So much is on my heart today. I have some thoughts to share, an explanation later.
My first thought is just gratefulness and admonishment. Now, those of you other marrieds, please don't feel slighted, but I haven't seen your marriage in action. I can't use you as my example. I just want to encourage you all to always seek transparency with each other, especially those of you who are ministry couples. And I want to chare my gratefulness to Kelly and Justin for always striving for this. Kelly and Justin are always open with each other about what's going on--and esp. in some certain situations where accountability was crucial, they have cultivated what's necessary to be accountable to each other. I appreciate that. I appreciate knowing that my dear friends take their relationship seriously and take the threats that face is daily seriously. I admonish all of you to do the same. Be open. And if something causes your spouse anxiety or concern, listen to them. Please do not repsond with defensiveness. Do not chalk their concern up to jealousy. Do not assume they don't trust you. Listen to their fear. Discuss their concern. Change your behavior to alleviate the anxiety. Please. Be accountable to each other in everything. You cannot rely other people to protect your marriage if you do not. You cannot rely on other people to respect your marriage if you do not. You, the couple, are your marriage's first and most vital line of defence.
My second thought is a slight rant. Growing up in the social circles I did, I was surrounded by a number of people who were part of the ATI/Bill Gothard phenomenom. People who dogmatically assert that dating is practicing for divorce and only courtship is the way of God. Now, don't get me wrong, I think dating in high school is a dangerous waste of time. I think dating is looking toward the goal of marriage. I think you should never date someone who isn't marriage material. I do not think, though, that following some certain plan labelled "courtship" is the cure-all. It is not a guarantee of a healthy, lasting marriage. It's not. In fact, believing that probably sets an automatic pitfall in your path. You cannot rely on a formula for marital success--not after marriage, not before.
So the explanation: last night my aunt called. My cousin-in-law, D, has left his wife, my cousin, K, and their four children for the divorced mother of one of the kids in his youth group. The situation started months ago when this woman painted a big target on D and began actively pursuing him as soon as her divorce was finalized. She was needy, she was alone, she needed support from a godly man. She needed to text message him at all hours of the day and night. Whenever K would try to talk to D about it, she was just jealous. She didn't trust him. Of course, she should have immediately gone to the pastor so this woman could be approached with the complete inappropriateness of her behavior, but K was afraid D would lose his job. D doesn't have a college degree, they couldn't afford to lose this job. So she didn't talk to anyone in the church about it. He did not place himself into a position of accountability with anyone. He did not protect his marriage. He did not allow his wife to help him protect his marriage from a brazen woman who knew but didn't care that he had a wife and four children. My feeling is that so much of this was set up by the situation in their last church. In their last church, D was the youth minister, K stayed home trying to make ends meet on a salary that qualified them for food stamps. They were not viewed as a team by the church or the pastor. The habits of separation planted the seeds for all of this to happen. If you are in a position to influence how your church views the ministers and their families, take time to work toward ensuring that they are viewed as a team, not as a pastor and then somewhere else is his wife. The more you separate your pastor and his family, the less you help him to be a strong part of an accountable team. Encouraging and uplifting your ministers means encouraging them to be transparent husbands and fathers. Do what you can to encourage that environment.
I'm just heartsick. My aunt and uncle are flying to Dallas today to see what to do. I certainly hope this church will deal with the situation as a church ought to, and not as many churches often do. Pastors, teachers, ministers--be careful: every day you are faced with dangers. Every day you are surrounded by people with emotional needs, by Bright Young Minds who entrance you by listening, by those who look up to you. Understand the need to protect by being accountable. Strive for a marriage that is an Environment of Grace and Trust where nothing is kept hidden; where there are no secret crushes or desires or thoughts that could crack the foundation. Be constantly aware that every opportunity for personal ministry, for helping a student or member to victory can be a danger to your marriage if you let it. This doesn't mean to wall yourself away. It does mean to make your spouse your confidant in everything. This will keep you from letting the wrong seeds grow. They grow fast--this whole K and D situation was less than 6 months. Please, please protect yourselves.