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A Broken Vow and New Beginning: An Epic Love Story of Betrayal and Redemption

Part IV: Epic Love

My beloved and I met at Crowley’s restaurant beneath a canvas of Marilyn Monroe. Although there was a strong chemical attraction, we just enjoyed each other’s company and hangIMG_0719ing out with friends every week. Our first date was two months after we met. We bonded quickly in those early days; our connection was deep spiritually, emotionally and physically. In his words, “I fell for you hard and fast.” We married 13 months later and “we loved with a love that was more than love” (Poe, 1849). Ours was a special union and I would have bet my life that our marriage above all others could stand the test of monogamy and time.

When I walked through the valley of cancer, my man was my caretaker. When I miscarried three pregnancies, when I faced dismal career disappointments and rejection from family, it was Todd who allowed his strong and sturdy shoulders to catch my tears. This man was the last dream of my soul; he was everything to me as I was to him. Matched on dimensions of: intellect, humor, education, looks and spirituality- we were compatible in every way.

From the moment we met we sensed a knowing about one another that can only be described as kindred; truly, it felt we had known each other since our time on earth began. We experienced an emotional intimacy that extended beyond the heart and mind. Our bond only continued to deepen as newlyweds and parents. We attended bible studies regularly, prayed and shared nightly devotions together; keeping Christ at the center of our marriage served to protect and strengthen our relationship. Dreams and laughter filled our hearts and home for many years. Our love was (and remains) an epic affair of the heart and soul.

In 20 years, the majority of our arguments have stemmed from our similar personalities. We are both feisty, dominant type A’s who believe we are always right. We are bossy, confident, and aggressive and we like to assume the leadership position. That tends to present challenges for us at the times when I just need to let go of the power struggle and give him the baton.

This matchless bond  we formed effortlessly is the lone reason our marriage could be saved. We stopped cleaving and drifted apart. We lost each other while wondering around on our own in the darkness. Life grew cold and lonely without the other and as we both questioned, “What happened to us?” We were terrified… because if OUR love wasn’t real- was love even possible?

 

A Broken Vow and New Beginning: An Epic Love Story of Betrayal and Redemption

Part III: Raw Emotions11851faf720722cf0f22cb148b2975b1

I have walked through some dark valleys in my life: my father’s suicide, cancer and raising a child with bipolar to name a few. Yet none of those valleys were as painful and unbearable as the betrayal of my husband. I turned to a support group of friends who allowed me the freedom to lament raw emotions and prayed for me when I ran out of words. I didn’t know what I was supposed to be feeling. I was trying to forgive him; I loved him deeply and wanted to move forward, but how? This fling that he just drifted into consumed my every thought; I wasn’t sure I could survive much less forgive. In my quest for survival, I discovered there were not a lot of resources for couples wanting to reconcile and work through the wreckage.

In this vein I decided to write a book for couples to assist in the reconciliation process. The book (title TBD) is due for publication by the end of 2016 and will provide counsel, guidance, encouragement and a spiritual component, for couples to succeed in rebuilding their marriages. The purpose of this blog series is (1) to help me heal, (2) provide support for couples that have endured infidelity by sharing my story and (3) promote awareness about my book.

My husband continues to wrestle with guilt and shame for his actions. He would like to tuck this whole ordeal away and hide it from everyone who knows us, but what is done cannot be undone. We cannot sweep this under the rug and pretend it did not happen. He has been amazing on this road to healing with me. He’s been willing to respond to all of my questions, even when he knows the answers will hurt. He is not offended when I hurl insults at him during my human moments. He provides strong arms to hold me when I stumble and tender hands wipe away puddles of tears from pain he caused. I know it is difficult for him as I share our story and I am trying to be sensitive to that fact.

The story I am telling is our love story and while it does divulge details of his sins, he is repentant, remorseful and transformed. Adultery does not define who he is. Today I respect this man by my side more than ever. The man I love could have walked away and chosen someone with whom he had no commitments and no history, but he chose me… again. He chose our children and the life that we have been building for two decades. He chose the path of commitment, hard work and honor. He chose the laborious journey of rebuilding and THAT impresses me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Broken Vow and New Beginning: An Epic Love Story of Betrayal and Redemption

Part II: Grace DispenserDSC_0052 (1)

As I enter the corridor of this New Year, I am shedding 2015 like a hot coat. For me, January 1, 2016 represents a new year filled with new possibilities and promise for new beginnings. You might have guessed by now, my husband had an affair. To say that I was devastated is an understatement, but I was not ready to give up on us, so leaving him never entered my mind. I decided to go to war for my marriage the only way I knew how: prayer.

