I want to invite you to join my 2015 Do The Word Challenge where we are going to pick one verse per month (the verse of your own choosing) and practice “Doing it” throughout the month. Details are in my New Years Newsletter but if you didn’t get a copy, you can read more about it here.
Please pray for me. Next week I will be in Cuba, teaching pastors and seminary students at Havana Seminary, effective counseling strategies for Emotionally Destructive Marriages. Pray for my safety, stamina (3 full days of teaching with a translator is exhausting) and that these students will be equipped to be effective in helping individuals and couples in destructive marriages.
Along that line I’ve invited a guest blogger this month to share some of her experiences when she looked for marital help from her local church for her marriage. I’ve been encouraged to hear from some of you that you have had a positive experience with your pastor and church leadership when you asked for help. What a difference that made in your life and family.
Sadly, for a lot of women, that is not the case and that is one reason why we need to support one another. Someday I hope I, along with qualified others, are invited to speak at every Seminary and Church conference in the United States to teach pastors and equip church leadership to know how to more effectively deal with these difficult destructive marriages.
As promised, throughout this New Year, I want to begin to do some short teaching on various topics to help you grow and help you recognize more of what healthy and unhealthy looks like. For January I want us to understand our shadow side – we all have one.
The shadow is a psychological term used to refer to the parts of our selves that remain hidden from ourselves (even if they are quite obvious to others). What is in the light we see, but what’s in the dark remains outside our conscious awareness and is termed our shadow.
When we think of our shadow side, most people believe that it has to do with more negative traits things in ourselves that feel undesirable and unattractive. Things we reject in ourselves such as mental laziness, insecurity, sloppiness, carelessness, cowardice, love of power, inordinate love of money, pride, being judgmental, greed, rage, bossiness, etc. We don’t want to see our shadow. We don’t acknowledge it even when it’s quite obvious to others, and more often than not, we ignore the warning signs that our shadow is getting the best of us.
But our shadow could also embrace some of our strengths or talents that we have not been able to “see” or were shamed about in our past. For example, if as a female child you were outspoken and exhibited strong leadership abilities, but were shamed, scolded and thwarted from exercising those abilities to have a more “acceptable” feminine persona that went a long with your parents values and/or Christian teaching, you hid your strength from yourself. Perhaps that strength sneaks out at moments and may even look bossy or domineering. Then you quickly reject that part of yourself and go back to your more “acceptable” self.
Abraham Lincoln said, “All human beings have their weaknesses, but not all of us realize them, come to grips with them, or offset their negative impact. As a group whose primary endeavor is interacting with other people, leaders must accomplish the paradoxical task of managing their darker sides”
It’s the shadow’s very nature to remain hidden and it takes special work to “see” it and address it because by nature, we don’t want to see our shadow. (The Bible calls this trait blindness.)
But this is important work friends, because we will either own our shadow or find ourselves being owned by it. (Tweet this!)
Next week I will give you some tools to help you to gain greater awareness of your shadow side.
As our guest blogger shares, you will notice that even church leaders aren’t aware of their shadow, nor can they reflect and consider the possibility that they might be wrong.
Implementing The Emotionally Destructive Marriage:
Is It Worth Church Discipline? Pt. 1
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, the Holy Spirit impressed the following passage from Matthew 7 on my heart during a sermon series at my mother’s church on the marks of merely following rules instead of having a growing relationship with Jesus Christ, “‘Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.’” For the first time I saw this verse in light of its context.
This verse is not, as I had been taught, referring to unbelievers who don’t understand Christ’s redemptive message and use it against you or persecute you; rather, it has to do with a brother in Christ who judges you according to a biblical standard that he or she is unwilling to put into practice him or herself.
Several months before reading Leslie’s book, I started to implement this sober warning from Jesus. I no longer entrusted my inner struggles and thoughts to my husband, who had time and time again used my transparency not to pray for me and build me up in my faith but to accuse and manipulate me with my proclivities and “sins.” If I’ve learned anything from The Emotionally Destructive Marriage, it’s that talk is cheap, and words are worthless, apart from corresponding actions.
My husband says I can trust him to lead me spiritually, but he denigrates my faith walk at every turn. He says that he wants the best for me, but he rarely asks for my input and doesn’t implement it, unless it corresponds with what he wants to do anyway. He says he loves me, but I don’t feel loved at all when he continually shifts the responsibility to me to conform to his self-serving choices, to overlook ongoing sins against me, and blames me for anything that’s wrong with our marriage.
