Eddie* is a friend of mine. I met him in Seminary in 1991. We had a lot in common. He had been in ministry just one year longer than me, and he'd married about a year before my wife and I as well.
Eddie had been in Youth Ministry for two years after completing college in NC in 1986. He'd taken his first church -- SBC -- as Pastor just six weeks before he married Tanya* in 1988. His first Pastoral experience was, like mine, rather negative. He and I compared notes, comiserated, attempted to heal.
During their time at his first church, Tanya miscarried their first child. She had two jobs, hated her bosses, and became a target for those in the church who wished to snipe at her husband using her as a tool to inflict pain. Considering that she had a past history of clinical depression, this drove her further into a shell of isolation and pessimism.
Eddie graduated in 1995 with his M.Div., a year before I did. He returned to the Pastorate, this time in SC, where he and Tanya stayed for only two years. They then took a church in east Tennessee, where they stayed for about three-and-a-half years. Then it was off to Virginia, where he served as a Senior Pastor in a nice, suburban SB Church, and he had the opportunity to teach as an adjunct professor at a local college. He took a couple of classes at Liberty University toward a potential doctorate. Things seemed "good" on the outside.
But things were not "good." Even during his time in Seminary from 1991 to 1995, his relationship with Tanya was strained. After their negative experiences at their first church, Tanya had no interest in church. She had once loved to play the piano and sing in the choir. Now, that desire was gone. Due to medical problems that she faced, Eddie and Tanya agreed it was too dangerous to try and have a family.
They sought counseling -- first Tanya alone, then Eddie and Tanya together. Not just one counselor, but at least half a dozen ove the years. The result was generally the same. No real change. Tanya was put on several different antidepressants over the years. None made a major positive difference. Even if they did, Tanya would find a reason not to continue taking them, and would then rip the Doctor as "incompetent" or "impersonal" or "unconcerned" and go to another Doctor. Tanya changed Jobs almost yearly, becoming disgruntled and bitter no matter where she went, disgusted with every change, disappointed with each manager or supervisor whom she perceived (rightly or wrongly) to have harmed her.
Needless to say, and I am being delicate, their "intimate life" began suffering within the first two years of the marriage. It only got worse. Before they left Tennessee, Eddie confided in me that Tanya had moved into the guest room, and never slept in the same bed with him anymore. If proximately gives opportunities for intimacy, obviously it became a rare event.
Still, Eddie persevered. His ministry was relatively successful, despite Tanya's disinterest. He remained faithful to his wife, though he suffered personally from the rejection and constant negativity. Yet, he took it. He was longsuffering. He tried to help. He tried to be there for Tanya -- imperfectly it is certain, but there, nevertheless.
June 23, 2007. Eddie came hope from his church office a little early, about 3pm. To his surprise, there was a yellow moving van backed up to the door of his home. When he demanded to know what was going on, the movers told him they were taking the last of Tanya's possessions and moving them to another location. They would not say where. Tanya was nowhere to be found.
Eddie hasn't seen Tanya since that morning. He now remembers every time she made off the cuff remarks about "one day you won't have me to..." and "I'm not gonna live like this forever..." Despite the fact that she has called him twice, she will not discuss any of their past problems. And she said she was not coming back.
WHen I suggested counseling again, Eddie told me that it hadn't helped before. Tanya would never accept any counseling advice, never follow through on agreements and instructions...Always criticize the counselors if they suggested she change her actions.
"I'm tired," Eddie told me when we last talked a bit over a week ago. "The Church knows something is wrong. I've got to tell them something this week." Eddie is struggling. He literally did nothing wrong. Tanya left him. He was faithful, he was longsuffering, he did the best he could.
"Why should I be held accountable for Tanya's leaving?"
Why indeed, I had to ask myself. Eddie is just the latest in a long line of friend's and acquaintances I know or am familiar with that, due to people and circumstances beyond their control, are facing a crisis in their lives, not to mention their ministries. Should Eddie resign? Should he turn Tanya over to the church for church discipline -- and would they even know HOW to discipline her? Should he attempt to have her committed as mentally ill? Should he just give up -- on the marriage? On the ministry?
Eddie received the legal separation papers from Tanya last Thursday. He is writing his letter of resignation, to be delivered at the close of next Sunday morning's services. It's all he has left. Now, Eddie asked me, "What do I do next?"
*Names and certain minor details changed to protect the innocent -- and the guilty.