For those of you who know us, but were not aware of the affair, this must come as a terrible shock to you so I apologize. Over the past months, I have cycled through some intense emotions and now that I have enough distance between his confession and my initial shock, I am ready to move forward. I need to discover new meaning, find a new normal to accompany his new promise of fidelity.

The most effective way for me to process a traumatic event is through writing. Writing about the pain helps me to heal. I mean, what do I do with my husband’s betrayal? This was a man who adored me, he was my best friend, my soul mate; he served, protected, provided and promised to love, honor and cherish me all the days of our lives. How do I fit his adultery into the context of who I am as a wife, mother, leader, pastor, counselor and speaker? That answer is obvious: I must tell my story.

According to infidelityfacts.com, only 31% of marriages succeed after an affair. Others need to hear that marriages can survive the worst betrayal possible and come out for the better. I want to help people who have suffered the heartbreak of infidelity restore their identity, their dignity, their self-respect. The worst thing that could happen is to sweep this tragedy under the rug and allow it to remain a secret. I need to know that my suffering has not been in vain and that God will work out this struggle for my good (Romans 8:28).

We live in a culture where it is perfectly acceptable to speak openly about our diseases, illnesses and parenting woes, but we tuck our marital conflicts away because we are either admonished by others to keep our “personal business private,” or we’re too humiliated to tell our stories for fear of losing support from family, friends or colleagues. Sadly, those are very real possibilities for me. I’ve decided I’m taking the risk anyway.

The ruptured connection in my marriage that led to this act of betrayal is a common story. The easiest and best way people learn is from each other. In sharing this insight from my acutely traumatizing experience, I see it as an opportunity to assist other couples that want to rebuild after a grave breach in trust. I’ve never fit anyone’s mold so I’m breaking the silence and telling what needs to be told.

In today’s world people need hope and encouragement for healing. I want to be a grace dispenser and catalyst for healing by sharing what we did to re-establish trust, intimacy and rebuild our relationship. The written word gives me the widest reach in accomplishing this goal.

 

 

 

A Broken Vow and New Beginning: An Epic Love Story of Betrayal and Redemption

DSC_0042Part I: Waking Up

I want to tell you a story. Although it is excruciating to recount, it is critical for others to hear, understand and apply what I share. The subject I bring to you is unfortunately a common occurrence affecting millions of men, women and children daily…it is the stuff that crucifies marriages and destroys families.

Over the next few weeks I will be rolling out a series of articles on the topic of adultery. Stories like this one are quite messy so it will be told both honestly and from the perspective of the faithful spouse. Which means raw emotions are going to get in the way, but I vow to be as transparent as possible while protecting and honoring my marriage.

This is an epic story of a man and a woman who fell passionately and inextricably in love two decades ago. After eighteen years of matrimony, raising children, falling asleep emotionally and growing apart spiritually, one of them had an affair. So throw on your lounge clothes and grab yourself a coffee, a sweet tea or a bougie water (inside joke only my man and closest friends will get), curl up in your cozy place and read. Read about waking up, recommitting, choosing forgiveness, making the decision to love, and most importantly I hope you grasp the implied messages of redemption and grace.

Three Ways to Love Successfully

loveSecular advice on love and success focuses on ways to maintain another person’s sexual interest or directives on getting your emotional needs met. In the end, this cheap brand of love is shallow and doesn’t lead to long term success. Genuine love is sacrificial and pure, it doesn’t demand its own way or take advantage of others. If you are interested in a love that endures all things, continue reading. I have identified three essential ways to love and be loved successfully:
1. Pursue love- How would you feel if you were deeply in love with someone who was investing more time and energy with their friends, career or hobby? Most likely you would feel insignificant and you certainly wouldn’t feel your love was reciprocated. We invest in the things that are important to us. People think nothing of investing in vehicles, real estate or the stock market, but they rarely apply that same logic to their relationships. Love is a verb. Couples must sacrificially work together to keep love safe, secure and alive. You cannot assume the passion you felt early in the relationship will remain if you invest little effort.

