The importance of Owning a Mistake
As a child I grew up tucked away on three acres on Mable Lake. Cable television would have never (and still hasn't) reached that remote part of the universe and a satellite dish was, at the time, about 13 feet in diameter and a luxury that a small town pastor's family could not afford. Our sole chance of being entertained was provided by a spotty antenna that delivered ABC, CBS, NBC, and PBS in the spring.
As antennas improved I was able to eek CBS on a small TV in my room. Though it was scrambled I could hear and clearly and made a habit out of listening to David Letterman. It became a ritual for me. Though I generally thought Leno had better guests, I loved Letterman's timing even if I didn't understand the socio-political state of the world sometimes required to get his dry humor.
Ever since then I have been a Letterman person and so was disappointed back in 2009 when he was accused and found guilty of having an affair. It's not like I thought he was an upstanding moral citizen, but I was still slightly disappointed. I'll never forget when he come on the air the weekend after the story broke and apologized. He was so direct and to the point. He didn't try and pad the news or offer an excuse. He just owned it. Though his mistake remained, his apology was an anomaly in the world of celebrity. I found it inspiring. With professional athletes denying PED allegation and politicians covering up scandals here was a guy who completely accepted his problem fully and publicly from the get go. Growing up when I'd witness something similar I'd note to myself how I felt and determine that if I was ever in a position to offer an apology I would.
This last Sunday I preached about the unity of the church. In that sermon I wanted to point out that in order for diversity to exist together long enough for unity to emerge, that diversity must be protected even when it's difficult. By way of illustration I offered my marriage with my wife as an example. After exploring the topic of marital strife and fighting I stated that those fights worked because we never said the word divorce nor it was an option.
On Monday I got a generous email from an individual who has been divorced. This person humbly shared their experience and cared enough about the issue and me to help me see the situation from another angle. After reading the email I thanked them and asked if I could share an edited version with you, to which they graciously agreed.
Thank you friend, for your courage on behalf of yourself and those who have shared your experience.
I wanted to mention something that I’ve been thinking about from your sermon today. You were making the point about unity and used an illustration from your marriage where you said that one thing that fosters unity (even during fights) is you and Lindsay’s agreement to never talk about divorce. I did hear what you said before this illustration – that you know that there are some situations where divorce seems to be unavoidable. Your intentions in caring for people who have been in unhealthy and unsustainable marriages is clear, and I really appreciate that. It was thoughtful (and risky, I know) to say what you did.
Anyway, it dawned on me that I don’t think I ever really talked to you about my previous marriage and the end of that marriage. Of course, I did talk to the pastor of the church where I was a member at that time. Anyway, after church today, I feel like I’d like to share just a little bit about that, in relation to your illustration.
Before we got married, my ex went out of his way to make sure to make sure that we would never ever talk about divorce, never even say the D-word. I thought this was a good idea - seems pretty obvious. But I think now that this was a way for him to create a safe space, not for our unity, but for him to be increasingly abusive. I’ll spare you the details. For two years, I never talked to anyone about the way that he treated me, and I really thought that if I just kept trying harder, things would get better. In the end, when I finally did go to talk to someone and get help, he decided it would be better to not be married than to acknowledge and address the brokenness of our marriage. After it became clear that reconciliation was not possible, I finally asked him if he wanted a divorce. He said, yes. And that was it - the extent of our conversation on the matter.
I'm telling you this because I want you to know that not talking about divorce doesn't really do anything to keep it from happening. In fact, what I've found from my experience and from the experiences of others, is that many abusers are very intentional about taking divorce off the table so that the people they are with are effectively trapped. This is especially so when they can give it the force of piety or religious obligation. In my situation, when I finally told someone for the first time about what our marriage looked like, the jig was up and he cut all ties with me and anyone who knew me.
Now, I really think that most people have very good intentions in not talking about divorce. And I don’t think it is healthy to use divorce as a threat, which I know is another way some people manipulate and abuse their spouses. But even for the happiest and healthiest of couples, denying the fragility of our relationships can also be a way of neglecting the maintenance that all relationships need.
I’m betting that in actuality, what makes for a safe space for you and Lindsey’s fights is not the absence of the word “divorce” (although I think that is good), but the presence of ten years of practicing love and patience. Years of children who you care for together, of meals cooked and shared, ten years of proving your trustworthiness to each other fight after fight after fight. Ten years of apologizing for broken dishes and for yelling and ten years of working together to clean up the mess and reconcile through the fights.
