If it goes for the goose, it goes for the gander

Dear Andrea,
I’m writing to seek words of advice to give to my son who said to me today that he is thinking of separating from his wife. He is a young minister and I know this decision has not come lightly. He has been working very hard at keeping his marriage together, however, his wife, does not seem to want to be married. They recently returned to the U.S. and have no church home or minister he can seek advice from. He always seeks advice from me and his dad. I tried to talk to her and share some of my wisdom which I have learned through my marriage of 43 years, but she politely told me she did not want my advice. The only thing I have done is to keep praying for her. My son has recently completed his Ph.D. and my daughter in law has been mostly non supportive. She has said she’s tired of sacrificing for these last five years, for the things she wants for herself. They have two children, 6 and 2 years old. Even though she’s a stay at home mom, she gets up early in the mornings and leaves them home with my son all day long, sometimes even when he has to go to work, and does not return until late in the evening. She has even left town, once up to 10 days. My son has get the children up, get them dressed, get them fed, get the older one to school, get someone to keep the younger one if he has to work, arrange to have the older one picked up from school, help him with his homework, get their dinner, get them bathed, and get them in bed. There are no clean clothes for the children unless he washes them. He has to make sure there’s food and that lunch is made for the school age child. And on top of this, the house is absolutely filthy – all the time. He cleans it up and she messes it up and never cleans it up. He has threatened to separate before but says she always apologizes and promises to do better, but she hasn’t. He really needs some direction. What advice would you give him?
–A concerned mom.
Dear Concerned Mom:
A few scriptures come to mind concerning your son’s situation.
“Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’[ 17 And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.”
–Mathew 18:15-17 (NKJ)
Now to the married I command, yet not I but the Lord: A wife is not to depart from her husband. But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. And a husband is not to divorce his wife. But to the rest I, not the Lord, say: If any brother has a wife who does not believe, and she is willing to live with him, let him not divorce her. And a woman who has a husband who does not believe, if he is willing to live with her, let her not divorce him. … But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases. But God has called us to peace.
–1 Corinthians 7:10-13; 15

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her,… So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church.

–Eph 5:25, 28, 29

Whether she does her part or not, he needs to do his. If he follows the above procedures in Mathew and she leaves, he is free, but if he leaves, he is still bound by his vows to her before God.
He needs encouragement. It’s never easy when one spouse, whichever it is, isn’t doing what they should. You’re doing the best thing you can for them now, praying. Encourage him (and her!) to find a church home. Isolation is deadly to the soul. They might want to consider marriage counseling. It can be humiliating for a minister to admit they need help, but once they’ve come through it, the fire leaves them better equipped to serve the flock. She sounds a tad overwhelmed and ill equipped for the responsiblities that come with being a minister’s wife, or might have some other issue underlying, like depression. Barring a hardened heart, a good counselor could help them get to the root of her problem.
I would be negligent if I didn’t point out the negative impact leaving her would have on his ministry. Biblically, according to 1st Timothy Chapter 3, to qualify for church leadership, a man must be the husband of one wife. If nothing else, it would be a reproach and dishonor before God. As Paul put it, “for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?” (vs 5)
Love in Christ,

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