My Pastor Harpooned Me…
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,
Wow!!! This is probably my number one sin: self-preservation…. I’m not quite sure how to fix it either….
I am so thankful for your heart for our Elohim your articles and your work. HE is using you mightily to encourage & equip me to be a better wife. Thank you!! I was wondering if you could help me clarify something you said though. I didn’t quite get the Sandburg style lean in and what you meant by lean out. By leaning out do you me lean out to God??
Good post Nina! Yes, the world is changing for the worse and I agree, God is calling more women to the forefront of the battle. I am hearing the calling as well to take a stand and lead women. Don’t know how or when or what, yet. I know God will direct me in His timing. But, in the meantime, Satan keeps pulling me down…pointing out all my areas of inadequacies…my marriage is still a roller coaster, I am dealing with a teenage daughter, etc. So I am thankful for your honesty and openness in sharing! Blessings to you!
Any good is all Him, baby! So glad you are here! SO SO so glad you hear the call! 🙂 And yes, we will always have inadequacies – which is awesome. Because the pressure to be perfect is gone. 🙂
Love to you,
It is so fascinating, Nina, to hear you talk about the sin of self – preservation. God had just brought that to me in the last number of weeks in light of a situation we are facing. I so echo the thought that I am not sure I would stand the test of dying for Him if I can’t die to self now. God bless you abundantly. Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit…
Any good you see is all Him. 🙂 I totally get what you said, too. 🙂
So glad you are here!
Love to you,
Oh, how I desire a deep, beautiful intimacy with God and with my husband. I seem to struggle finding that intimacy with God & my husband has been a great source of pain. I don’t even know if he wants to be married to me. I will keep seeking God and the rest should fall into place. Thank you for your words.
YES!! yes yes yes we struggle, and yes there is pain, but you are right – seek and be with God, then obey and just because things aren’t hard doesn’t mean they aren’t in place. 🙂
Love to you,
So, here I am – searching, reading, hurting – knowing I have hurt my husband by not respecting him in the ways that he needs. He says I don’t admire and respect him, that I have lost my faith in him and you know what – he is right! This article hit it right on the head – self-preservation – I have been an independent woman, doing things my way for so long that I had no idea how to submit, be respectful in a Godly way and it is hurting our marriage. This needs to stop, I know this – and I am soooo glad I found you, your blog, and The Respect Dare. But this article? It is exactly what I needed to hear at this very moment. It unraveled me, broke me, made me realize that this was a HUGE issue of mine. I swear you wrote it just for me. I knew I was having a hard time submitting, not only to my husband, but to God and this hit me smack dab in the middle of my soul. I had never even considered self-preservation as something that was hurting me, him, God, and anyone else I might have a close relationship with. God spoke right to my heart just this moment – through you. I have hope and faith now, this can be done, this can help. God Bless you and yours.
God is so good! I hope you saw my response on your post on facebook. 🙂
Love to you!
Yeah I needed this, thank you for sharing, thank you for being transparent and willing to let us in where the temptation to self preserve is real. I think you waged some serious war on that sin in just posting this post. Keep your eyes on Jesus!
It’s not my life. 🙂 It’s all His. I know you know. So glad you are on the journey with us!
Love to you,
. . . . Nonchalantly, as if he was talking about the weather, he told me I needed to repent of the “sin of self-preservation.”
1) You have a good pastor who loves you. Most pastors demonstrate self-love and refuse to enter into conflict for the sake of their own self-preservation.
2) You have a teachable heart and a willingness to learn. Joy is not found in being right and arriving at the top (Whatever that even means.) Instead, joy is found in helping others grow and succeed. Humility realizes that in those cases, BOTH win. Humility always begins in our hearts. As a result, it offers significant control over our attitude, our outlook, and our actions. –That’s you Nina: unique, beautiful, broken (-just like all of us), precious, and loved.
-Thank you for the for the post! The goal for all of us: Nothing to prove, but everything to offer. Humility is being modest, reverential, even politely submissive. It is the opposite of aggression, arrogance, pride, control and vanity. And on the surface, it appears to empty us of ALL power. In reality, it is pure UNSEEN POWER -Psalm 17:15. It is so effective it is almost dangerous. Way more effective than ISIS which is dead while it yet “lives.” It’s aggression, arrogance, pride and desire for total control ensures its demise.
