I wish that I could avoid writing about this. I want so desperately to run and hide from the words on this paper. From the words of the stories ahead.
I cannot begin to understand why in the world God is asking me to write.
My pray of all prayers is that these words somehow bring hope. That somehow by telling this story and others it helps someone a little. I would hate to write this in vain.
I started to write about this topic on Saturday. My post was long and detailed. Yet, it was not quite right. I needed to take this story slower. I need to start at the beginning. Long before Jane ever came in the picture. At some point this story and Jane’s will collide but for now we start in the office of the head pastor.
Mark (not his real name) is the kind of man everyone wants to be around. He is positive, energetic and just seems to have this natural way of connecting with people. These qualities all make an excellent head pastor.
So, when my husband and I showed up at his church broken and tattered from our previous church we felt it wise to seek counseling from him.
Our marriage was kind of a mess. We did not communicate. We were not on the same page and I think we both just felt alone. It is the strangest thing to live in close proximity to another human yet feel like they are miles away.
Trevor (his real name) and I were miles away.
I think that happens sometimes when you go through a difficult season – you either come together or you move apart. We had moved apart and we knew it. So, we asked for help.
I want to pause here and say every marriage goes through this season. EVERY single one. It’s wise to recognize those seasons and not give up hope that your marriage is beyond repair. It might not be easy to work through but it’s always worth it in the end.
I can remember the day we met with Mark in his office – it smelled like old books. The whole building did really. It was an older facility and our church was renting space from an already established church within the community.
Mark knew our story, so it felt natural to seek counseling from him. He showed compassion toward us when we shared our hurt from the previous church. He even shared his own struggle. He told us that he had planted this church because of that struggle.
Both Mark’s previous pastor and our former pastor seemed to be tyrants that got clouded by church attendance numbers and growth. Or at least that is what Mark told us.
So, Mark felt safe. We shared those vulnerable stories that had led us here, why would he not be safe?
When we met with Mark for counseling, I can remember thinking things are going to turn around. He will give us tools to communicate better. I knew WE had to do the work. Mark was just there to give us the tools.
In part, Mark did this. He told us we needed to date more. (which was true) We needed to take time to communicate how one another was feeling. (very much on point) And we needed to be good examples for our children. (exactly)
These were all good things.
BUT then something happened. I started to tell Mark that I had a hard time sharing my feelings with Trevor. That he often responded in ways that left me feeling lost. Trevor had a temper. It was his go-to in stressful situations. (Praise GOD that he rarely responds this way now)
So, I thought by telling Mark about this he could give us some tools to communicate better with one another.
However, instead of providing tools he turned to my husband and said, “you are fine. The real issue is not your temper (UMMM yes it was) it is your confidence. And we just need to spend time building that up.”
He then turned to me and said, “what are you doing to build his confidence?”
I want you to know that my husband is not perfect, and he has struggles BUT self confidence is not one of them.
He literally just had a “response” problem (as we call it now).
At this point, I was kind of spinning.
Build Trevor up.
Wait, what? I came here for a communication lesson not a confidence lecture.
Mark then proceeded to tell me, “I was waiting to have this conversation. When I met you the first time, I could tell that you did not have much respect for your husband. I could see that you did not respect his leadership and kind of barreled over him.”
I wish in that moment I would have walked out. CLEARLY walking away was theme at this church.
But I did not. I stayed in my seat and I shut down. Somehow my husband’s temper turned into my problem. That I was the source and cause of it.
And the worst part is I believed Mark.
I went home that day and took inventory. I scoured MY whole life for every ounce of disrespect I showed Trevor. I never wanted to be seen that way – as disrespectful. I knew Trevor and I had issues, but disrespect did not seem to be the BIG one. Communication did.
BUT I trusted Mark. I trusted his judgement.
Besides God had placed him this position who am I to question his observations. Besides he was positive. He was a people-person. Maybe I was missing something?
So, I believed him. I owned the narrative: learn to be submissive and quiet, Kara.
EVEN as I write this I cringe. I have always been a big proponent of mutual respect and compromise. I never quite did well with the word submission. I think it holds this negative connotation today. It implies some sense of ruling over one another and I just never quite saw any marriage function well that way.
So, Mark’s words felt contrary to my beliefs, but he was the head pastor. Surely, he knows better than I.
However, the truth is Mark was wrong. He glossed over my husband’s temper and chopped it up to a confidence issue.
It was not sound advice.
Mark overstepped his role. He passed judgement on me and my husband without batting an eye. He assumed I was disrespectful, and my husband was weak. Neither were true.
And looking back this created more confusion in my marriage. More hurt feelings and more frustration.
BUT this was just the START. The start of a very toxic situation.
A situation that would lead me to believe that I was not good enough.
That I was not kind.
That I was not wise.
AND that I needed to diminish.
I needed to shrink.
I needed to be someone different.
This meeting planted the seed of self-doubt that would tarry on for the years ahead (yes I said YEARS).
Yet, looking back at this (and other situations that I will share) it would be the VERY thing that led me closer to Christ. I knew that I needed HIM. I knew that without Him I would never regain my confidence.
It’s ironic really. I was being accused of robbing confidence only to have mine shattered. Maybe that is what happens when counseling becomes a space to share our judgments.