Thursday, November 6, 2008

Husband Replacement

Something strange happened to me the other day. It made me stop in my tracks and say, “Whoa….what was that?”

I was in another ‘church’ two weeks ago. It was a United Methodist Church in the center of our little town. I was attending a funeral of a friend’s husband. The pastors were all dressed in their robes and long collars with rope belts. The windows were beautiful stained glass and the organ was gigantic and melodically soothing. As the service started to close the younger pastor stood over the casket and prayed to usher this man’s soul into heaven.

Now normally I would have expected me to cringe at the formality and religious overtones of the service. But on that day, I liked it. It was safe. The scriptural readings and written prayers were solid and comforting as well as theologically deep and sound. None of it bothered me. In fact I found myself relaxing and enjoying the service.

But something significant happened when the pastor stood over the casket and prayed. I felt myself wanting to lean on his spiritual leadership. I found myself drawn to this man. He seemed strong spiritually. Almost as if you had a twisted ankle and you had to lean on someone for support, I suddenly felt like I could lean on this man.

This was the thing that made me stop myself and ask myself what was going on.

I did not know this man. I didn’t know if he was a good person or a selfish one. I knew NOTHING about him and so I stopped and wondered what was it that was in me that felt like I wanted/needed to lean on someone, unknown to me, for spiritual guidance and support.

In chewing on this in the subsequent days I marveled at this need that was evident in me. I did not even know this existed in me and why did it exist at all?

Here is my theory. I think I have often wanted someone to take the place of the Holy Spirit and/or my husband in this spiritual partnership of the journey through life.

The easy answer that we all know from Sunday School is that the Holy Spirit is supposed to be the one we trust and lean on. He is our comforter, guide, and teacher. We all know that.

But I also feel like God gave me my husband as a partner through this life. We lean on each other emotionally and physically but in this area of 'spiritually' I often found that it was easier to trust someone else. Someone who I thought had it more together spiritually.

Why did I look at my husband and want to replace him with a ‘pastor’? Let me tell you what my own heart revealed to me. I wanted to replace him because I KNOW HIM.

Marshall is a wonderful man but early on (like the first month of our marriage) I started to find out that he did not have it all together spiritually. He had strengths, yes, but he had weaknesses too. Yes, he loved people (and that is what initially drew me to him) but he was about as organized as a junk drawer.

For a while I tried to make him into the spiritual leader that I thought he needed to be. I even remember giving him a full page, hand written out, of how I expected him to lead me. He was to keep me accountable to all the spiritual disciplines, pray with me every day, teach me what he was learning in his daily devotions and so on and so on.

Guess what??? He sucked at my list!! So instead of resting in the Father and resting in the strengths of my husband that he DID have, I found it extremely important to find that place in a church structure and specifically in a leader. Now here was a pastor who encouraged me to do all this outward stuff that I thought would change me. Here were leaders who were strong where my husband was weak. I put weight, my spiritual weight, on these men and took it away from my husband. I took away the respect that I should have given him and gave it to another man.

I did not want to rest in him because I KNEW HIM!! These other men were unknown to me. I did not know their weaknesses. I did not live with them so it was easier to trust them. How whacked out was that thinking? In some ways, I almost felt like I had been cheating on Marshall in wanting to put my trust/weight in a pastor that I did not even know!!! Oh my God!

I just wonder if there are women out there who are like me. Do you find that your husband does not ‘measure up’ to your spiritual expectations? Do you miss having a ‘pastor’ carry this weight or journey with you? Would you rather journey spiritually with another man than with your husband?

I’ve had to do some serious repenting to my husband. While none of this was thought out in detail in my mind and I had no idea that this is what I had done, I had still done this my entire life. It even kept us at the ‘church’ we belonged to probably 10 years beyond what we would have stayed. I would not listen to his questioning of our leaders because I did not trust him. (A writer, Darin Hufford, said to me once that he hears so many stories where the husband was the one that had wanted to leave their churches but the wives had balked at it. The wives, thinking that their husbands were wrong, kept the family in bad situations much longer than necessary.)

Here is what is so crazy. I measured Marshall for so many years by a measuring stick that was skewed. On one stick was all the things that I thought made you a good Christian - things like being faithful to daily Bible reading, memorizing, journaling, church attendance and fulfilling all the expectations of the leader of whatever church we were in. On the other stick – (God’s stick, btw) - were things like faithfulness, kindness, loving the unlovely, willingness to help me and others, love for his kids, the ability to laugh with those who laugh and weep with those who weep. If I were to have used the right stick he was head and shoulders above any one I knew. But in so many ways I took what other men were better at and measured him by them.

