power, and hence obedience to earthly authorities will often conflict with obedience to Christ. Maybe Joan of Arc could do it but not me. I’ll give just a few examples from my “counseling” sessions with my husband and various elders.

    I heard in most every session, Eph 5:24 “submit in everything.” Eph 5:24, “Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.” Sometimes, 1 Tim. 2:11-15 “Let a woman learn in silence with full submission. I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing, provided they continue in faith and love and holiness, with modesty.”

    I would protest that “I must obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29) and that my first allegiance was to Christ. My husband forbid me from going to a Christian counselor and even forbids me spending time with certain (but not all) Christian friends. I would claim I was responsible to nurture my own spiritual life and hence, my husband had no right to dictate my relationship with Christ. That never went well.

    I was told, that a women must not be allowed to teach men (fine and good) because women were created subordinate as indicated by God himself in the Law; God created Eve second, for the sake of man; and a woman (related to Eve) must not therefore lord it over a man (related to Adam) through her teaching (fine and good too). Furthermore, I was told everyone knows what happens when a woman does assume the role of teacher: she is easily duped (by the devil) and leads the man astray. So, I was basically to stay at home and maintain the virtues appropriate to women, bearing children for my husband and preserving my modesty (I know, right!). I tried to point out that the passage itself seems miles from Paul’s view that “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free; there is not male and female; for all of you are one in Jesus Christ (Gal. 3.27-28).” I was “invited” to reconsider. I would think, what about Romans 16, in which Paul speaks of a woman, Junia, and a man who was her husband, Andronicus, both of whom he calls “foremost among the apostles” (v. 7). Junia was a common name for a woman, but there is no evidence in the ancient world for “Junias” as a man’s name. Paul is referring to a woman apostle named Junia. So, again I was “invited” to reconsider.

    Finally, with my husband’s decree that I have cosmetic surgery (breast implants), I realized I could never get a voice in a male dominated church and rested in “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Revelation 21:4-5.3

    In any event, it is clear (to me) that Jesus’ message continued to be attractive to holy women. Some of Christianity’s early opponents among the pagans, including, for example, the second-century critic Celsus, denigrated Christianity on the grounds that it was made up largely of women (i.e., those of no social standing in society at large). Strikingly, Origen, who wrote the Christian response to Celsus, did not deny the charge but tried to turn it against Celsus in an attempt to show that God can take what is weak and invest it with strength. A good point 🙂

    If I was given an opportunity, I would always remind elders that Paul’s letters provide ample evidence that women held a prominent place in the Christian communities from the earliest of times. Consider, for example, Paul’s letter to the Romans, at the end of which he sends greetings to various members of the Roman congregation (chapter 16). It is clear that women were seen as in no way inferior to their male counterparts in the church. Paul mentions Phoebe, for example, who is a deacon (or minister) in the church of Cenchreae, and Paul’s own patron, whom he entrusts with the task of carrying his letter to Rome (vv. 1-2). And there is Prisca, who along with her husband, Aquila, is responsible for missionary work among the Gentiles and who supports a Christian congregation in her home (vv. 3-4: notice that she is mentioned first, ahead of her husband). Then there is Mary, a colleague of Paul’s who works among the Romans (v. 6); there are also Tryphaena, Tryphosa, and Persis, women whom Paul calls his “co-workers” in the gospel (vv. 6, 12). And there are Julia and the mother of Rufus and the sister of Nereus, all of whom have a high profile in the community (vv. 13, 15). Most impressive of all, there is the Junia (we talked about her above), a woman whom Paul calls “foremost among the apostles” (v. 7). The apostolic band was larger than the list of twelve men with whom most people are familiar. The equality in Christ manifested itself in the actual worship services of the Christian communities. Rather than being silent “hearers of the word,” women can be seen actively involved in the weekly fellowship meetings, participating, for example, by praying and prophesying, the same as the men did (1 Corinthians 11).

    I always felt as if all my words counted for nothing. I was told to basically submit.

    What I learned, I learned not from my church but C.S. Lewis. I learned to just walk in love. You cannot get stability if you place stability before love. When you place love before stability, you get both love and stability. Don’t be unwilling to let go because you are afraid that the unknown and the new world will be more painful than the familiar, difficult patterns set by men in the church.

    Leslie, which is your best book for an adult daughter who is being verbally abused by her mother? Should I take the Emotionally Destructive Marriage book and try to apply it to my mother or do you have something more tailored? Oh, and to tell the truth is the same as to be a good tailor because “in Christ there is not male and female.”

    • Jilly on January 29, 2015 at 5:07 pm

      If I may, I would recommend Leslie’s book The Emotionally Destructive Relationship. I’ve given it to a young woman whose father and step mother are constantly crossing boundaries and creating emotional havoc in her life. She has found it helpful.