Oh, and Ronald Reagan was president, 95% of people in America believed in God. . . Today, 75% of America believes in God. Yes, that trajectory looks very bad. . . . . 1725 London, England. You could not travel across that city without an armed guard or you would be robbed and beaten. People were having sex for sport in the streets (-read the period literature). Into that Godless time God raises up John Wesley, who on May 24, 1738, listening to the Book of Romans suddenly knew that Jesus had saved him from the law of sin and death. “It pleased God,” he wrote later, “to kindle a fire.” The Lord through that man set ablaze England and America. The fire blazed all across England over the next few years and consumed everything in its path. Many church leaders of the time were so upset with Wesley’s emphasis on rebirth–wasn’t church membership good enough?—that they even closed their doors to him. No matter, he drew larger audiences in the open air. And these services drew a different kind of hearer, the kind that had long felt uncomfortable in the established church. Commoners, poor folks, atheists, agnostics, questioners of all kinds, all flocked to hear this new message of salvation by faith in Jesus, and untold numbers committed themselves to Christ. He did the same in America through his disciples Whitefield, etc. Even Ben Franklin commented, “From being thoughtless or indifferent about Christ, it seem’d as if all the whole world were growing religious, so that one could not walk thro’ the town in an evening without hearing psalms sung by different families and preaching in every street.” God knows what He is doing even when I can only see the trajectory of Christianity as being deconstructed as a hopeless, dying-and-raising savior god-myth, with Jesus as a legend, and the Bible winding up in the dust bin of history. The man who lead Wesley to Christ later commented that “It wasn’t even lawful to call this poor fellow a man, as he was so weak and I could tell he was not very bright at all.” That means he was perfect for God’s purposes. All we have to be is faithful, the battle belongs to the Lord.
I know where my self preservation lies… Unfortunately, it usually backfires on me and I end up feeling more hurt… I still have a hard time trusting m y husband after all we went through. Ihad a bad habit of checking every little thing and reacting at the slightest inference of something I thought might be amiss… I fell back into this a few weeks ago… It was so hard to not speak my hurt, to STOP my behavior again.. I am fighting it still! But thanks to The Lord, and few special ladies that I call my Titus 2 friends, I made it through the immediate crisis. I feel like the Lord used my obedience in remaining slient to work on my husband’s heart… We have a had a few minor issues where I felt hurt, and I was able to express it in a healthy way before they got out of hand and I built up a wall….
Thank you Nina, Terry Lynn, Mychelle, and my friend from church Linda..
Great post, Nina! Thank you for sharing your experience at the pastor’s office and reminding us to look at the bigger picture of life and the role we have as women to make an impact for generations to come. “Coincidentally”, my pastor’s message yesterday was about God’s calling and how we need to take action. I definitely feel God’s calling over my life and sense He is preparing me for the next step.
I really like the idea of an Army of Women, it goes along the lines of what I sense God is directing me to do, so I’m all for it! The late pastor Adrian Rogers was once telling a story about serving God on his mission. He went: ‘General Jesus, this is Private Adrian reporting for duty.’ Something along those lines… I really like that… May we all have the faith and courage to respond to God’s calling over our lives.
After my first read through this, (maybe I missed something) U seemed to shift from the counselor office to the world. I kept looking for the great revelation the Pastor awakened in U.
I guess I’ll read it again… Did U go down a rabbit-hole?
But… I agree, the worse the world gets, the more I need to know and rest in close intimacy with Jesus. At the end of the day… It’s just Me’nHim
I may have. 🙂 It was late. Thanks for the feedback – I rewrote a few things to clarify. The intent was that the great revelation would be the sin of self preservation and why it might matter. 🙂
Love to you!
thanks for a much needed, smack upside my head today. Lovingly of course but a good shake nonetheless.
For me too, baby! For me too! 🙂 So glad you are here!
Love to you!
So powerful. “He’s forming and Army of Women”, I love it. Something is telling me you’re absolutely right, I think if more women would find that middle ground between dominant and doormat there would be a better future for those marriages and our children’s marriages. Inspiring.
Any good you see is 100% Him, Sarah. I assure you, I’m as sinful as they come. So glad you are here!
Love to you!
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