Around the time that I was learning how to discern legalistic patterns in my own thinking, I took a list of unresolved marital concerns to the counseling elder of our church, who had given my husband and me biblical counsel on and off for the previous five years. He listened attentively and compassionately at that meeting yet proceeded over the next year to build a case in his mind against me that eventually led to disciplinary action. I had not been immoral or committed any other grievous sin that should cause the elders of our church to declare to the membership of the congregation that I was “straying into moral failure” and was no longer saved, in their current opinion. These are indeed strong words, a monumental accusation.
What if I’m wrong . . . about my husband, my church leadership, and my faith? For as long as we have been married, my husband has deprecated my ability to understand him, unless, of course, I agree with him. The elder had insisted for years that if only I were more charitable in my viewpoint, gracious in my speech, and forbearing in waiting for change, everything in our marriage would be better.
Both my husband and the elder discounted my ability to apply the Bible to our lives without an advanced theological degree and asserted the right to veto any spiritual leading and convictions I have. Regardless of what those in earthly authority think or believe, my first allegiance is to the God who created me, the One who died for me, and the Being who dwells with me every day, in every situation. Instead of continuing to mindlessly accept pronouncements about me that are simply not true, I have used three criteria to come to an unshakable sense of conviction: scrutiny, support, and the subtle misuse of Scripture. I’ll cover them in successive blog posts.
The first thing I noticed about the meetings following my appeal to this counseling elder was that the focus of our time together was exclusively on my “idols of the heart.” Nothing was said, asked, or probed about my husband’s motivations. Somehow my husband knew himself accurately enough to declare that he wasn’t harboring any sin in his thinking or desiring in our relationship, and somehow the counseling elder believed him.
Even when I brought up examples of things my husband was saying and doing that controverted this self-satisfied assessment, I was essentially told to “stand down.” In this elder’s words, “I can’t believe that [your husband] just comes up to you while you’re working at your computer and starts an argument with you.” and “You can’t possibly be perceiving things correctly at home.” Over and over I was reproved for being critically judgmental and unloving when, in fact, Paul commands the Corinthians in chapter five of his first letter to judge the words and actions of those within the church.
When the counseling elder stopped asking me questions and started making assertions about why I had said or done certain things, I knew that I was in a no-win situation. To try to convince him otherwise would “prove” his point about my not being humble and teachable. To agree with his inaccurate assessment of my character was something I had resolved in my mind not to do anymore.
Although this counseling elder teaches others to search for the root cause of patterns of sin, he refused to probe my husband for the “why’s” behind his sinful words and behavior. He was content with my husband’s words of apology and minor behavioral changes, rather than exhorting my husband to make humble confession and pursue genuine reconciliation with me. It’s as though as long as I was willing to shoulder the burden of self-examination and confession, that was sufficient for both of us, and I had no spiritual right to ask for more by pointing out my husband’s self-consumed perspective and behavior. The elder classified that as “ungracious.”
As thorough reconciliation continued to elude us, I sought to understand biblical repentance by reading Humility by Andrew Murray. As I compared the biblical effects of repentance with my husband’s trivial overtures, I found them to be necessary, but insufficient, for lasting change. The counseling elder kept reiterating Ephesians 4:32, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you,” insisting that over time my patience would result in the sweet marital fruit that scripture promises to the godly. In response I explained that the destructive patterns in our marriage could be forgiven and reconciled only to the extent that sin was identified, confessed, and set aside in a permanent way.
As Nancy Leigh DeMoss makes clear in her book Choosing Forgiveness, we must maintain a posture of forgiveness for the one who sins recalcitrantly against us, but we cannot restore the relationship apart from mutual confession.
When I began imposing successively serious consequences on my husband for a lack of change in our relationship and shifting the onus of relational change to my husband, the counseling elder accused me of being “unmerciful” toward my husband and possessing an “unwillingness to seek unity with [your husband] unless it is on your terms.” Isn’t that exactly what they had been demanding of me for the past several years—“unity” on my husband’s terms, despite his unmerciful judgments? From my study of healthy relationships, this is not biblical unity but rather spiritual coercion.
In all of these aspects of scrutiny—probing my motives but not my husband’s, giving my husband’s account of our lives authoritative weight while discounting mine, and attributing ungodly attitudes to my reasonable actions instead of asking “why”—this counseling elder was blind to his bias toward my husband and against me. He was unwittingly but adamantly falling into the sin of judgementalism against which Jesus warned his disciples earlier in Matthew 7.
Does a church elder really have the authority to require outward obedience to his critical judgments and unfair pronouncements?
Friends how have you been able to stand strong in the midst of strong counseling/pastoral or church pressure to see things only their way?