      • Rebecca on January 29, 2015 at 8:24 pm

        I got that ordered. Thank you. I’m going to have to go into the office or set up some remote coaching phone sessions because it is just too much. I:
        -think and feel too responsible for her
        -feel compelled to help her solve her problems
        -get tired of feeling like she always gives to others but not me
        -blame, blame, blame
        -feel unappreciated
        -fear rejection
        -focus all energy on her and her problems
        -let her really hurt me and never say anything
        -feel angry
        -feel like a martyr
        Love knows when to let go; Love knows when to say no (1 Corinthians 13)
        -i don’t

  4. Sandy on January 28, 2015 at 6:32 pm

    I jave been in a destructive relationship for 28 years
    I did leave last year after reading Leslie’s book. I was gone out of state for six months. I insisted that my husband start counseling before I return and admit his abuse. He also had to promise to continue counseling when I got home. He did all the right things. The counselor is a Christian from my church. My husband is not a believer. The counselor encouraged me to stay home, so I did.
    However, my husband did not keep all he promised and things have been going down hill. I was listening to June Hunt and she told a man that he needed to know what true love was. So, she told him to read I Corinthians 13 4-7 and every where it has the word love or a pronoun for the word love, he was to insert his own name. I asked my husband to do that and he did. Then he said to me, “I’m none of those things.” I told him that is why I don’t feel loved by him.

    • Leslie Vernick on January 27, 2015 at 6:59 pm

      So then what happened? Did he “get it” and start to change?

  5. Pamela on January 28, 2015 at 9:24 pm

    The loveless lack of consideration, even the derisive laughter. All sounds so familiar. Thank you so much for putting such difficult dynamics into words.

    The more I’ve been in community with other women, the more my eyes have been opened — not just to the tip of the iceberg of abuse, what it sounds like and looks like and feels like, but to the dynamics of destruction that are hidden beneath the surface– what it *is*.

    When people got angry and went to war, slaves were freed. When Moms got angry and got organized, drunk driving laws were changed. As people have courage to speak up, sexual abuse within the Catholic church is being exposed for what it is. Now, I pray for us. That God would raise up an Ezer-army of women like yourself, individuals who are already speaking up and standing up in their homes, to give voice to the truth of what’s happening within the evangelical church. Individually we are one thing; together we are something else again.

    Thank you so much Leslie and ‘Dear Author’ for putting into words the groaning in so many of our hearts.

    • Guest blogger on February 3, 2015 at 11:19 am

      Pamela, your perspective that many women standing up in faith to abusive male hierarchy can eventually make a lasting difference in the evangelical church is inspiring. I desire to be part of an Ezer-army. May the Lord grant it to be so.

  6. Pamela Brooks on January 29, 2015 at 11:23 am

    The Patriarchal home-school movement I was involved with for so long? The home-churches? It was filled with the twisted and distorted out-of-context letter-of-the-law submission y’all write about. The same submission that’s required wherever power is being misused… If you follow that model, you end up in my devoutly Islamic neighbors’ living room, realizing that >duh!< your sweet home-school family has more in common with religions that do *not* lift Jesus up than with ones that do…

    But there are reasons that way of life 'seemed so right' to me for so long. Reasons why I enabled what happened the way I did…

    Freedom begins inside of us. Charity really does begin at home. When Jesus Christ opens our eyes and becomes the center of our universe. [Come Lord Jesus!] He frees our hearts to begin orbiting around Him. We need to be free in order to do what God has prepared for us to do.

    December 1, 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus and the driver had her arrested. Martin Luther King Jr. heard about Rosa's courage and launched a boycott of Montgomery buses. The 17,000 black residents of Montgomery pulled together and kept the boycott going for more than a year. Finally, the Supreme Court intervened and declared segregation on buses unconstitutional. Rosa Parks and the boycotters defeated the racist system, and she became known as "the mother of the civil rights movement…"

    Thurgood Marshall was a courageous civil rights lawyer during a period when racial segregation was the law of the land. Marshall astutely realized that one of the best ways to bring about change was through the legal system. Between 1938 and 1961, he presented more than 30 civil rights cases before the Supreme Court. He won 29 of them…

    The Little Rock Nine, as they later came to be called, were the first black teenagers to attend all-white Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1957. These remarkable young African-American students challenged segregation in the deep South and won.

    Although Brown v. Board of Education outlawed segregation in schools, many school systems defied the law by intimidating and threatening black students—Central High School was a notorious example. But the Little Rock Nine were determined to attend the school and receive the same education offered to white students. Things grew ugly and frightening right away. On the first day of school, the governor of Arkansas ordered the state's National Guard to block the black students from entering the school. Imagine what it must have been like to be a student confronted by armed soldiers! President Eisenhower had to send in federal troops to protect the students.

    But that was only the beginning of their ordeal. Every morning on their way to school angry crowds of whites taunted and insulted the Little Rock Nine—they even received death threats. One of the students, fifteen-year-old Elizabeth Eckford, said "I tried to see a friendly face somewhere in the mob. . . . I looked into the face of an old woman, and it seemed a kind face, but when I looked at her again, she spat at me." As scared as they were, the students wouldn't give up, and several went on to graduate from Central High. Nine black teenagers challenged a racist system and defeated it." (~ see info please: heroes of the civil rights movement.)

    Okay. So I just watched 'The Help' again the other night. Every time I do it helps me see the courage that's required to change an evil system that misuses power… (No pun intended.) 'The Long Walk Home' is another one. Stories like these this help 'Google Earth' me enough to see the bigger picture above and beyond where I'm sitting at the back of my very own segregated bus– and I need that.

