Pastor G, one of my favorite pastors, is a devoted servant of God who has served the church for many years. His sermons are powerful and determined, pointing directly to the hearts of the believers and reminding them to return to God.
However, in a fellowship, I met Pastor G's wife, a sister who was gentle, godly, and competent. I was so shocked when she told me, “Pastor G and I have been separated for ten years.” How could a pastor who was a teacher to many be so cold to his wife?
The pastor's wife went on to share the hardships she had faced in her marriage for the past ten years.
Even after Pastor G and his wife were married, he could not “leave his father and mother"—especially his domineering mother, who “took care” of her son to the point of telling him exactly when to eat and do everything. Although Pastor G came from a large family, his mother asked Pastor G's wife to quit her job and stay home to be a full-time wife. She was reluctant, but Pastor G was too used to being a “mama's boy” and having his mother take care of everything. He had no idea how to take on any chores or responsibilities. As a result, the couple had been in constant conflict since their marriage.
The pastor's wife had struggled for many years, hoping that her husband would leave his family of origin and start their own sweet family with her. She had tried to rent an apartment and take out a loan to buy an apartment near the church. However, all her efforts ended in failure. By that time, the couple already had a beautiful son, but neither the mother nor the son could win the pastor's heart. Pastor G still preferred to have his mother take care of him. As a result, the pastor's wife had no choice but to carry the weight of the entire family on her own shoulders, gritting her teeth in tears as she cared for her son and worked to pay off the mortgage.
Now that their marriage existed in name only, the pastor's wife began to wonder if it was time for a divorce. But Pastor G disagreed. After all, he was a servant of God, and he did not want such a family scandal to get around. The church members who knew about the situation also admonished her to take care of Pastor G and be his support.
The pastor's wife cried, “I finally understand what the Pharisees who were rebuked by the Lord Jesus were like! He puts the heavy burden on the shoulders of others but refuses to lift a finger himself! He can only talk the talk, but not walk the walk. Though he shares the truth of the Bible and speaks with words of love and kindness, he abuses his wife with cold violence. He does not care if his son is dead or alive! I seriously doubt whether he is really saved.”
If you have ever attended Church X, you know who Pastor G is. However, it is ourselves, not other people, that I want to talk about. Are you the child who refuses to step out of your parent's shadow and leave them? Are you the parent who refuses to let go and allow your children to be independent? That your 40- or even 50-year-old child still needs to be “nursed”, cannot make decisions, and cannot live without you? Are you manipulating your children's lives in the name of love? Do you force them to live their lives according to your will, just to fulfill your own dreams? You should repent!
One evening, I told my wife about Pastor G's wife's complaint, and out of my expectation, my wife coldly replied, “Don't you remember that you are a 'mama's boy' yourself? Right after we got married, without any notice, your mother just came over and lived with us for ten years; and during that time, you just bought a house after discussing it with your mother, without even telling me.”
Come to think of it, during those ten years when my parents lived with us, there were constant wars between the mother-in-law and the daughter-in-law. And I, who was caught in the middle as a son and husband, was in pain. Traditional Chinese culture has always had a significant influence on me. In my mind, honoring my parents was the most important thing, and I thought that the daughter-in-law was an outsider to the family. However, my attitude made my wife feel more isolated in the family. This had once caused my marriage to be in danger, so I wrestled with the Lord in my prayer, “Why, Lord? Why can't my beloved wife and my mother live together in peace?”
Years later, I began to understand the meaning of the Scripture: “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24) In the Biblical order of the family, the Lord comes first, but next is our spouse—not our parents or children! From then on, I began to learn to separate from my parents; when my parents said bad things about my wife, instead of fanning the flames as before, I immediately refuted and defended her.
There was a time when I was praying in a church meeting and I could not help but choke back tears when I thought of the difficulties in my family, as well as the hurt and pain caused by the conflicts between the mother-in-law and daughter-in-law. When I opened my teary eyes, I was surprised to see that my parents, who were sitting not far away, had caught me crying while I was praying. Shortly after that, my parents decided to return to their home in the county and stop living with us. And ten years have passed since we separated. During these ten years, my parents have made many great friends who are also retired. Together, they exercise, garden, go for walks, travel, have fellowship, and worship God; they enjoy themselves every day without worrying about their children's affairs.
The separation from my parents has even solved the conflicts my wife and I used to have; now when we go home, my wife and my mother are more like mother and daughter. Also, my relationship with my wife finally resembles the description in the Bible: we become one flesh, we support each other, we have better communication, and we understand each other. In the end, the distance itself has actually helped bridge the gap between the two generations.
(The author is a freelance Christian writer from Henan Province.)
- Translated by Joyce Leung