Years ago, Charlotte and I were walking across a parking lot of a large church building in Kansas City. We had an appointment with a marriage therapist. This was our first visit with him.
I was nervous.
I was nervous that someone who I knew might see me. I was nervous they would find out that we were going to a counselor to talk about our marriage.
The truth is that I was more concerned about how we looked, than the reality of our our lives.
No, we were not in a crisis. We were not dealing with any sort of trauma or disaster within our marriage. But, we were dealing with an important issue.
We were stuck.
We knew we needed to make some real adjustments but we were unsure what to do.
Yet, I was not as concerned at that moment about addressing those realities as I was the appearance. I was more concerned about the possibility of another’s perception than the reality of our relationship.
This is not a good place to be. In fact, it is embarrassing to think about this now. Yet, sometimes church leaders can find themselves worrying more about a possible perception instead of addressing the reality of their lives.
Unfortunately, this can get even worse. Church leaders can attempt to control and shut down what their family members are actually experiencing.
Church leaders can communicate to their families that they need to act like everything is ok, even when it isn’t. There are some real consequences to this behavior.
1. This behavior can cause identiy confusion and character compromise. After awhile, you wonder who you are.
2. Spouses can become resentful and and feel as if their feelings are being discounted. This is a lonely place to be in a marriage.
3. Children can grow up resenting their parents, the church, and even God. Children are perceptive. They can often tell that things are not ok. Yet, some families seem to live by the myth, “If we don’t talk about it, it doesn’t exist.”
The idea is for husbands and wives to be honest with one another. When we exhibit a behavior in front of our children that are wrong, we need to name that behavior for what it is instead of acting like it never happened.
Other trusted people can be helpful as well.
Are there a few godly, wise people in your life and giving them permission to walk with you through this difficult time? It is far better to acknowledge to our spouse, children, and appropriate friends, mentors, guides, or therapists that everything is not fine than to pretend nothing is wrong. In the context of that reality, we can then move on and work through the realities of our life.
Think about some of the healthiest Christian men and women you’ve known. (In particular, consider healthy ministers you’ve known.) What seems to characterize these people?