Thanks for your prayers. I have returned from Cuba a bit more exhausted than I wanted but the trip was amazing. The people were wonderful. They were so teachable, so anxious to gain more knowledge and skill in dealing with destructive marriages (which are plenty in Cuba). The living conditions in Cuba are what you would expect living in a Communist country. I’ve never had to live through a time where food was rationed, but most people in Cuba live on beans and rice as their staple meal – day in and day out. I ate more beans and rice in four days than I have ever eaten in my lifetime (or will eat again). I’ve included some pictures for you, but if you want to see more, head over to my FB Fan page to check out the photos.
While on my FB Fan page, check out the blog I wrote called, Five Indicators of an Evil and Wicked Heart. Please share it with those you think would benefit from it. It’s a category of person that the church has been reluctant to acknowledge exists even though the Scripture is quite clear that they hide among the flock and do incredible damage.
This month we’ve been exploring the idea of our shadow self. Simply it is all the parts of “us” that we don’t know about. Everything about us that remains outside of our conscious awareness. Remember, self-awareness is one of the key components of good mental, emotional, spiritual and relational health. It’s important that we come to acknowledge and accept our good side – with its strengths, gifts, talents, as well as our ugly side with its sins, weaknesses, and brokenness. We are all both, not either/or.
Last week I asked you to pay attention to what draws you or repels you to others. Let’s look how that can help us see our shadow. I’ll demonstrate by walking through a personal example. I’ll put the instructions in regular type, and my thoughts and feelings in italics.
1. Observe what’s bugging you most about this person. I’m really bugged by a person I know who whines and complains all the time. She never takes personal responsibility for her life, it’s always everybody else’s fault and she expects people to help her out or fix her problems. She exhausts me. She’s always got an excuse for everything. When you do this step, either journal or talk out loud to an imaginary friend about your experience in the third person. He did this. She said that… They are….etc. Don’t minimize your feelings, thoughts, or experience. Describe it as fully as you can and in as much detail as you can.
2. Next talk directly to that issue in the second person (you or yours) as if you are having an imaginary dialogue with that person or that experience.
ME: Why do you always expect everyone to help you out of your problems?
HER: It’s easier. I don’t want to have to figure everything out for myself. If others can help me, why wouldn’t I ask them?
ME: Don’t you feel ashamed or embarrassed to always be so dependent?
HER: No, it’s part of being human. I like it when people show they care about me when they help me out.
ME: Don’t you want to be stronger or more independent?
HER: Not really. I like being this way. It’s less work and I don’t have to worry about making a mistake or doing something that I am not equipped or prepared to do.
Use your imagination to think about what your person would say to you. Write it down. Allow yourself to be open to what comes. You may be surprised.
3. Now, shift your writing to 1st person (I, me, mine) and be the situation or feeling that you have been exploring.
ME: I want to be dependent and let others take care of me and do things for me instead of always having to strive to figure everything out for myself. I want to feel more love and care from other people when they help me.
Recognizing and owning the shadow: I see that I have disowned my dependent, “needy” self. I want to be taken care of and I rarely show that or ask others to care for my needs. The truth is: I am strong and weak, independent and needy.
Try it this week and let us know what you see.
Below is the third installment of a blog from a guest writer who is sharing her experience with us about being disciplined by her church for not being compliant with their counsel.
Implementing The Emotionally Destructive Marriage:
Is It Worth Church Discipline? Pt. 3
In the previous two blog posts, I’ve been explaining my response to a recurring situation that some women face in evangelical churches, that of disciplinary action taken when the woman begins to implement natural consequences as explained in Leslie’s book. After seven years of trying to understand and restore my marriage, I started to notice unfavorable themes in the words and actions of those in authority over me, despite their assurances that they loved me and “wanted the best” for me. These last three blog posts will deal with self serving ways our pastor-elders and my husband misused Scripture and the negative impact that had on my marriage and family.
There is a pervasive belief at our former church that right doctrine (thinking) necessarily will result over time in right (biblical) living. I heard this most clearly in a sermon series last summer about the church’s vision and values. The pastor was using Galatians 1:6 as his text, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel–” to make his point that right doctrine prevents us from perverting the gospel of Christ.
As I mentioned later in a letter to the elders, I myself was astonished to observe in his usually deliberate and thorough exposition of scripture that the full-time pastor skipped over a key phrase at the beginning of verse 6, “him who called you in the grace of Christ.” Rhetorically Paul is saying that we turn to a different gospel not because our doctrine isn’t sound, but rather because we desert our relationship with God our Father. I disagreed with the pastor’s concluding point that right doctrinal thinking naturally results in right living before God. It’s not merely in our thinking but rather in our relating as a whole person to God that results in a life that reflects Jesus Christ.
Since the elders have validated that my husband is saved and he professes perfectly orthodox doctrine, my husband reasons that his good intentions (thoughts) can never be in conflict with his sometimes callous words, self-serving choices, and unloving behavior. This theological position allows him to dismiss as unwarranted any incongruity I point out between his intentions and outcomes – “I didn’t intend to hurt you, so what you see as a problem isn’t sin on my part.” If my husband’s motives are indeed pure, as he asserts, then the problem I’m seeing lies squarely with how I am perceiving things.
