Monday, March 01, 2010

Bad advice I once thought about taking

I value wisdom.  The Bible says to get wisdom and understanding and underscores it's importance.  But not everything people tell you is true wisdom, even if they have lived a lot longer than you.  Wisdom has to be filtered through the Word of God and after that if it passes the test then there are other variables as to whether it's really wisdom for us given our individual life callings or situations.

Here are three pieces of  "wisdom" I was given over the years, through several respected sources.  After considering all of these things I came the realization that I don't agree with them and don't live by them.

"God has created men to have more freedom than women in marriage."

Dealing with two babies who were just a year apart, I tearfully shared with another pastor's wife how it seemed Larry got more time for himself than me.  At the time, I was feeling overwhelmed, and in need of a break.  She answered back to me that men have always been more free in marriage and it's just the way it is, and the way it was meant to be.  I'll never forget her words to me: "Men are more free, Deanna.  That's just the way it is -- it's normal for us wives to feel that way.  Just accept it and flow with it and things will be much better."   She isn't alone in believing this. According to her and some other women who advised me over the years, wives have apparently have been ordained by God to be home with the children, serving tirelessly with only a break on Mother's Day or other such rare occasions while their husbands play golf, get together with the guys for football or basically do whatever else they want while their wives chase after kids.  Women are not to complain or bring up our needs, but instead just thank God that we have been so blessed.  Who makes this stuff up?  Seriously.  It's out of someone's head for sure, because I have combed my Bible and never found it. Am I blessed?  Absolutely.  But I need renewal just as much as much husband does, and it is  not selfish of me to ask for it.   Thankfully my husband now understands that and there is no issue with me taking that time and in fact he encourages it.

"Don't have friends in the church."

I have heard this one repeatedly ever since Bible College.  We do know who makes this stuff up -- people who have served in ministry for many years who have been burned.  Their answer was to pull back and only have friendships with other ministers because they say, "familiarity breeds contempt."

 "If you get close to people you'll get hurt." 

"Once they really know you they have the power to betray you." 

Yep.  All those things are true, but the bottom line is that relationships are worth it.  You can build walls to keep the hurt out but you'll keep the love out too.  I choose not to live that way.  I am willing to go through the challenges that relationships bring because without friendship I'm a very lonely, unfulfilled person and I believe God created us for relationship - pastors and pastor's wives included.   Isn't it strange that God included three whole books of instruction in His Word to pastors as to how to run the church but He never once said in any of those three books that we shouldn't have friends.

"Don't ever be honest with your husband about how his sermon really was unless it was amazing." of my favorite pieces of advice that I love to hate.  "Women of God" advise us to lie to our husbands, (lying can be what you don't say as well as what you do say) all because their egos are supposedly too fragile to ever be able to handle the truth.  I was discussing this recently with a good friend who is a seasoned pastor's wife of a large church, and she said to me, "what does this advice say about our men?  This advice implies that they are fragile weaklings who are ego driven and can't handle anything." 

While I believe truth does need to be shared with discretion and we should always point out anything positive that we possibly can first I don't see anywhere in God's word where we are instructed to lie because our husbands are preachers.  If a man's self worth is so brittle that he cannot receive constructive criticism from time to time,  he should get some therapy before assuming the pastorate or take a break from it to get some help.  I definitely don't believe a wife should have a critical spirit, however we can serve as a positive sounding board as well as advisor when our partner asks for feedback.   While the Bible tells us to be encouraging, and does speak about discretion,  it doesn't instruct us to lie.  Last I checked there was no "unless your husband is a preacher" clause.  My husband values my opinion and we both discuss the strengths and weaknesses of our messages to try to improve.

What advice have you received, considered, and disregarded?


Leanne said...

I've heard the "don't say anything negative" advice before...yeah, let's walk on eggshells around each other! I believe that there is merit to not meeting your spouse at the door of the church immediately following the service and start critiquing the sermon. After a church service, much like a performance, there is an "adrenaline rush" that needs to wear off before we can really accept any constructive criticism. This is something I learned as a theatre major in college, and have carried into ministry. However, there is a point where the "rush" wears off and we [meaning both male AND female pastors!] do need to be open to learning how we can improve...

My personal favorite piece of "advice" I have received is this: "All pastors are given a special measure of grace from God to deal with spiritually abusive congregation members, and we just need to have the love of God in our lives..." So because we're pastors, we have to put up with abuse? There is nothing in my Bible that says this - it talks at length about how to deal with contentious gives instructions to ALL believers on how to live peacefully...but I don't see anything that says it's open season on pastors, and that's the way God wants it...

Deanna said...

I've heard that one too, Leanne and I agree with you, it's a piece of crapola, for sure.

I personally believe abusive churches need to be boycotted by pastors, and shut down if need be (these churches are dangerous for unbelievers or new believers or really ANYONE to be in anyway, so what merit is there in keeping them open?) Too many pastors go to these becuase they figure a church is better than no church. They are wrong...if I had it to do all over again I would never, never, never pastor an abusive church nor would I expose myself or my family to abusive individuals.