January 29, 2010

Swim baby, swim! (By Joy Eggerichs, Emerson's daughter)

(a fictitious letter)

Dear Fellow Friends of Rachel,

Did you know that infants, if put in a pool, start swimming naturally? It’s kind of scary to watch because, well, they are infants. What more can they do than sleep, eat, poop and cry? Letting go of an infant takes a huge amount of trust in the child’s natural instincts. Something we can’t see.

But the baby will swim.

I’ll cut to the chase. I am writing this letter in my office feeling very disturbed. I have been corresponding with our mutual friend Rachel. She describes you as her Christian community and local support network.

Rachel, as you know is going through a separation. Divorce is the next step, but she doesn’t want that. She has been deeply wounded. She always thought marriage would bring her happiness, not disappointment and heartache.

As people who love her, it is only natural that we would want to protect her. It’s not fun seeing those you love in pain and tears. We want to fix them and make them feel better…immediately.

Here is where I was shocked. Rachel has admitted that they are both to blame, yet you affirmed her moving out. To walk away until he changes. I’m sorry…what part of “unconditional” love teaches ultimatums? I must have missed that in Sunday School.

Your instruction is that she can’t do the humble and unconditional thing of moving towards her husband because she would ultimately be rolling over and dying.


This is the kicker. Rachel has told us all that her husband is struggling in his faith. Should she not be the one who shows that much more grace? Should she not work harder to win him back to Christ even when it’s not easy?

We all know Rachel’s personality. She is smart, outgoing, and strong willed. The only way I can see her rolling over and dying is if her husband physically tried to murder her. And even that would be difficult for him. She is too smart.

I have prodded and asked Rachel to tell me if he has been unfaithful. No. Has he beat her? No. She has even admitted that despite the ways he has hurt her, he has also asked her to move back in, pray together and talk.

But now you…you all are telling her she shouldn’t…because she is too vulnerable.

Is she?

Does pain = vulnerable? Or can pain be present, but vulnerability evaded if there are strong people holding her hands and helping her discern what is true or not true? Is it possible for her to hear his unkind words in his weak moments (ones she will admit having dished out herself) and live with the mindset of, “I do not accept this behavior, I do not receive words of untruth, but I will not give up on this marriage.”

Is it possible for Rachel to stay committed to this marriage even when it doesn’t feel good? Do we just walk away in 2010 because a spouse is doing things we don’t appreciate right now? Is there grace for people having bad seasons? For making mistakes?

If we don’t, then we are acting and giving advice no different than the rest of the world. It feels like we don’t trust God to show up.

This is why my generation is getting divorced after two years or two months. We give up too easily and don’t trust that unconditional love and unconditional respect (even when our spouse doesn’t deserve either one) could actually be the right thing to do and what God calls us to do. We don’t trust that being the bigger person and being obedient could actually soften the person who is ultimately more at fault in their behavior. (Gasp! God actually might know what he is doing?) No, instead we make demands.

“Do this or else.”

I don’t remember that being part of Rachel’s vows.

What I do remember was this:

“In good times and in bad.”

A study done in 2000 showed that within five years, just 12% of very unhappy married couples who stick it out are still unhappy; 70% of the unhappiest couples now describe their marriage as “very” or “quite” happy.

What does this mean?

There are seasons! Do we think the divorce lawyers are going to tell us that? Lawyers and many counselors focus on the here and now. They play to your feelings and emotions. And we have fallen for it.

Please remember, I love Rachel. I know she is not being abused. She is not in harm’s way. She is not married to an evil man. She will admit this if you just ask her.

Christians—do you love people enough to point them towards obedience and truth or do you love them like a coddling mother who pulls her infant out of the water when it’s floundering and in tears? I get it, you do it because you love the baby and you don’t want to see it suffer. Perhaps your fear of suffering is rooted in the fact that you don’t ultimately trust that they would actually be able to swim.


Joy (www.joyeggerichs.com)

P.s. An extra little note from Matthew, Mark and Luke: “It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin.”


Tori said...

Great post! This is something our generations definitely needs to hear! Thanks for sharing, Joy!

HD said...

I love that you wrote, "Christians--do you love people enough to point them towards obedience and truth or do you..."

Sometimes, it is scary to lovingly speak obedience and truth, not knowing how the person will react (or even if your friendship will continue afterwards), but that is what a true friend & Christian must do!

Anonymous said...

Always read stuff that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it.............................................

Shanon P said...

Newly wedded blisslessness
I got married 08-09. Here it is 6 months later and I wish I never married him. Harsh, right? I'm sorry - but I need to be blunt right now - I need to say those things that I think and feel but wouldn't dare share with him directly. But, now what?

I read the Christian self help books - Changes that Heal, But I didn't want a Divorce and Unexpected Legacy of Divorce before marrying him. (My son is almost 5 now) We read several Christian Couple devotionals together and did the pre-marital counseling thing. We remained abstinent (not as hard as it sounds when we lived 8-9 hours apart and we only knew each other in person for 8 months when we got married. (we met on the computer and talked on the phone a year prior to meeting.)

Anyway, I felt emotionally ready to go down that path again. I thought - this time I am more emotionally healthy than ever before and I'm ready and I have God in my life - he says he has God in his - he seems like such a honorable and decent man - it can't go wrong. And if it does - God will be our glue.......... But, my honorable man won't pray with me. He makes my son say prayers at dinner every night and when we put him to bed - but he won't pray with me.

