A Note from Kelly King: Leaders can find themselves in unhealthy relationships, even unknowingly. In her continuing Friday series on “Ministering in the Messy,” Deb Douglas shares a personal experience that caught her off guard early in her marriage. My prayer is that leaders will lead with eyes open wide to the subtle warnings of inappropriate relationships.
I was young, a baby in ministry. I was innocent, a new bride riding a swell of being in love with the man of my dreams.
I was innocent. I did not notice that one of our married friends happened to show up at my usual lunch hangout more and more often. We were part of a small group participating in a year of intense discipleship with our pastor. We were eager to talk about what we were learning. The more we learned, the closer all couples became.
I did not think it strange that after a short chat, my engineer husband would hand me the phone after they’d done a little guy talk for me to have a deeper conversation about the challenges facing our friend. My husband was young and naïve too. We were married. We thought that our wedding rings were an invisible shield of protection from others desiring anything more than friendship.
And then one evening, with my husband sitting on the floor beside me, our friend jokingly asked me to run away with him. Or at least I thought he was joking until he said the words, “I am not joking.” I slammed the phone down. Shock does not begin to describe how I felt. How had this happened? What had happened? This was a guy we trusted; we served together in our church. We lived life with him and his wife.
Over 30 years later, I know the warning signs neither I nor my husband saw:
- An increasing amount of time spent with us without his wife
- More frequent deep discussions about his relationship with his wife, his dreams, and unmet desires for his life
- Seeking out times when I was away from my husband, like “accidentally” running into me when I was alone
- More frequent comments about things I did well. From cooking to keeping house to ministry, everything I did was compared to how his wife would have fallen short—all in fun, all jokingly, and with lots of laughter.
It was not flattering. It was nothing that was desired. It was an unintentional, messy entanglement. Our friend left his wife, moved away, and we never heard from him again. We moved on with a shield of protection for our marriage. We had learned to be aware of others who attempt to slide in between us and divert our love for each other. What could have been a disaster became a strengthening experience in avoiding messy entanglements.
If you know someone who is getting married this summer, consider the new study To Have and To Hold by Byron and Carla Weathersbee. It releases July 3, 2017 and is available here.
For more help and resources on ministering in the messy, check out Women Reaching Women in Crisis and Steps: Gospel-Centered Recovery or refer to the other articles in the Hurting Women or Ministering in the Messy categories.
Dr. Deb Douglas has served in women’s ministry for over 37 years. Now she spends her time working with Purchased Ministry, a ministry to women in the sex trade industry. Deb is also the Director of Biblical Counseling at First Baptist Church, Bossier City, LA. She was the first to graduate from New Orleans Baptist Theological seminary with a Masters degree focusing on women’s ministry and has earned a Doctor of Education in Ministry degree from NOBTS. She is “Pearl” to 3 sweet grand babies, “Mom” to Jared Douglas and Katie Chavis, and wife/sweetheart to Paul Douglas.