Recently I had the opportunity to minister in another church. At the first service a young man approached me to inquire as to my availability to counsel with him. I agreed and we set an appointment. His first question was not unlike the first question raised by a counselee at home. “How confidential is this conversation?” Once we cleared this hurtle, I asked him to tell me his story.
He developed a certain interest and worked diligently for several years to acquire an expertise in this interest. This process took place under the watchful eye of the elders of his church. After honing his ability, he expressed a desire to become a regular on the Praise Team of the church. The elders prayerfully considered his request and concluded that it was not the right time for his participation. Obviously this seemed somewhat incongruous and therefore I found myself questioning whether or not I had the whole story. So I proceeded with further data gathering through questions.
Through listening by questioning, as Paul Harvey use to say, I heard “the rest of the story.” First of all I learned that he was newly married, less than two years. Second, it became evident that he had a resentful spirit and was on the way to developing a bitter spirit. He concluded that he was being treated unfairly since an upper bracket teenager was approved by the elders to fill the role he desired. I asked about his marriage and discovered that it was not going all that well. Further data gathering revealed that he was not exercising leadership in the home. Three areas in particular were troublesome. He was investing insufficient time in building a companionship with his wife. Second, he was not providing any spiritual input yet alone leadership (in fact, she was not in attendance at any of the services). Third, he did not have a budget but was frustrated with her “spend, spend attitude”.
With this data on the table I made an observation (or I should say, began to make an observation). I said to him, “It sounds like you have taken a good thing…” which I was going to finish with and made an idol out of it. However, I did not have opportunity to complete the observation because he finished it for me with the very words I intended to use. I then noted the marital issues and said, “It sounds to me like the Lord and your elders are looking out for your marriage.” While he did not say it in words, his face certainly said, “I agreed”.
Since I had a very limited time with this young man, I asked him if I could make several suggestions for his life going forward. He agreed. The following were the homework assignments laid out for him.
- Put aside your desired participation on the Praise Team until your marriage is well established. God’s priority is your marriage. His glory and the welfare of you and your wife are at stake. (Eph 5:22-32)
- Get online and go to http://www.crown.org/ and find a small group Crown study or ask your elders to start a small group study using this material. If this is not possible, acquire the appropriate materials and engage your wife in this study with you.
- Make a list of four or five very obvious ways in which you have not been a godly husband. Recognize these as sin (I Pet 1:7). Seek God’s forgiveness and then seek your wife’s forgiveness
- Get some simple materials and ask your wife to join you in a couple devotional. You can start with http://www.ligonier.org/tabletalk/ (Eph 4:15)
- Meet with your elders, share this conversation with me and then thank them for caring about your walk with the Lord and your marriage (Heb 13:17).
Later in the week this young man approached me after a service. “Thank you. You were right,” he said as he put out his hand to shake mine. As I walked away from this encounter, I was reminded that the culture, the country, the language does not matter. Human problems are the same whether in poverty stricken pockets or wealthy subdivisions whether in America, Europe, Asia or Latin America. Therefore, the Word of God appropriately applied leads to resolution and maturity (II Tim 3:16-17).