This is Part 4 of a series on surviving abuse.
If you are being abused, please contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline on their site or by phone at 1−800−799−7233.
Several weeks after I left my abusive spouse and moved out with the kids, our pastor of fifteen years left me a voicemail. He said that he had just found out “there were problems between” my spouse and me. He offered us counseling again. [We had one session ten years ago, which I discussed in the Beloved Walks post “Spiritual Abuse” (December 2019).]
To be frank, I was floored that the Senior Pastor had no idea one of his own deacons had been going through a divorce for over a year. Between the out-of-touch pastor and my lying spouse, the ruse of a happy family was alive and well.
I prayed about how best to respond to the pastor. I replied via email and shared that I appreciated him reaching out and that the kids and I were now safe in a Christian home. I also shared with the pastor that I pray for him and will continue to do so.
Shortly after sending my email, I received a reply. The Senior Pastor reprimanded me for not including him in my decisions and further chastised me by saying that he believes God wants a pastor involved in such marital decisions. He further encouraged me to come tell him the issues.
A few things jumped to my mind:
- I did come to you for counseling years ago. You told me to submit.
- You assume I do not have pastoral counseling. You are wrong. I have two pastors, one a close friend (and his wife) and the other a licensed psychiatrist who is also an ordained pastor.
- I have a personal relationship with my Lord Jesus. It is possible, and should in fact be, that people have their own close relationships with Jesus. I prayed and fasted for a very long time. On my knees, so many tears shed crying out to Jesus. I am obeying Him, and I walk closely with Him. I do not and should not “need” a pastor to tell me what God thinks. I should have a daily, deepening relationship with Jesus, so I know as I walk in the Holy Spirit what He is telling me.
- The invitation to come tell you all the issues appears to be a desire to obtain gossip. The decision has been made, I am in His will, and gossiping about issues achieves nothing. I have an amazing Christian therapist, who has been walking with me for months. I tell him my issues.
In the end, I decided to delete the Senior Pastor’s email and not reply. My broader point in sharing all of this in today’s post, though, is that if you are a pastor, consider the following:
- Stay involved with your deacons. Know them closely and ensure the best you can that they are and remain honorable (1 Timothy 3:1-12).
- Do not just tell wives to submit. Ask the husband, “Do you pray with your wife daily? Do you read the Bible with your wife daily?” If the answer to either of these questions is, “No,” then stop – you have found the root of most marital problems.
- If your long time parishioners do not engage you in their huge life decisions, perhaps ask them why instead of chastising them.
- Please do not assume that one of your parishioners will not have a close enough walk with Jesus to make huge life decisions. We should be walking with Him, and we are commanded to grow in the knowledge and grace of the Lord (2 Peter 3:18).
- It should be perfectly acceptable if another pastor is assisting your parishioners. Again, perhaps seek to understand why versus belittling.
As for me, I did not and do not believe it is my responsibility to inform my spouse’s friends or family members of our divorce unless I am faced with one of his lies, in which case I clarify with facts. I feel the same way about my spouse’s pastor, who I no longer consider my pastor.
I still have plenty more to share about surviving abuse, and this series will continue here next week. As I said in the initial post, this is a chance for me to share what I have learned and observed so far on my journey, but I’m certainly not here to say, “I figured it all out.” Thank you for reading.
We lift up the pastors of the world. Open their eyes and fill them with compassion, wisdom, and discernment. Help them to go beyond the “easy answers” and, instead, seek Your voice to enrich the spiritual journeys of their parishioners.
We also lift up all the survivors. May they realize Jesus is walking with them.
In the blessed name of Jesus we pray.