I’ve never actually been whale-style harpooned, but God used my pastor last week to do something that felt close…
And it was exactly what I needed.
We sat in his office, my husband and I, working through a situation that had wounded us both. While I can be good at helping our kids navigate some of their disagreements, sometimes I struggle when my own selfish heart is involved. This was one of those times.
We couldn’t resolve the problem on our own and needed help.
Marriage can sometimes need triage. Why people get so bent out of shape about getting help is beyond me. If I break a bone, I go to a doctor. If we break something in our home and don’t know how to fix it or don’t have the right tools, we call a repair man. The car? A mechanic.
But relationships? Well, research shows that it usually takes a couple six years to get help. That would be a little too long to wait to fix a broken bone, the air-conditioner, or your car.
That morning in the pastor’s office, I looked at the man I’ve spent nearly a quarter century with and just felt sad. Sad that I’d hurt him, sad he was sad, sad that we needed help working through it (actually, that one’s pride), sad about how I felt, and sad that we’d let things go on as long as we had. It wasn’t six years, mind you, but it had been too long.
I apologized for my part in the situation, and he apologized for his.
And then at one point the pastor (who happens to be a Gottman-trained counselor) harpooned me with a question I wasn’t prepared to answer.
I can’t even remember exactly what he said. I had one of those “flooding” moments when he asked the question, and in that moment, I knew two things:
1. I was terrified of answering, and
2. I didn’t want to hurt my husband any more than he already was
So I held back a moment, took a few deep breaths, and then I said, “I’m not comfortable answering that – I don’t want to hurt him.”
I had this sense of standing behind a fence or wall when I replied. An image of a brick wall filled my head.
It was tall.
There was no way I wanted to even try to climb over it, go around it, or even peer over the top.
It was safe over here.
He asked a question that made my breath catch. It had something to do with longings, I think, but again, my brain had checked out partially, so I just remember my answer.
“I long to have such a deep and intimate relationship with God that He fulfills all of my longings, and I see people the way He does.”
That was a good answer.
One that kept me safe, was true, and didn’t harm anyone else.
The pastor smiled.
His eyebrows raised.
“Your theology is right,” he began, still smiling knowingly at me, “but you know that’s not what I mean.”
He’s not going to let me off the hook here.
“I don’t know how to do this,” I said.
And then he asked me another question and another and another until he had coached me into articulating my feelings in a way that was not injurious to my husband. He helped me put words to my experience. His training showed up and we worked through the rest of the discussion awesomely. When he finished coaching us, he made a few summary statements.
And then came the harpoon…
Nonchalantly, as if he was talking about the weather, he told me I’d need to repent of the “sin of self-preservation.”
“Oh, man,” I said.
I racked my brain for the verses. I knew I was to “guard” my heart. I knew I was to love, and I knew the Biblical definition of love…
But the sin of self-preservation? God’s Spirit in me sent shock waves through my body, confirming this revealed truth.
But where was this in the Word?
“So where is that in the Bible?” I asked him.
He started quoting verses.
“Lay down your life,” “take up your cross and follow me,” “die to self,” he said, along with the references, I’m sure.
“Oh. Those. Of course,” I said.
Over the years, I’ve been laying bricks in a specific area of my marriage. I wasn’t even aware I was doing it. I thought I had tried to build a bridge over this issue, but for whatever reason, I ended up with a wall.
Maybe you can relate? I’m guessing I’m not the only who has done this.
And the sin of self preservation will keep us safe from emotional risk, but it can cost us in intimacy. Dr. Larry Crabb talks about this in a few of his books. Here’s one of the things he’s said:
A civil war unknown before conversion breaks out afterward: the flesh and the Spirit do battle. Flesh (human beings living according to their own ideas about how to find life) stands in absolute contrast to spirit (human beings entirely dependent on God for life). The work of repentance is (1) to identify those interactions with life in which protection from personal pain is a higher priority than obedience to God, and (2) to replace self-protective manipulation with vulnerable obedience.
Dr. Larry Crabb, Understanding People, Page 166
Bringing our husband good can mean a ton of things – from gentle rebuke of sin to sharing your heart. It has nothing to do with sticking around and allowing your kids or yourself to be abused. That is different.
My concern is that a day may be coming where this sin of self preservation has a totally different meaning. It won’t be our hearts we protect, but like Christians in the middle East right now, it may be our lives.
And in this Now, today, a little over a week after 21 martyrs were assassinated… and a day after we see another ISIS news headline with apparently a child soldier killing two adult men, I’m thinking there are bigger fish to fry in this world – and who am I to be navel gazing when Christian families are losing their leaders, their men, their husbands, their fathers, their protector-providers while we in the west are arguing about whether or not Christian women should watch 50 Shades of Grey.
Here’s the thing…
The world is changing – and we’re seeing it unravel right in front of our eyes. I grew up when Ronald Reagan was president, 95% of people in America believed in God, and families stayed together even when things were hard.
People wanted kids, and very few were born out of marriage compared to now where we have a global flight from the family.
I feel like the Lord has given me a mission to be part of the raising up of a completely different kind of army.
He’s forming an Army of Women – Titus 2-style women who are willing to be brave and lead other women, choose growth for themselves, and find the middle ground of balance between dominate and doormat in marriage – that sweet spot known as strength and dignity – where she feels so valued and has such a deep and intimate relationship with Him that she can lovingly confront sin, be patient, be kind, gentle, speaking the truth in love, respecting, submitting, and garnering glory in His timing – regardless of the behavior of the man she married.
She’s not a maid. She’s not a control freak. She’s not a dominant or brassy woman. She’s an equal heir and she knows it, but she is also humble, strong, persevering, and worthy of honor and respect.
And she’s smart.
These are women who are willing to learn how to respect, submit, be their husband’s friend, speak the truth in love, and do hard things. They are women willing to persevere in their marriages and families, and instead of a Sandburg-style lean in, they’re leaning out – because they realize the task before us matters.
Fast forward 20 years from now in your own life.
If you don’t change the direction of your marriage… if you don’t make a difference in your family and things continue the way they’re going now, what do things look like two decades away from the Now you are in?
Today, 75% of America believes in God.
Terrorism is becoming a bigger threat.
Who is going to raise the people that raise the people who protect our great grandchildren?
Don’t you feel Him calling YOU?
I hope I’m not freaking you out today. I know I don’t usually write like this, but with every passing second, the world just keeps changing. And it’s not that I’m afraid, but rather certain – we need to Nation of Israel-style move forward into the Red Sea. We need to respond back to God, Elijah-style, “Send me, I’ll go.”
Will you go with me? I’m officially inviting you into this. I dare you to learn to be a better wife, have a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ, and follow Him.
If you love me, you will keep My commandments.
If you want to know more about why respect is important to a man, check here.
If you want to understand the concept of submission, read this.
And in the meantime, if you are not part of our community and you want to be, sign up for the email TIPS! articles in the sidebar. I will send you an ecopy of 101 Ways to Respect Your Husband just for signjng up. 🙂 You’ll hear from us just once a week or so, and you will also get the blog delivered to you. And we keep your email private. Always.
What do you think about these things today? Can’t wait to hear from you!
Love to you,