So, the rational, happily re-married, friend-of-the-pastor part of my brain understands your illustration today and gets what you meant. But I also have the part of my brain that will always hear everything as a devoted wife to an abusive husband. And what that woman takes away from illustrations like that is: “Well even the preacher throws things, so my husband probably isn’t that bad. Maybe the way he treats me is normal.” She is affirmed in her inability to even consider getting help or talking to anyone. And her husband is affirmed in his ability to do whatever he wants with no fear of her leaving. I know that is not at all what you meant to convey, and you probably didn’t convey that to anyone. But that’s what I would have heard.
There’s also a part of me that is still very wounded by my first marriage and insecure about my place in the church afterwards. What that part of me thinks is, “Well, Lindsey yells at Josh and Josh breaks things and they are still together. Why couldn’t I make my marriage work? Is there something wrong with me? Did I not try hard enough?” When it seems like not talking about divorce is a guarantee of marital sustainability, I feel like people around me are staring at me thinking, “Wow, if only she hadn’t talked about divorce, then she wouldn’t be divorced,” or “Wow, she and her ex-husband must have talked about divorce all the time.” Now, I know how ridiculous that is. And I know that probably no one is thinking about me at all. But somehow, in that moment I still feel kind of small.
This is not a big deal for me. I can shake that kind of thing off and remember where I am and what I believe and that I know you personally and know what you were getting at. But it makes me start thinking about other faces in the congregation who don’t know you and whose loss is much more fresh than mine. People whose spouses continue to threaten them with hellfire and damnation while at the same time physically and emotionally abusing them. These people are in our church. And these spouses and ex-spouses are in our church. And I’m betting there are one or two seemingly happily married couples (or dating couples) in the church for whom this is an underlying dynamic. I know we can’t help stepping on some toes when we preach, but I also know that the last thing you want to do is affirm an abuser while stepping on the wounded toes of the abused.
Anyway, know that I think you are great and I’m so glad you’re my pastor! I’m not upset with you or even asking you to change anything. I just feel like I might be able to provide some insight into a section of the congregation that I hope you will never have to be in.
Meet The Leadership Team
Chair: Jana Parker email@example.com
Kristin Dodson firstname.lastname@example.org
Kaley Eggers email@example.com
David Wilhite firstname.lastname@example.org
Austin Tiffany Austin_Tiffany@baylor.edu
Byron Roldan Byron_Roldan@baylor.edu
Teri Walter email@example.com
Meet David Wilhite
Vocation (could be your job or something you love doing that you believe you were made for): I teach early Christian history and theology at Truett/Baylor.
Favorite Movie: The Last Dragon (1985), featuring "Bruce Leeroy" and "Sho Nuff"
Best Restaurant in Waco: Mi Taquilla
Bible verse/chapter/book that is meaningful for you: 2 Corinthians 5:18-19
Best Television Show: The Muppets
Favorite Holiday: 4th of July (if you're on the lake; otherwise, Thanksgiving).
Something we might not know about you: I have a 1st degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do
Hobby: Anything with family, friends, and/or involving the outdoors.
Empty Nester and Almost Empty Nesters
Are your kids way past Sponge Bob and Dora? Do you pay more for car insurance than health insurance? Do folks ask if you qualify for the senior citizen discount? If so you might be eligible to be part of empty nester and almost empty nester group.
The next event will be dinner. It held on Friday, February 14th at 6:30 in the home of Jim & Mindy Wren. Their address is 1700 Royal Oaks Drive, Waco, Texas 76710.
Please RSVP (call or text) to Linda Taft if you plan to attend, 254 717 8191.
There is a fence on the backside (northeast) of the church that is made of bamboo. A few of our fence pieces have gone missing. I fear these missing pieces will only invite more mischief. Would you be willing to find a few pieces of bamboo and repair this fence? If so email firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks.
Work Is Worship
Coffee: Katie Wilson & Daniel Lairmore
Coffee Clean Up: Dan Picken
Greeters: Paul & Linda Taft
- Sunday Sermon Text: Luke 2:41-52
- John Sunday School Class: John 2:13-25
- Love-Love Feast: February 16th at 6:00 P.M.
- The Culture Sunday School class has posted an article on our website. Even if you don’t go to that class, Toph is encouraging folks to read the article and give feedback. Read it here. Comment on the Facebook thread on the UBC Facebook page.
- Penny Lynn Duke will be dedicated this Sunday. Please be in prayer for her and her family.
- CDs for the children's service will be available in the children's rooms after church this sunday.
Do you have an Emergency? Do you Need to talk to a Pastor?
254 366 9779