Guest post from my wife today. Good stuff! Here you go:
Pain is something that we all feel. It’s also something that we seem to try so desperately to avoid. Pain sucks. Yes. We all understand that. Yet the pain we go through is also the key piece when it comes to ministry, empathy and compassion. 2 Cor 1:3-4 ESV, “Blessed be the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”
Adultery is pain. It’s betrayal, hurt, lies and deception. The cheating spouse has violated and broken the sacred marriage covenant to the nth degree on every level (spiritual, emotional, physical, financial etc). Adultery is deliberate, premeditated murder. Yes, murder.
The path of destruction is wide. It’s a father holding a negative paternity test on the child(ren) he thought were his the past 10 years. It’s the 3 kids that are now stuck in the middle, having to learn what sleeping around is. It’s the STD test because the cheating spouse won’t own up to how many people they slept with or tells you that there’s 25 prostitutes that they remember. They lost count over the past 15 years. It’s the faithful spouse hearing over and over how it’s their fault that the entire life they knew to be true was just blown sky high.
The despicable thing is, every faithful spouse will hear various versions of: “you had this coming to you,” “well you’re not dead yet are you?” “You were getting on with your life just fine before you knew, right? Why has that changed?” “Look at your spouse, they’re broken, they’re the victim, they have FOO (Family Of Origin) issues,” “you sound too hurt,” “you just need to get over it,” “oh, you’re divorced?” “Oh, you’re a single parent?”
I’ve heard these variations come from friends, family, counselors and pastors. The very people that the faithful spouse needs to support and comfort them end up completely denying the destruction right in front of them, shunning them completely away or keeping them at arm’s length, as if they don’t want to catch some nasty disease. It’s patronizing, invalidating and minimizes pain. “I don’t know what you’re going through but you need to see it how I see it. Your reality is wrong and mine is right.”
The sad truth is people don’t know how to handle pain. Henry Nouwen has a great book called, The Wounded Healer. His quote sums it up well: “If there is any posture that disturbs a suffering man or woman, it is aloofness. The tragedy of Christian ministry is that many who are in great need, many who seek an attentive ear, a word of support, a forgiving embrace, a firm hand, a tender smile, or even a stuttering confession of inability to do more, often find
their ministers distant men who do not want to burn their fingers.”
No. No. No. No. NO!!! STOP IT!!!! Stop it NOW!!!
Where in Scripture do we have an example of Jesus approaching someone in pain and him saying “not now beggar, you’re too damaged.” This is NOT how we are called to respond to our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ! God protects the weak and the vulnerable. When we call to Him, He answers (Mt 7:7-12).
Pastors, your duty as a Minister is to love, protect and feed the sheep!! (John 21:17) The adulturer/ess is a lost sheep, and yes, they are important because we know God the Shepherd will go to look for them. But they’re a sheep that’s running away. On purpose. They’re not lost, they know exactly the path they’ve chosen, and they will not understand or value any love you try and show them until they truly recognize what they’ve done and repent. That is when the Shepherd will have a chance to succeed. The Shepherd can’t do much for a sheep that hears his calls and runs the other direction.
Some of the pastors, church leaders, friends and family out there are holding cheating spouses accountable. They are caring for the family that’s left in ashes. To them I say, keep it up, stay strong, we need more of you. To the ones who aren’t, I challenge you to step up and change.
The sheep you, and everyone else for that matter, need to pay attention to are the faithful spouse and family that have just had their world crumble to pieces. They need someone to listen and respond with the love that Jesus calls us to give. Period. It’s NOT appropriate, or Biblical, to pull the “shared responsibility” plug, or pretend like you don’t see what’s going on. You see brokenness in the cheating spouse yet you fail to see the pain, questions and brokenness in eyes of their betrayed spouse and children, the ones who actually were faithful and are the true victims? What you’re doing is focusing on the baseball that you see through the broken glass window. Focus on the window, not the ball.
“The great illusion of leadership is to think that man can be led out of the desert by someone who has never been there.” (Henry Nouwen, The Wounded Healer).
Proverbs 27:17, “As iron sharpens iron so one man sharpens another.” Iron sharpening iron is not a pain free process (see here), and yet when it comes to “one man sharpening another” we think suddenly it’s supposed to be an easy road that needs minimal involvement.
We’re under the false assumption that we won’t need to get our fingers dirty, that we don’t need to go through the desert.
“It seems necessary to re-establish the basic principle that no one can help anyone without becoming involved, without entering with his whole person into the painful situation, without taking the risk of becoming hurt, wounded or even destroyed in the process. The beginning and the end of all Christian leadership is to give your life for others…real martyrdom means a witness that starts with the willingness to cry with those who cry, laugh with those who laugh, and to make one’s own painful and joyful experiences available as sources of clarification and understanding.” (Henry Nouwen, The Wounded Healer)
Henry’s nailed it yet again. We will never learn from the person in pain in front of us if we don’t enter the fire of their pain.
Bob Sorge has a sermon about going through the fire. He says that God has a purpose when fire comes. He’ll never let us go, He’ll be there every step of the way. When God is there with you in the fire He’s giving you an authority that you didn’t have before. When God gives you that authority, you are the one to speak on that fire. Do not let anyone deny the fire you’ve been through. Adultery leaves a scar. A scar that says “I’ve been through the fire and I survived. I have an authority that you don’t have. Listen to me.“
I leave you with more Nouwen. I could not hope to try and trump what he has so eloquently written.
“I have found that the very feeling which has seemed to me most private, most personal and hence most incomprehensible by others, has turned out to be an expression for which there is a resonance in many other people. It has led me to believe that what is most personal and unique in each one of us is probably the very element which would, if it were shared or expressed, speak most deeply to others.” (Henry Nouwen, The Wounded Healer)
Those of you with scars, get out there and speak. Share your stories. Those without, shut up and listen.