A couple had asked for marriage counselling. It was the first session. The female counsellor I was assisting asked why they'd come. Unusually, the husband spoke first, offering a few suggestions but when he got around to money issues he shared much more than he ever imagined.
'O yeah, and when it comes to handling money, my wife, is absolutely dumb and stupid. Whether it's shopping, paying bills, budgeting, saving, anything to do with money, she's absolutely hopeless. She'll tell you herself ... Go on, off you go.'
She simply dropped her head and quietly mumbled, 'Yes, dear'.
A few weeks later I was attending a worship service led by one of my brother pastors. We rose as he entered. He chanted well. We all responded to the Invocation with a rousing 'Amen'. He lifted his head and blurted out, 'Sit'.
The image of that crushed woman filled my head. 'Yes, dear', I muttered.
Instead of joining in the first hymn, I couldn't help drifting off trying to recall how I addressed my congregation.
A few weeks later I was back home preparing for my next sermon, The Sower. I love the parables. This sower is wonderfully crazy. He doesn't seem to care where his seeds lands – on the path, a patch of hard rocky ground, among the weeds, or (fortunately) good soil. Why are we so careful when it comes to sharing the gospel, especially when it comes to love and forgiveness? I love proclaiming the miracle of the gospel!
I re-read the paragraph I'd written. 'So when it comes to forgiveness, our task as God's people is to spread it around lavishly, wastefully ... to forgive as generously as we have been forgiven.' I went a little cold as I imagined addressing that same abused woman in my congregation. After all, the statistics suggest that they are there. I immediately added four extra paragraphs that spoke about how abuse changes things; that we can only consider forgiving abusers after the abuse stops; that we have a sacred responsibility to protect ourselves and especially our children; and that in some cases forgiveness can take more than a whole lifetime.
I have learnt most about addressing the male problems concerning power, control and violence by looking at my own words and actions. This has helped change me, my ministry, and even my theology, in all sorts of positive ways.
* The name has been changed to protect this man's identity.