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Thursday, May 18, 2017

Letters from the Best Man (2)

The following is absolutely fictional and increasingly common. There is no Brad and definitely no Jill, in case that is not obvious. There are, however, way too many people in their position.

Dear Brad,

Glad to hear that Sunday did not go as badly as you thought it might. I’ve been praying and will continue to do so.

As I mentioned in my previous email, the elders accepting your resignation from teaching Sunday School is normal. Don’t take it personally. They haven’t heard Jill’s side of the story yet, and they never will if she doesn’t come back to church. Suppose they had refused to accept your resignation out of some kind of misplaced loyalty, then later discovered that Jill really left you because you had an affair at work or something insane like that? I know you didn’t, but these things do happen in the real world. They are being responsible to the Chief Shepherd and doing their jobs. The truth will come out in due course, trust me.

Meanwhile, you’ve done the right thing and the Lord is honored in it.

No Magnum P.I.

I wanted to follow up on some of your other questions from your original email. First, I absolutely agree with you that the idea of hiring a PI is crazy talk. I know it’s tempting to try to fill in the blanks. Jill is clearly not telling you the whole story. No woman could accurately synopsize her reasons for bailing on a ten-year marriage in a pair of three-line paragraphs, and I’m guessing she hasn’t miraculously become the first to do it. So, yes, there is probably another man; there almost always is. Maybe it’s an Internet acquaintance. Maybe it’s a co-worker. Maybe it’s a high school sweetheart. (I’m pretty sure I’ve got the top three there.)

My point is, my dear friend, it doesn’t matter. Knowing if there is another man or knowing who it is will not help you right now. If I’m wrong, and Jill is just trying to make a statement about how bad she thought things had gotten in your marriage — if she’s just trying to get your attention, I mean — you can probably expect an invitation to counseling shortly. Knowing you, you’d happily take her up on it and if it happens I encourage you to do so.

But I don’t think that’s where things are headed, and from your email it sounds like you don’t either.

Heart and Head

Second, you asked about contact. You have Jill’s cell number, but I wouldn’t use it unless she leaves you a message that you have a moral or legal responsibility to return. You’ve told her you love her, and you’ve told her you want her back. That’s enough for now.

There is a very male tendency to assume that problems of the heart can be solved with the head. It took me years to figure it out, but this is not the case. There are no magic words you can say at this point that will change Jill’s mind, and the very last thing you want is to be accused of harassment. By the time Jill told you it was over, she was long past the point of discussion. The thing to do now is to accept her words at face value. Respect her choice even if it not respectworthy. We both agree she’s made a wrong decision, but nothing you say at the moment is likely to tip the scales in your direction.

Saved or Unsaved

Third, where your dad questions whether Jill was ever truly saved, I’m afraid I wouldn’t presume to guess. Her behaviour certainly seems unchristian, but so did Peter’s when he denied his Lord, and we all know how that turned out. There is a Judgment Seat for these sorts of things. In any case, I think he may be right about this: “God has called you to peace”. Paul gave this instruction to believers married to the unsaved, but I think it surely applies in situations like yours where we are unsure about our spouse’s relationship with God.

Before making assumptions about Jill’s salvation one way or another, you might be wise to wait and see what she decides to do about her relationship with your church. Perhaps she genuinely believes you are the villain of the story. If so, she will approach the elders with confidence, though perhaps sadly. However, if she slinks away from her fellow believers without so much as a backward glance, that too will say a great deal.

It goes without saying that I think the first scenario unlikely. We will see. In any case, you are in the worst possible position to discuss Jill’s salvation with her at present. I would leave it be. The Spirit of God is in the world to convict men and women of sin, righteousness and judgment, and Jill has had ample opportunity to hear his voice over the years. If your wife is to come to conviction about her relationship with the Lord, that is almost surely someone else’s job now. The best thing you can do for her is set a righteous, godly example and avoid reacting to any of her provocations.

The Things We Did Wrong

Fourth, fifth and sixth, your various and several self-recriminations. Again, I suggest we wait and see what Jill actually has to say before you rip yourself to shreds. Yes, it is required of the Christian husband that he “live with [his] wife in an understanding way”. That does not mean you are expected to become a mind reader. There is a certain responsibility on the part of any Christian wife to speak honestly to her husband about her needs and desires, not to make him guess what she wants. I’m not simply defending you here because I’m your friend, but repenting of sins you didn’t actually commit is of no value to God, and Jill will not love you more for doing it.

Love in Christ,

Tom

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