I HAD AN EXPERIENCE with a young man who was having difficulty in seminary, having difficulty with his wife. His wife was a flight attendant, so they had limited time together. He came pounding on my door one morning.
“I’ve got to talk to you,” he said, “because I want you to hear it from me before you hear it from somebody else. I don’t want you to put me out of school. Me and my wife are through.”
“Well, come in. Tell me, what’s going on.”
“Last night, we had a fight and she got upset and she told me that, even when she was there, I wasn’t.”
“I had to show her,” he said. “I got my Bible and I showed her that I am about God’s work. God comes first and you, wife, come second.”
“What did she say?”
“She said, ‘You and your God can go to hell!’ You know I don’t need a woman like that in my life! I need somebody that’s going to support me in my ministry.”
I said, “You didn’t hear what she said. What she said was, You and yougo to hell. Because your God is you. Because you told her, ‘There are no legitimate needs or desires or feelings in this house other than mine.’”
“Well, what could I have said?”
“You use God to create a hierarchy in your relationship: God first, family second, church third. But God does away with all that. Once God is at the center, every aspect of my existence is informed by my relationship with God. You could say, ‘Because God is at the center, you will never have to be second to anyone. Because I want to love you the way God wants you loved.’ We’ve got to flip this thing so we stop using God to justify abuse.”
—John W. Kinney
From a story told at The Summit 2014, an annual convening of leaders by Sojourners.
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