Fallible Churchman

10 Apr

Letterbalm Broken CrossDear LetterBalm: My husband and I have been married for more than 15 years. During that time, he had two affairs. Each time, we prayed together, he asked God’s forgiveness and mine and promised he would be faithful. I worked hard to trust him, and I thought this difficult time was behind us. I just discovered that my husband is seeing a new woman. He’s a deacon in our church, and people look up to him. But I can barely stand being in the same room with him because I believe my husband is a hypocrite, and I’ve lost all respect for him. Our two sons know something is wrong – my husband and I rarely talk now or do anything together as a family. I’m torn up inside. I want to leave him, but I know it will cause a minor uproar in our church because wives of church officials are expected to be loyal no matter what. I’m anxious about being criticized. I need to know what to do.

–Suffering Wife

Let’s bring out the big guns here. The First Epistle of St. Paul to Timothy, commonly called First Timothy, says the office of deacon is an honor and a blessing: “For those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.” Paul also counseled that for deacons to be virtuous they must be the husband of one wife, respectable and honest. So much for your husband’s failings. You need to address both spiritual and earthly needs now. Continue to pray for God’s help and mercy, and do not discuss your situation with anyone except an experienced divorce attorney and a good therapist. The attorney can advise you of your rights and those of your children, and the therapist will help you gain confidence in the wisdom of your choice.  Ms. L.B. wants to reassure you that the last thing you should worry about is judgment from your fellow churchgoers. Your therapy will help you grow strong in the face of any small-minded criticism. When everything plays out, you can decide whether you wish to remain in your church or join a new one. (It may well be that your husband will leave the church as the truth comes out.) Be dignified, don’t demean your husband to your children and don’t be drawn into petty conversations; you owe no one an explanation. When you’re ready to end your marriage, have a talk with your husband thusly:

Earl, it shouldn’t come as a shock to you that we’ve reached the inevitable end of our marriage. You left it long ago. I’ve seen an attorney – here’s his card – and I advise you to retain one, too. I want you to move out as soon as possible because I’m taking steps to get a divorce. I know this will cause some repercussions in the church, but I can’t let that dictate my actions. Our sons and I deserve better. They know something is wrong because you and I have been living as strangers for a long time. I want to reassure you that I won’t badmouth you to anyone who asks about us, and I’ll never criticize you to the children. I expect you to do the same for me and keep this dignified and private. In spite of everything that’s happened, I do wish you well, and I hope you find happiness.

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