    God has prepared a place for each of us and things for each of us to do there. But in order to be free to do them, we must desire to please God rather than man– or even ourselves. "There are times you must risk unraveling the life you have in order to create the life God wants for you." ~ Leslie, TEDM p. 88

    [Come Lord Jesus! Where You are, I am free!]

    "Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom." ~ 2 Corinthians 3:17

    "For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery." ~ Galatians 5:1 ESV

    "Neither legalism, nor license, but LIBERTY!" ~ says Alistair Begg…

    • Leslie Vernick on January 30, 2015 at 11:16 pm

      I think of two young women, The Grimke sisters, in the 1800 whose family owned slaves yet they began to speak out against slavery both in the South and in the North. Their Southern Baptist church preached the virtues of slavery but these young girls didn’t buy it. They used their voices (unheard of in that day) to dissent and paid a heavy price for truth. A great novel talking about this time in history is The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd.

      • Pamela Brooks on February 4, 2015 at 6:40 am

        Thanks so much for recommending ‘The Invention of Wings’ to us, Leslie. Last year God used it to shift my earth on its axis and I highly recommend it to y’all…

        Key to the plot of Sue Monk Kidd’s book are the ‘story quilts’ stitched by slaves and former slaves, especially the quilts of Harriet Powers– Women telling their story wholeheartedly even without words.

        Quotes: “I’d grown comfortable with the particulars of evil. There’s a frightful muteness that dwells at the center of all unspeakable things and I had found my way into it…”

        “We’re all yearning for a wedge of sky, aren’t we? I suspect God plants these yearnings in us so we’ll at least try and change the course of things. We must try, that’s all.”

I felt her words tear a hole in the life I’d made. An irreparable hole…” Sue Monk Kidd, The Invention of Wings, p. 202, 477

        • Leslie Vernick on February 5, 2015 at 12:16 am

          I loved that book too and thanks for reminding us of that quote from it. Powerful book in so many ways.

  7. Caroline on February 3, 2015 at 1:37 pm

    Our pastors used Malachi 2:16, in the 1984 version of NIV which says: “I hate divorce,” says the Lord God of Israel. When I finally gave up on seeking help from them and got a restraining order, they used this verse against me, saying I had no right to divorce. I guess they neglected to read the end of that verse which read, “and I hate a man’s covering himself with violence as well as with his garment.” – an apt description of an abusive husband. The latest version of NIV reads, “The man who hates and divorces his wife,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “does violence to the one he should protect,” says the Lord Almighty. Both versions point to the abuser as the one at fault for the divorce, not the victim of the abuse. I was able to stop listening to this type of incorrect theology when I began reading the verses myself, and trying to understand what they REALLY mean.

    • Leslie Vernick on February 3, 2015 at 10:56 pm

      I love that you started reading and thinking for yourself. I have no objection to listening to wise others but sometimes you have to just trust your gut and how you feel the Holy Spirit is speaking to you too.

  8. Becca on February 5, 2015 at 8:49 am

    Remedy, I would encourage you to get the book “Not Under Bondage” to help with understanding of what Scripture means about divorce. At face value, the Scripture you quoted regarding divorce is pretty strict, but when you look at what the culture was doing during the time that was written, it brings on a whole different meaning.

    Blessings to you!

    • Rebecca on February 10, 2015 at 5:28 pm

      If we are already striving to seek God as our priority and striving to make God our true satisfaction, as well as seeking God’s wisdom for our life, what can we do to know more of the very presence of God? Is that different and involve more intense say Bible study, prayer, fellowship? Maybe that question really is: What are some practical ways we can be more humble and available before the Lord? How do we detect and root out nuanced (not obvious) wrong motives in our lives?

      • Leslie Vernick on February 10, 2015 at 10:51 pm

        I’m not sure we can “do” anything to make God’s presence more known to us other than being still and waiting for Him to show up. Most of us are too busy doing stuff to notice God showing up in the quiet still small whispers of life. God sometimes makes himself gloriously known, other times we walk only by faith – remember David’s cry, “I would have despaired unless I would believe that I would see God in the land of the living” (Psalm 27:13,14). So if I show up everyday and sit outside, sometimes I will feel the sunshine, other times I won’t “feel” it because it is hidden under a cloud. But if I don’t go outside and sit, I will never feel it.

        • Rebecca on February 11, 2015 at 4:27 pm

          Just keep showing up even if we don’t always feel Him. -Oh, I will and thank you :). I love being still and waiting for Him to show up. In fact, just saying that sounds refreshing. To be much for God, we must be much with God! Hopefully, it is God showing up in the quiet still small whispers of my life: Telling me to call someone, or give someone the money in my purse, or offer to pray with someone about something very specific. -And tears. Can we be moved with compassion and not know tears? I was sensing the Lord telling me yesterday: Your goal is God Himself, not joy not peace, not even blessing, God Himself, to know Him. I was afraid, however, to pray what went through my mind right then: God by any road or at any cost, I want you.

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