Make a Covenant
by Pam and Bill Farrel
Making the headlines and the evening news can be a good thing for a church—and Christianity. We all cheer when Rick Warren is on CNN, or when Billy Graham was shown walking with a president, but the headlines lately should capture the attention of all women in ministry: Pastor’s Wife Shoots Husband.
When I saw the first reports, my heart immediately went out to Mary Winkler’s entire family. Lord, what went wrong? We are supposed to be the marriage helpers. Father, what about the kids? Lord, how did Satan get his foot in this door: domestic violence, an affair on either side, or just the overwhelming pent-up stress of the role and life inside the fishbowl?
The blogs created rumors that were nothing more than Internet gossip and speculation. Here are a few real comments and conjectures from chat rooms:
*Could it be another man or could it well be another woman in the woman’s life (who knows, these days)?
*MONEY! She wanted all the millions that their devoted Christians were donating to him....or maybe he was abusing her or worse he may be abusing their kids.
*The news said that it was not another woman in his life. The wife was sane?
*The media is all hush hush about it. My guess is he may have been abusive and demanding.
A reporter from CNN called me because she had read one of my articles online regarding the pressures of being a pastor’s wife. She asked me to comment on the recent slaying in Tennessee.
We don’t know what caused Mary Winkler to shoot her husband. We won’t for a very long time. But we do know what our response should be: “If someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted (Gal 6:1 emphasis added).
Look in your own heart and home first:
Now is a good time to ask, “How are we doing in handling stress and conflict in our own marriages?” In our book, Every Marriage is a Fixer Upper, we walk couples through creating a Conflict Covenant. (For a sample of the Conflict Covenant see www.farrelcommunications.com.) This document defines the guidelines for how you will handle disagreements. We have had one since we were newlyweds—and I definitely know it has saved our marriage. Some of the items in our covenant are:
- Never say the word “divorce.”
- No hitting.
- Don’t say words that you’d regret if he/she was hit by a car and killed that night.
- No leaving unless your temper is out of control, then ask for a time out.
- Pray first and as we close, holding hands.
We needed these rules because we both grew up in homes where rage ruled. We found if we held hands to have our “intense fellowship” we were less likely to throw something! Some of our friends have a bowl of candy bars sitting on their coffee table. When they are in an argument, one of them asks, “Want a candy bar?” In the time it takes to eat a candy bar, they have time to cool down.
The last three items in our covenant are:
- Call and make a reservation at a marriage conference or a hotel for 48 hours away for rest, relaxation, and prayer. (Often things look better, and solutions are found, if you can both just get a full night’s sleep and get away from the pressing demands or conflicts in the church.)
- Call a mentor or ministry couple and ask them to meet with you.
- Call a clergy care organization (To get a list of clergy care organizations see Focus on the Family’s Clergy Care website: http://www.parsonage.org/care/ministries/ Or pick up any issue of Just Between Us; most issues have ads for many fine caring professionals.
Look for a way to help:
There are many clergy families in need of care, so a contribution to any clergy care organization is fitting in the face of this recent tragedy. Caring for clergy and their families is why I am part of a group of monthly donors who contributes to Just Between Us magazine. I have supported this magazine since its inception because it’s one place where I find answers and hope.