I knew I would have troubles w/submission because of my strong willed "red" personality, but my heart is for God's design in marriage. I know have a far to go in becoming a soft spoken creature. But, I also believe the Proverbs 31 woman we strive to be was pretty darn amazing - She is the hardest working woman I know! She rose before the sun every morning and cared for her home, family, animals etc. worked hard at home then went to market and sold her eggs (entrepenuer) and of course upon returning home (remember no cars) she had to maintain her family again. I'm sure she dropped into bed every night exhausted like me and more so! But, here's the thing - I imagine her husband was a hard worker as well - her kids probably, too as was the life of the day w/o modern conveniences.

Part of my problem is - I work overtime every week - I leave the house every morning and my husband is sound asleep. As I type this he is sound asleep. He has gained 50lbs on an already obese frame since we married. (I know I am overweight as well - but have not gained a pound since we married) 1/2 of my income comes from commission and when I am tired and stressed out when I walk in the door it is hard to maintain my right mental attitude for sales.

I read Love and Respect (best marriage book yet!!) after we married - but I'm still miserable (he is too but says he'll stay no matter what) That would give me comfort except the first several fights he was "leaving and not sure if he was coming back" and wouldn't talk to me for days. Now, it feels like he's just saying he'll stay no matter what cuz I used it against him that he was threatening to leave with petty fights so it now undermines his credibility.

I need Godly advice and Godly wisdom - if you're going to tell me to leave or I shouldn't put up with him etc - save it. I need help to succeed not "empowerment or entitlement" or any of the other prideful and devastating advice.

Prayers are also much appreciated! Good night!

Anonymous said...

My husband and I are starting this book and I am not sure how to do this. What the book suggests. I want to be all the things listed in there that God wants of me but doing it knowing my husband will not do his part is hard. We are not faced with not understanding eachother as he would like to believe. He is into porn, other women and lying about everything from money to what he did that day. I do not believe that it is my fault but I know I am responsible for how I treat him and for respecting him even when he is not respectable. Wow that one hurts. I am going to pray on this as I know that is the only thing to do when faced with this trial. I do not understand why God has chosen to let me go through this but I know it is not for me to know. I pray this book helps me show the love of Christ even when I am being taken advantage of by my husband. I know it is possible that the Lord will reach him through this book. But if I look to that to happen Satan will use that to take me further from my faith. I leave you with one thought. We are only responsible for ourselves and not our spouses. Get right with God! I am trying to.

Joy Eggerichs said...


Your heart is in the right place. The things you are dealing with are not fair and are very hurtful. I hope that you have gotten to the rewarded cycle and that is helping you in this season.

For Shanon,

Remember, things have the ability to change. Focus on what you are called to do, not what you want your husband to do. Keep living in a manner that obeys out of your love and reverence to Christ, not out of anything your husband is or isn't doing.

I pray you both find Godly friends and wise people who will lift you up and help you through this. You need people who know both of you and can give you specific insight to your situations.


bearmox said...

Was passing through the L&R site looking for divorce resources (3 months into a divorce), reading over the blog when your post struck a nerve: ultimatums.

I gave my christian wife two when half a year of lies and infidelity were uncovered: make drastic work schedule change and get a christian mentor. She had other ideas for me as well such as move out.

After she filed for divorce the next day I rescinded them, but it was too late.

What would you have done?

Anonymous said...

My husband was into porn, strip clubs, hired a private stripper in a brothel, tried to start a relationship witha girl at his work. Secretly skyped and called his old girlfriend, we have been married 16 years. All this without me knowing.

The first time I discovered strange numbers to sex calls I confronted him, he said he was curious. calls to his former lover were hours in duration. A year later we got our first home comptuer, and I discovered he'd been looking at porn.
I gave him an ultimatum, me or them. He chose me, but what I didn't know then was that he actually had no intention of only having me. He wanted both and decided to hide things more and take things further.

I have lived the last 12 years in denial. I really wanted to believe that I and now our 6 children meant more to him. I did not feel that this ultimatum was unreasonable.

So we have been on the crazy cycle. He's confessed to all these sins that he recalls, and I am shocked, because i truly can say that I don't belive he is the man I thought I was marrying. He has refused to read books on marriage, he saw that as an ultimatum too. The books to me were not an ultumatum, but the fact that they have sat there gathering dust the past 10 months says to me that i am not worth learning how to love. He loves the kids, definitely wants peace and tranquility, and would love my respect. I just don't! I guess the truth is, how could I respect any man who has been so selfish and spiteful, witholding sex from me for months at a time, even almost a year more than once in favour of his other things.

I respect him for his repentance, for throwing out the tv, for giving up his sins, but he still refuses to love me or learn. We separated 10 days ago. I want him to choose me, not just the kids. He admitted to never wanting to be married to changing his mind the day we got married.

I'm still grieving for all the wsted years and deception, and his inability to love and care for me especially now makes it all the more difficult. I have not come to a place of forgiveness yet, and that means he's afraid of me too.

I guess what i want to know is, how can you respect someone who has only ever loved other things or people and trampled on your feelings, and now doesn't feel obligated to learn to love as he ought to.

I totally see we both need to do our share in obeying L & R, but how do you get it back when the man is genuinely unrespectable?

Blog Archive