I am in Cuba this week and deeply covet your prayers. Ask God for a special anointing on my teaching and time with these dear Cuban church leaders and pastors and that in every way God will be glorified. Also pray for my strength, stamina and my ability to sleep well. I don’t want to come home totally wiped out.
This month we’re taking a look at an unfamiliar concept in most Christian teaching, and that is our shadow side. Despite God’s word that says we don’t know our selves very well, we don’t take the time to see what we don’t readily or easily see.
Remember Peter’s shock and protest when Jesus warned him that before the day was done, he would deny him three times? Jesus saw a part of Peter that Peter didn’t see. He warned him about it, but Peter rejected his warning and said, “Even if everyone else deserts you, I never will.” (See Matthew 26:34) Sadly, Peter found out the hard way he had a shadow side and later on in the evening, it got the best of him. It was if he acted unconsciously and only woke up when the rooster crowed again and again.
Last week I said that we will either own our shadow, or find ourselves being owned (or controlled sometimes) by it. Psalm 19:12 says, “Who can discern his errors? Forgive my hidden faults.” The psalmist prayed, “Keep me from lying to myself; give me the privilege of knowing your instructions.” (Psalm 119:29).
However, it’s also important to understand that our shadow isn’t always negative or sinful. It is all that we refuse to acknowledge in ourselves. (Tweet this)
For example, a woman might be blind to her strength, her power, her wisdom, her competence, her sexual energy, or her anger. A man might refuse to know or own his soft side, his helplessness, his nurturing side, or creative side, fearing to own those things would make him seem less masculine.
But each of these unknown or undesirable sides of us contains energy that can be used for good or evil. Unless we bring our shadow self into our conscious awareness, we won’t be able to decide which way that energy will be used. Without our moral compass involved, shadow energy can be destructive.
In addition, when our shadow remains hidden, we aren’t fully ourselves. We’re not whole, or healthy. We may even feel flat, dead inside, or apathetic as if we’re operating only on one cylinder when in truth, we have nine other cylinder’s hidden outside our own awareness.
Today I want to give you one way to become better acquainted with your shadow. In the next two weeks I’ll provide some other ways.
Begin to pay attention to the things that most upset, disturb, fascinate, or draw you to other people. One way we can see our shadow is by observing our own hypersensitivity (positive or negative) to others. In what ways are you easily triggered, reactive, angry, irritated, or upset by other’s behaviors? What infatuates you or overly attracts you to others? What ways do you idealize people that affects your motives or mood?
Much of the time, these negative or positive emotions in ourselves are our hidden parts (the log in our eye that recognizes the speck in someone else’s eye). But it’s extremely important that when you notice you are getting disturbed or attracted, that you accept your own inner movement and not reject it or shame it. Allow it to come and ask yourself what is it specifically that repels you – or intensely draws you to this person? That may be a part of yourself that is hidden from you.
I want to again thank our anonymous blogger for sharing her struggles with her counseling elder and church. Many of you resonated with her and also admired her tenacity, courage, and boldness to stand up. (Perhaps you’re drawn to it because those things are in you too – but hidden – your shadow).
Implementing The Emotionally Destructive Marriage:
Is It Worth Church Discipline? Pt. 2
In the previous blog post, I started explaining my response to formal disciplinary action taken against me by the elders of my church when I began to implement natural consequences as explained in Leslie’s book. After seven years of trying to understand why my marriage wasn’t working according to the biblical ideals set forth in Scripture and attempting in vain to unilaterally bring it to a healthy state, I began to look to arenas other than my family’s church for day-to-day counsel and guidance for my particular situation. This blog post will deal with the imbalance of support in my local congregation and my need to find help elsewhere.
Our family hadn’t always attended the church that eventually declared me to be an unbeliever as I mentioned in my last blog post. In fact, my husband and I were on a church-planting team in a different state for nine years beforehand. This was a rich and fulfilling season of our lives where I learned how to apply the life, death, and resurrection of our precious Savior to every aspect of life. As we lived life and worked alongside other like-minded believers, I experienced what healthy, intimate relationships look like. In contrast, our marriage wasn’t benefitting from the sound teaching we were receiving. It didn’t resemble the vital marriages around us, nor was it moving in that direction.
My husband and I were meeting regularly with another couple in leadership, so I asked these close, trusted friends for input and help. They started asking us thoughtful, probing questions about our desires and motives to help us discover reasons why our marriage wasn’t growing. While I was eager to expose and dispel sin from our relationship and live according to our joint identity in Christ, my husband was adamantly and stubbornly opposed to revealing anything about his inner life to our dear friends in Christ, for fear that he would lose his job as pastor. The senior pastor, as my husband’s superior, had also been regularly bringing to my husband’s attention consistent areas of personal growth that he saw needed to change with no visible response.