So just how do you pursue love? Put your partner’s needs ahead of your friends. If your other half is sick, cancel your golf game and play nurse instead. Enjoy each other’s company and pursue BFF status with your significant other. Regularly participate in activities you have in common. When eyes start wandering, people begin wondering what they’re missing; love has to be guarded with fierce devotion. Make your relationship an exclusive two-person arrangement. Continue dating after marriage, see a counselor before things go south and finally, never stop discovering new things about one another.

2. Nurture love- Love is among the most basic of human needs; everyone wants to be loved by someone. The ability to express love is what makes us human and sets us apart from the animal kingdom, so before we go any further, let’s define love. Is it a feeling? Is it a decision? Is it more spiritual than emotional or more cognitive in nature? Love is too broad a term to adequately describe in the English language. Would you take a bullet for your car or die for your favorite jeans? Of course not! You probably would, however, give your life for your child or your soul mate! The Greek language provides four major words (and at least eight minor ones) for love:

1. Agape- the idea of a person giving all his or her love or favor to another. Often associated as the love God demonstrates towards us, it is a pure and whole love.
2. Phileo- emotional love, emphasizing affection or a fondness one person has for another.
3. Eros- refers to the passionate love between a husband and wife.
4. Stergo- refers to the love between parents and children.

When the passion fades, you will have to make a decision whether or not to keep on loving in spite of how you feel or you will never leave Phileo Land and experience the depth and richness of “eros” or better yet, the perfection of “agape.” Love is sacred and for it to grow, it must be nurtured. Love should not be repetitive, it should be creative, original and inspired.

3. Hold on to love- Our culture has sold us an unrealistic brand of love. We have been deceived into believing that love is simply physical, which makes you and I no better than Fido the family pet. Romance novels and the silver screen hold men and women to unbelievable standards that devalue love and set us up for failure. Beauty is fleeting, in time romance dwindles, the physical gets boring and eventually, without a strong commitment, we abandon ship and jump into the next hot relationship. Initially love begins as a feeling, but if you want love to last, you must make it a choice and hold on with all your might. Commitment is the most important ingredient to a long term successful relationship. Commitment means honoring the promise to love someone even when the “feeling” is lacking.

In reality, there is no fairy tale ending and there is nothing magical about “true love’s kiss.” Successful love is an unfailing love and in all its splendor, it is quite ordinary. Love that never fails is long-suffering, it is the first to forgive, always seeking to understand rather than seeking to be understood. It means loving a person when they are unlovely or unlovable and loving in spite of each other’s failures and short comings because people are imperfect. Enduring love understands that there are not those couples who have it together and those who do not. We are all broken, messed up and in need of redemption, grace, mercy and forgiveness. So, you want to be successful in love? Pursue it, nurture it and hold on to it with fierce devotion!

In Praise of Female Pastors – Part IV

The Interpretation

Silence

The church has used Paul’s words in the following passages to silence women for centuries:

  • Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church (1 Corinthians 14:34-35, NIV).
  • A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet (1 Timothy 2:11-12, NIV).

Did Paul mean to apply these statements (and others like them) to all women for all times or could Paul have been speaking to a particular group in a particular church at a particular time in history to address a particular problem? Women along with children, slaves and the poor assembled in great numbers wherever the gospel was preached. The gospel represented a new message that affirmed their human dignity and worth. Women were not educated beyond their domestic duties in the home during this time so obviously they had no formal training in interpreting the Scriptures. The “women” in the Corinthian Church would have been zealous over their new freedoms in attending church and began disrupting the meetings with their questions and opinions. Paul asked them to quiet down and speak with their husbands at home. He was actually encouraging them to learn and participate, but he wanted order not disunity and disorder.

The Epistles are letters written thousands of years ago. At the time Paul was writing these letters, he was living in a patriarchal society and women held the legal status of slaves; they were not considered worthy to even hear the law read or explained and could not enter the inner courts of the Temple. Although the Bible was written for us, we were not the original audience. If  we want to understand what application the Bible has for our lives today, we must approach it responsibly so we do not dishonor the original intent of the message.