So there is my revelation for the week. I’m not too proud of this one. I'm breaking my sticks - all of them.

And today I am committed to walk the rest of my life together with my husband. I commit to (appropriately) “lean” on him in all the areas of my life. I want to make him my partner in ALL aspects of our relationship.

And as a note to all those who read my blog who are in full time ministry:

Please encourage all of those who wish to put you into this position to refrain. Show the women that you are no better than their husbands. Don’t allow women (or men for that fact) put you into this unhealthy position. Make those around you aware of your weaknesses. Stress that you are only journey mates together with them and not this high and mighty spiritual leader. Encourage wives to listen to their husbands and husbands to their wives. Encourage them to make decisions together instead of always running to you. And go home tonight and give your wife a hug. She knows you and you are her ‘pastor’. She has my love and respect.


Larry Eiss said...


Ruth said...

Thanks for this Barb. It really hits home for me expecially since my husband isn't a Christian.

It's so true in many aspects of husband/wife relationships. The grass is greener on the other side is a huge lie from Satan and we buy into it.

Aussie John said...

For many years I have tried teach such as you have written, and have waited a long time to read such as you have written, Thank you for being sensitive to the Holy Spirit!

Barb said...

Larry, I'm hoping that I don't cause any fights tonight between husbands who read this and their wives. Maybe all women are not like me. I would love to know though how many have struggled with it.

Ruth the grass is greener is a good analogy but in the case of Chrisitian women - we would never look for the greener grass as far as a physical relationship. But the spiritual - doesn't seem to be that bad huh?

Aussie John, Wow, thanks. I would have never figured it out unless I had stepped outside the system and then been plunged back in for that instant. I was completely blind to it.

Tera Rose said...

:) nicely said

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great advice and encouragement. I think it's a good safety net for marriages.
-Mel Winstead.

Anonymous said...

Very thoughtful and vulnerable.

getting there said...

This is a very open post and I love it! You have moved one gigantic step forward here that most people never do and I am chuffed for you!

Trust is vulnerable.. trust is difficult and it is easier to trust someone that you think has it together.. I think many of us do it.

Amen on your last paragraph. Bless you for sharing this!

Tyler Dawn said...

Uh yeah -- guilty, actually. Used to do it al the time but now that I am almost never around Christian men it doesn't come up much lol

So heck, run out and buy yourself a "I want to be a Pastor's wife" t-shirt from Lark News. ;)

Anonymous said...

Wow, this is awesome!!I never thought about it, but this is really what used to happen with us as well. I always looked up to Nestus, spiritually too, but early on in our marriage he went through a bad patch spiritually (or so I thought), he did not want to go to church, read Bible or do any of the rituals that I expected. But he never stopped being a caring man, looking around to find those in need, never stopped showing Jesus. I insisted in us getting involved with one church after the other, as none seemed to provide what we really needed.
I do not even know when I stopped looking for "spiritual leadership" in all kinds of other "father figures". Now that I think about it, I only realize how much further we came since starting to lean on each other. And despite his weaknessed (very much the same ones you mentioned), he turned out to be strong and sturdy in the things that matter!!
Thank you for this, I am now totally overwhelmed with gratefullness for what my loving Father gave me!!

Anonymous said...

Excellent post, Barb. I actually linked to this today on my blog (yes, I'm actually posting!!) because one of your paragraphs really struck me.

Thanks for the inspiration! And thanks for the words of this post. It is definitely a good word.

steve :)

Anonymous said...

I will speak only as a husband. With all my short comings I would die for my wife. I don't care if it is a pastor or the man next door.....when they ain't living with you 24/7 it is easy to come across as though they may be special in a husbands weak spots. But mark it down and book it........your husband may not always be right but my guess is he is the only man in the world that would "die" for you because he loves you!

Anonymous said...

thank you for your honesty in stating that you had to repent for such thinking. I think it's unreasonable on both parties, the husband and the spouse to place unreasonable expectations of our perfect mate upon each other.

I believe this is why the relationship of marriage should be focused more on the give than the get, much like how Jesus in his relationship with us, did not measure how much we gave him, but gave his all on the cross.

Of course, easier said than done, but the example is there. :)