It was about this time that my husband received a call from a former professor, asking him to take a position out of state, managing the financial aspects of a para-church organization. My husband was keen to do this because the position would also give him the opportunity pursue a PhD, which he had very much desired to do for years. When we discussed the opportunity with our close friends, they had serious misgivings about our leaving the church that was in the best position to care for our marriage. However, in my self-assured thinking I agreed to the move because my husband was convinced that it was “God’s calling” on our lives. My desire to be a godly wife and to please my husband at all costs outweighed the sober warnings our close friends were giving us. Isn’t a submissive wife supposed to trust her husband to lead their family to any location?
What I didn’t realize at the time was that my husband was content to cut ties with the friends we had at our former church and felt it was his right to limit my interactions with the congregation as a whole. He isolated me at this new church in a state far away from the healthiest relationships I had ever known. I felt a keen sense of loss over losing access to like-minded believers who truly knew me and demonstrated care about my well-being. My husband was more distant and argumentative than ever before, and I found myself absorbed into a dark night of the soul where I had little thirst for or communication with God, normal responsibilities seemed overwhelming, and I cried a lot. After a year in transition between the two cities, I sought counsel from our former senior pastor. He felt it was necessary for me to appeal to the elders of our new local congregation for help with our marriage, “for the sake of your husband’s soul as his sister in Christ.”
Perhaps the most damaging counsel we have ever received was from the preaching elder of our new church during this confrontation. After I had prayerfully considered the ongoing issues in our marriage and bared my heart about the impact this was having on me, the elder leaned back in his chair and pronounced to my husband, his wife, and me, “I don’t see anything wrong here.”
Shortly after that conversation in our living room, both my husband and I met separately with our small group leaders at this new church for counsel. After hearing both sides of the story, the husband prepared a formal rebuke for my husband from Hebrews 3:7-15 and Lamentations 3:28-29. From his personal and scholarly perspective, my husband had an unbiblical view of marriage and a problem with arrogance. Because I didn’t have a voice at the time, I could not communicate just how true this man’s conclusions were, while my husband tidily refuted each one of his points. Because of my husband’s refusal to admit any wrong thinking or attitudes on his part, this couple withdrew their willingness to walk alongside us. Shortly after that, they were assigned to lead a different small group. The elder never asked any more questions about our marriage, and the wife avoided me altogether. It seems as though the solidarity of the elder team was more important than bringing healing and health to our marriage, and the wife didn’t have the time to invest in a messy relationship.
The uncertainty surrounding these confrontations and rebuke led to my husband’s dismissal from the position that we had left ministry for him to fill because it might not reflect well on the organization. My husband took the stance that my insubordination was the cause. “If only” I hadn’t said anything about how I perceived our marriage, everything would have been fine. The president of the organization, though, confided to me at a conference, “If your husband treats you like he treats me, I can see why you’re having trouble in your marriage. He acts like I know nothing and can’t run the organization without doing things his way.” Though this man identified with my distress, neither he nor his wife reached out to my husband or me to support or help us in our time of relational need.
Incidentally, my husband asserted much later that the small group leader/elder retracted his rebuke about a year after my husband was dismissed from the para-church organization, based on the opinion of the counseling elder of this church that as long as there is no shouting or violence, a wife is bound to accept her husband’s authority unquestioningly (without a word) from 1 Peter 3 if he is not open to change.
After that, my husband unremittingly and pervasively controlled any communication I had with friends from our former or current churches, demanding my email password, requiring me to curtail or cancel visits with friends unless he was present, and monitoring everything I discussed and with whom. The counseling elder upheld my husband’s spiritual right to do this as head of our marriage and exhorted me “to in faith love and communicate openly with him.” When I wanted to participate in the women’s ministry at my mother’s church, the counseling elder supported my husband’s opposition to that, saying that I needed to center my relationships in the church where I was a member.
I was battling hopelessness and despair until a friend mentioned Leslie’s book on emotionally destructive relationships. Intrigued, I purchased a digital copy of The Emotionally Destructive Marriage and secretly devoured three chapters the same day. I started to see my marriage for what it was and realized that I couldn’t live in this spiritual concentration camp any longer. Either I had to flee my home or get professional counsel. Since we were in the process of moving to yet another state, I applied to Leslie’s coaching program, knowing that I could access her counsel from anywhere.
Even after we completed our move cross country for my husband to take a teaching position, the counseling elder felt that he still had the authority to require me to agree with my husband’s choice of church and for us to seek joint marital counseling from the elders there (who keep doing what hasn’t worked). The counseling elder intended to “coordinate with these pastors so that they understand the history of your marriage and our concerns for it” so “that the spiritual counsel you receive will give [your husband’s] perspective a fair hearing in the same way that yours should be given a fair hearing.” This elder construed my refusal to submit to this coercive treatment to be grievous enough to warrant church discipline.
Here is my question for you? What is the extent of the church’s role in addressing troubled marriages, and how can mental health professionals be integrated into the process of diagnosis, recovery, and healing?