Paul was not restricting women, he was giving them opportunities to sit quietly and learn; something not previously available to them. Paul had a high view of women and acknowledged them as deacons (Romans 16:1), co-workers (Romans 16:3) and apostles (Romans 16:7). Women were vital in Paul’s ministry and were leading, teaching and prophesying in the community at the time Paul was writing these letters. Women were fulfilling Peter’s prophetic words, “In those days I will pour out my Spirit even on my servants- men and women alike- and they will prophesy” (Acts 2:18, NLT). Paul had full knowledge of these female leaders and they had his blessing.

Every Bible study I’ve been a part of used the words of Peter and Paul as the gold standard for a “biblical marriage.”

  • Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything (Ephesians 5:22-24, NIV).
  • Wives submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them (Colossians 3:18-19, NIV).
  • Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives (1 Peter 3:1-2, NIV).

At the time these letters were written there were Greco-Roman household codes in effect that recognized the hierarchy of male authority in the home. These household codes were part of the Pax Romana law. These teachings from Peter and Paul would have aligned with the laws of their day. We do not have to mirror Greco-Roman culture; we live in America and a marriage model from ancient Middle Eastern culture should not be our standard just because it is biblical. After all, it is biblical to force a woman to marry her rapist (Deuteronomy 22:28-29), it is biblical for a man to have multiple wives (Exodus 21:10), and it is biblical to sell your daughter as a servant (Exodus 21:7).

If you want to know what a God-designed marriage should look like, you only need to go as far as Genesis 1 & 2. In Genesis 2:18 & 20, God made for Adam an ezer kenegdo translated as “strong power.” Eve was created as Adam’s perfect match, neither superior nor inferior. Eve, God’s first daughter was named after our Heavenly Father. Ezer is a name God uses for himself numerous times in the Old Testament in the military context when he is rescuing Israel. So in the context of marriage, the ezer kenegdo is to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with her husband and her brothers in ministry. When women are silenced, forced to take a back seat, minimized or downplayed, they are not functioning in the way God intended.

I have a definitive moment in time when God called me to ministry as a minister of the gospel. I have preaching and teaching gifts that have been affirmed by the Church. I have an education and I am ordained. I am an ezer kenegdo, a strong power- a warrior! How can I not preach or teach?  I don’t know about you, but when any human organization, church included conflicts with God, I am going to obey God rather than man (Acts 5:29). If you know a female pastor, please encourage her- she needs it! If you are a female pastor, God bless you richly!

References:

Bessey, S. (2013). Jesus feminist: An invitation to revisit the Bible’s view of women. Howard Books: New York, NY.

Evans, R.H. (2012). A year of biblical womanhood: How a liberated woman found herself sitting on her roof, covering her head, and calling her husband master. Thomas Nelson: Nashville, TN.

 

 

 

 

In Praise of Female Pastors – Part III

The Debate

 

freedom-or-restrictionIn the West, two polarized groups are used for defining the standard roles of women in the context of the home and church: complementarians and egalitarians. For clarity’s sake, complementarians believe that God established a biblical hierarchy by placing men in authority over women and that he calls women to submit to male leadership. Within this view, only men are to assume leadership positions in the church, with women filling in the supporting roles (i.e. administrative assistant, children’s director, nursery, choir, etc.).

On the other hand, egalitarians believe that God does not use gender as the qualifying basis in determining who holds leadership positions within the church- rather it is determined by the gifting and calling of the Holy Spirit. God did not intend to equip his daughters with certain gifts and talents and expect them to bury those talents in the backyard (Matthew 25:14-30); all believers are to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ (Ephesians 5:21). At the core of this debate is whether or not we believe God has placed restrictions on what women can and cannot do in the home or church or if he has given them freedom in Christ (John 8:36) to use their gifts and answer his irrevocable call (Romans 11:29).

It seems Christians simply cannot agree on this matter- you would think we would agree to disagree. But no, in our desire to be right we are divided and use the Bible as a weapon to argue and prove our interpretation is the right one, even to the point of verbally attacking women who preach from the pulpit. In 2008, Jackie Roese preached her first sermon at Irving Bible Church in Texas before a 3,500 member congregation. She was called a “cancer in the church,” a “dangerous sign,” and a “threat to Christianity.” Members left the church, and others boycotted the service. In essence, we have become enemies of the Gospel. Sarah Bessey hits the nail on the head, “…there is no more hateful person than a Christian who thinks you’ve got your theology wrong” (2013, p. 15).