“You are not in a position to judge your husband’s heart,” the elder who gave us countless hours of marital counsel reiterated over and over from Matthew 7. I completely agree with that; however in 1 Corinthians 5, Paul exhorts believers to judge sinful actions of those who identify themselves with the Christian community. (I have in mind the idolatry of one’s own perspective, opinions, and self interest in my particular case, but there are other sins listed in this passage.) In other words, I cannot know the why of others’ actions, but I can with certainly perceive the what in terms of its impact on me and my family. I don’t need to spend time figuring out why my husband and this elder made the choices they did, but I do observe that they were both placing their interests over mine in specific ways. This resulted in my spiritual insight being trampled and their using my humble confessions to manipulate and attack me (again, from Matt. 7).
Out of all the men in authority over my husband at work and church over the years, only this counseling elder openly agrees with my husband. I observe that those who expressed disagreement initially in interacting with our situation didn’t follow through, even when I addressed each elder separately in a written communication, all have reputations to protect at the local seminary. I understand from other mixed group discussions with these men that the culture at the school is highly political, and appearances and interpersonal relationships are paramount to keeping one’s job there. The counseling elder admitted to having an over-much desire to please those in the academic world so that he can be widely published and well known.
I also observe that in the seven years we were active in this church, not one of these elders reached out to us in friendship after the initial getting-to-know-you period while we were becoming members. The counseling elder never invited us into his home for a meal, served alongside us in ministry, or lived life with us outside church functions in any way. While I cannot know for certain what was motivating their lack of involvement, it certainly wasn’t loving concern.
The passage that Leslie mentioned in Revelation speaks to the self-satisfied view of those in authority over me. The problem of one’s shadow lies not in being blind and naked but in where we seek pure gold, white garments, and eye salve from Rev. 3:18. These elders had arrived doctrinally and vocationally. My husband was obtaining his PhD in New Testament and was financially rich from selling the custom home we had built ourselves when we were on a church-planting team. Our current church leadership didn’t need genuine relationship from us, and not even my husband had any need for my input to see himself truly.
As soon as former friends and the previous pastor-employer began to critique my husband’s expressed viewpoint, though, we moved away and he would have nothing more to do with them. When another boss objected to my husband’s unwillingness to work cooperatively with him, my husband agreed to step down instead of adjusting his working relationship. Then as I started to point out how the pastor-elders and my husband were blind to how they were undermining our marriage, they exhorted me from scripture to be silent. It seems that the Lord was using various means to highlight their spiritual need, but because they refused to allow others to be a mirror of their attitudes and choices, they remain convinced that they’re fine.
Of course, I bring my own weakness and faults to the table, but I have been willing to accept hard truths about myself from scripture and others, even from my husband and these leaders. As I receive the gold, garments, and salve that God offers, I can stand firm in the assurance that, though not sinless, I am blameless in this situation.
Besides church discipline, the most pervasive form of attack I received from the elders was being excluded for several years from serving in any leadership role, except in the children’s area. Though I had led the women’s ministry alongside my husband when he was a pastor and had been asked to speak several times to the women of our previous congregation, I was not invited to provide any input nor teach the women in this church after appealing to the elders for help with our marriage. My husband said it was because I couldn’t “be trusted to lead other women when you don’t trust your own husband.” This kind of treatment did not demonstrate to me that the leadership was bearing with our struggles, believing the best about me, or hoping that our relationship would change for the better from 1 Corinthians 13, a passage with which I had been clobbered countless times. Instead, I felt like a second-class member, while my husband was teaching an adult Sunday school class, leading a small group, and starting a church-wide evangelist outreach.
When our family moved cross country for my husband to take a teaching position, I anticipated that agreeing on a new church was going to be a tedious process. I gravitated to a gospel-practicing church that had a strong emphasis on relationships and my husband preferred one that has the same doctrinal approach and culture as our last church. From the start my husband began to insist that the church I liked was “bad” and “damaging to our children.” The counseling elder from our former church felt that he still had the authority to require me to agree with my husband’s choice of church. He allowed my husband to insist on his own way, while requiring me “to influence him by means of your godly, submissive conduct (1 Peter 3:1-6)” and not to judge his willingness to repent and change from Luke 6:37-42.
I cannot know my husband’s or the church elders’ hearts truly, but I can truly object to how their self-serving decisions are still affecting me. Was the leadership justified in excluding our family from any community life outside official church activities? Why was my husband asked to serve in visible leadership roles, while I was relegated to serving behind the scenes in the children’s ministry (which is outside my interests and gifting) and with women one-on-one? Was my husband somehow more qualified to lead, though we share the same doctrinal convictions? Even when I ignored how my husband was failing to love me biblically and I pretended that everything was alright at home, my forbearance and patience weren’t acknowledged and supported, but expected. How can I be required to join a church that strongly resembles our former one?
Friends, from this blog, what is one of the most important things we must do if we want to “see” our shadow side? Why do you think many believers resist seeing it?