When I need to remind myself how God feels about women and how he intends for me to use my gifts and calling as a pastor, I can look to the Old Testament or the New Testament for examples: Deborah was a prophet and judge (Judges 4:4), Miriam a prophet and leader in Israel (Exodus 15:20),  and Huldah a prophet in Israel (2 Kings 22:14). There are others, but I want to move to the New Testament. If you hold to the virgin birth [a central tenant in Christianity], it cannot escape us, that God brought his only begotten Son into the world through a woman (Mary), without the physical assistance (in an intimate sort of way) of a man whatsoever. Anna was a prophet (Luke 2:36) who served in the temple where Jesus was circumcised and recognized Jesus as the Savior and Redeemer.

Jesus elevated women and treated them with dignity and respect; he gave them opportunities to learn (Luke 10:39) and share the gospel (John 4:39). There is not a shred of evidence to be found indicating that Jesus thought women were/are subordinate to men. Women loved Jesus, they flocked to him and they were vital in his ministry and indeed, they were last at the cross on Calvary and first at his grave on Resurrection Day.

I will address Paul’s statements on women, submission and silence in Part IV of In Praise of Female Pastors.

References:

Bessey, S. (2013). Jesus feminist: An invitation to revisit the Bible’s view of women. Howard Books: New York, NY.

Cowles, C.S. (1991). In praise of women preachers: An analysis of Paul’s position of women in ministry. Retrieved from http://www.ccel.us/place.praise.html.

Evans, R. H. (2012). A year of biblical womanhood: How a liberated woman found herself sitting on her roof, covering her head, and calling her husband master. Thomas Nelson: Nashville, TN.

James, C. C. (2010). Half the church: Recapturing God’s global vision for women. Zondervan: Grand Rapids, MI.

In Praise of Female Pastors – Part II

The History

 

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In the history of mankind, women represent the most discriminated against population in the world. Across every culture, race and nation, women have been viewed as second class citizens. They have been denied education, the right to own property and the right to vote (until 1920 in the U.S.). Some cultures have viewed a woman’s sole purpose in life as that of bearing children and attending to every demand of her husband. Women have been treated as property to be bought, sold or cast aside when they were no longer needed or wanted.

Even today in some Middle Eastern countries, women are required to wear veils that cover their facial features and hair. In yet another culture there exists female infanticide due to the existence of a one-child policy. Male babies are preferred over female babies so much so, that parents opt for the termination of their female fetus through selective abortion. Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl Wudunn, authors of Half the Sky (2010) write “It appears that more girls have been killed in the last fifty years, precisely because they were girls than men were killed in all the wars of the twentieth century” (xvii).

Thankfully, in 21st century America, women have gained equality in nearly every facet of society. The exception; however, seems to be in the local church. Several Protestant denominations continue to hold to a patriarchal leadership system, restricting church leadership positions and ordination to men only. Churches in holiness denominations such as the Church of the Nazarene affirm women in leadership positions, including pastoral roles.

The fact that certain holiness denominations allow women all the rights and privileges in leadership has created a divide among Christians. I have witnessed arguments concerning this issue on social media that ultimately led to pressing the “unfriend” button and “blocking” the contact permanently. The controversial issue of female leadership in ministry has long been debated. It is rooted in various Old Testament Scriptures and statements made by the Apostle Paul in the New Testament. But, is it really as simple as reading these passages in the Bible and taking them so literally?

A responsible person approaches the Bible with the understanding that it is not an American book and is about as far removed from ancient Bible culture as you can get. When we approach the Bible through our Western eyes only, its message tends to lose some of its clarity. In a sense we are unaware and culturally blind; guilty of tunnel vision, yet absolutely sure without knowing anything about ancient biblical culture that we are able to explain the Bible’s message to ourselves and others.

Jewish women in Jesus’ day held the legal status of a female slave; heads were covered, faces veiled. Women were the property of their fathers until marriage and then ownership transferred to the husband. Only the husband had the right to divorce his wife and he could do so for any reason, including finding more pleasure in another woman. Women were forbidden to enter the inner courts of the temple and were not considered worthy to hear the law read or explained because it was a woman (Eve) who was deceived and brought sin into the world. The Bible is replete with examples of male patriarchy with women under the dominion and rule of men. That model however, was not God’s design. God’s original design is seen in Genesis 1:27-28:

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground” (NIV).

The Bible speaks clearly here of Eve’s fundamental equality with Adam. They shared the same essential nature, she was in no way inferior to him and she was not made to serve him. She was his spiritual counterpart, his intellectual equal and his perfect mate and companion. There isn’t a hint of superiority in this text. Eve was given the same instructions as Adam: to have dominion and rule over the earth. I am familiar with the argument that Eve was subordinate to Adam because God created Adam first, but if we follow that logic then Adam is subordinate to the seed bearing plants, trees (Gen. 1:11) and animals (Gen. 1:20-25) that were created before him. This argument simply does not make sense.

Genesis 2:18 tell us that the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him” (NIV). The word “helper” used here and again in verse 20 in the Hebrew language means ezer; a term God uses at least 16 more times in the Old Testament to describe himself and how he always comes through for his people in times of great need. If Eve was Adam’s subordinate, why would God use the term ezer,  a term he used for himself meaning “strong power” to describe Eve?

Things begin to change; however, in chapter 3 after the couple eat from the tree God commanded them not to eat from. In Genesis 3:14, the consequences of disobedience begin and in verse 16 he said “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you” (Genesis 3:16, NIV). This was a prophetic statement from God that meant, the relationship status between a man and a woman would now change. The great news is; however, that what was turned upside down in the Garden of Eden was turned right side up in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus not only reconciled the relationship between God and people, he reconciled the relationship between men and women!

Stay tuned for more good news in part III of In Praise of Female Pastors.

References:

Burden, S., Sunberg, C., & Wright, J. (2014). Reclaiming Eve: The identity & calling of women in the kingdom of God. Beacon Hill Press: Kansas City, MO.

Cowles, C.S. (1991). In praise of women preachers: An analysis of Paul’s position of women in ministry. Retrieved from http://www.ccel.us/place.praise.html.

James, C.C., (2010). Half the church: Recapturing God’s global vision for women. Zondervan: Grand Rapids, MI.

Kristoff, N.D., & WuDunn, S. (2009). Half the sky: Turning oppression into opportunity for women worldwide. Random House: New York, NY.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Praise of Female Pastors, Part I

The Call

ordination

 

 

 

People have been discriminated against for centuries based on their gender, skin color, preferences, socioeconomic status and abilities. Although clear and measurable progress is duly noted, it is unlikely (in my opinion) that discrimination on all levels will be abolished until Jesus returns and the first heaven and the first earth have passed away (Revelation 21:1). Until those events occur, my desire is to share what I  learn based on my education, experiences and Bible studies. The longing of my heart is to “set the captives free” (Isaiah 61:1).

I recently read two new books (titles and authors views will be shared in a later post) that I feel perfectly articulate what I have sensed in my soul for so long, but have been unable to verbalize. Both of these books affirm women in church leadership. The reason this material is so dear to me is obvious (if you know me): I am an ordained minister in the Nazarene church. I am also a licensed counselor and I find the two roles impossible to separate. I am a shepherd. What does a shepherd do? A shepherd cares for and feeds the flock of Jesus. I have been educated and trained in all kinds of counseling theories and techniques, but the Holy Spirit is the True Counselor (John 14:16) and He lives inside of me, enabling me to care for the flock.

I have lived nearly 47 years on this earth and I have never felt discriminated against, until I became a pastor. At times I am given the “cold shoulder,”  when I share that I am an ordained minister. Through my interactions with other Christians (mostly outside of my denomination), I receive comments such as “What’s the point of that?” and “Oh…” with a confused look, or I am simply ignored.

A few years ago, the pastor of a community church (where my children happen to attend school) held a luncheon with a motivating message for local pastors. The secretary called me because we knew one another; she wondered if I would extend a verbal invitation to the male pastors at my church. Since I was serving as an Associate Pastor alongside those brothers, I asked her if I was invited as well, to which she nervously responded “Oh, I’ll have to ask.” Sometimes I feel the church is the only place where you can still discriminate against women and not get into trouble.

These interactions have been hurtful to say the least, so most of the time I don’t even tell people that I am a pastor until I know them better. However, God has revealed to me that I have erred in hiding my calling. My education has been endorsed by an accredited university, my doctrine is sound, my understanding of Scripture is solid, my teaching and preaching gifts have been affirmed by those in leadership over me and appreciated by those who have learned from me. My call has been acknowledged by my denomination and sealed in an ordination service in Black Mountain, North Carolina on June 7, 2013. I have entered into a sacred covenant with God to teach his word at all times and I will endeavor to do so with excellence.

I have a burden to share a series of posts that I believe are liberating. I invite you on this journey with me as I write the series, “In Praise of Female Pastors.”  I will share with you what I have learned from some amazing authors and women of God, the Holy Spirit and a proper exegesis of Scripture.

Respectfully submitted by: Reverend Jenny Compton

Three Fundamental Boundaries In Marriage

boundary_line-300x225As a counselor, I meet with a lot of couples who are in relationship trouble. Ten minutes into the first session and it’s not too difficult to figure out how they wound up in my office. As personal stories unfurl about adultery, communication breakdowns, reconnecting with old flames, flirting with strangers, and verbal and physical abuse, I am amazed the marriages have lasted to this point. Each of these couples share a common link: they lack boundaries in their marriages. Failure to establish boundaries at the beginning of the union prevents couples from experiencing true intimacy and creates a rift in the relationship.

A boundary is simply a property line that determines who is responsible for what. Boundaries help individuals hold one another accountable in the relationship. Once you are aware of who is responsible for a particular behavior or attitude, the opportunity for change becomes possible. Each party must assume responsibility for their own part in a problem. Assuming responsibility for your feelings, behaviors, attitudes, thoughts and choices empowers you to live an abundant life. Accepting responsibility becomes the change agent for a more loving and satisfying marriage. Boundaries are liberating! I have identified three boundaries that I believe are foundational for successful marriages.

1. Resolve your anger before it controls you- Anger is a powerful emotion, and in certain situations it can be useful, but human anger does not bring forth the righteousness that God desires (James 1:20, NIV). For love to grow, it must be nurtured and pursued; anger unchecked is like metastatic cancer, it spreads to the heart and kills love. Anger is a secondary emotion, it is the result of some other potent primary emotion. To demonstrate this point, I use the following formula in counseling to assist clients in identifying and discussing their true feelings:

fear + hurt + frustration = anger

Understanding this point is crucial in resolving anger for this reason: if I know my anger is the result of another emotion, I can identify and process the real emotion(s) instead of holding on to the toxicity that is eating away at me and killing my marriage. This is more productive than lashing out verbally or physically at your spouse, which only creates emotional distance and may even lead to divorce.

2. Protect your marriage from intruders- Marriage is an exclusive, two person arrangement that requires “forsaking all others.” Marriage is unique among all other human bonds because it symbolizes Christ’s relationship to His bride, the Church. Because third parties threaten the marital union, it must therefore, be guarded with fierce devotion. Couples must sacrificially work to keep love safe, secure and alive. You cannot assume that the passion felt early in the relationship will remain if you invest little effort.

You are a steward of a sacred covenant between yourself, your spouse and God and as a steward, you must guard against intruders that may include: in-laws, work, hobbies, Internet, affairs, friends, addictions, and even church. A marriage is only as strong as what it costs to protect it; You value what you invest in. People will invest in houses, vehicles, boats, the stock market, etc., but they hesitate to invest in their marriage. Americans think nothing of spending $10,000 or more on a wedding, but they scoff at spending a few hundred dollars on counseling that may save a derailed marriage.

3. Establish personal limitations- Boundaries are not something you place on other people, they are set on yourself, to control yourself, because you are the only person you can control. Establishing personal boundaries is a method of serving and protecting the relationship, it says to the world “I value my marriage.” Consider these points when setting your personal limitations:

  • Tell your spouse the truth [in love; in a normal voice…without yelling] if your needs are not getting met. Use “I statements” such as “I don’t want to do that,” or “I like it when…”
  • Don’t reconnect with old flames through social media and texting. Unless you are actually planning to have an affair, no good can come from this action.
  • Refuse to foster secret friendships with the opposite sex, it only promotes jealousy and betrayal and erodes trust.
  • Guard your eyes. Greet the opposite sex eyeball to eyeball; forbid your eyes from roaming all over someone else’s body, regardless of their attractiveness.
  • Refrain from full frontal hugs with the opposite sex. Offer a side hug or better yet, extend a handshake.
  • Compliment your spouse more than you compliment anyone else.
  • Get the log out of your own eye before pointing out the speck.
  • Be the first to offer forgiveness.

References

Dr. Henry Cloud & Dr. John Townsend (1999): Boundaries in Marriage.