Friday, March 31, 2017

Being a Listener/Counselor: The Counsel of a Husband

I was just waking up and laying in bed thinking of all the things I needed to do that day.  In an hour, I needed to leave to take my girls to the orthodontist.  Then, I needed to come home and pack as I was flying out the next morning to celebrate my "sister's" 40th birthday.  I wanted to be sure the house was in order and spend some time with my kids before leaving for four days.  Then, the phone rang.
"Vicki.  Can you come?"
It was my friend who had been seriously struggling for months.  She had taken some time to think about an hour away.  Suddenly, she was on the phone, in tears, barely able to speak, and asking me to meet with her - NOW.  I weakly and sorrowfully told her all that was going on.  I just couldn't.
"That's ok."  
She hung up.  I felt my breath leave me.  I immediately called my husband.
"Did I do the wrong thing?"
"Maybe," he said.  "Go."
I asked him about the appointment.
"I'll take the girls to their appointment."  
What about the fact that I was now not going to be spending time with our children before my trip???
"We'll be ok.  She needs you."

It was before I was married that God started making it clear to me that He had given me the gift of listening/counseling.  Because He had chosen to give me this gift, He chose for me a man who is supportive in the time I spend with others.  He helps me decide when I should go and when I should back off.   I went that day.  It was dark when I got home that night - after driving in a snowstorm.  I got to see my kids for a little bit and quickly packed.  I was exhausted physically and emotionally.  Yet, when I was sitting in the Detroit airport the next day and heard my friend's happy and hopeful voice on the other side of the phone, it was all worth it.  My husband had made the right decision for me and for my friend.

Our husbands are our protectors.  We women, though strengthened by God, are not meant to carry heavy burdens alone.  Yes, God can help us...but He has also given us our husbands.  While Eric does share advice at times, other times he's just a patient sounding board for me after I have been someone else's sounding board.  He literally helps me carry the burden.  When he is aware of what I have heard and how many times I have met with someone, he is then able to advise me when to step away if need be.  If he feels that I am being hurt more than they are being helped or if someone is gossiping more than seeking counsel, he is able to protect me by putting up boundaries.

Eric does not expect me to tell him everything people share with me, nor does he want me to.  He understands the confidentiality to which I must sometimes hold.  However, unless someone directly asks me not to share something with my husband, I will often talk to him about the things that come up.  Usually, I give him the general topic discussed.  Other times, I need his perspective or reasoning capabilities, so I share more details. Eric is much more logical than I and can ground me when I am emotionally overwhelmed.  He also has the male perspective that is necessary when I am praying about advice for a woman who is having marriage trouble or even questions in handling her son.  For the most part, those I speak with don't ask me to keep things from my husband and I rarely promise that I will as it is my desire to not put up that wall between my best friend and myself.

Because I do share things with my husband frequently, he is completely understanding and respectful of the times when I am not at liberty to say anything.  Trust is a necessity in marriage.  Openness builds trust while secrets inhibit it.  Sharing some information keeps him trusting and understanding. (Again, I am not saying it is necessary to tell him every detail.)  It also helps him make the critical decisions of whether I should go or whether I should stay.  He knew some of what my friend was dealing with that morning as I had shared bits and pieces along the way.  He knew she needed someone at that moment.  If I had kept him in the dark throughout the months leading up to this point, he would undoubtedly have not understood her need and she would have faced some serious things alone.  I shudder to think of the possible results.  At the same time, I did not share with Eric most of what my friend confided in me that cold February day.

Your husband is still your leader and protector even if you are a listener/counselor.  It is tempting for us to think that we are in control of the situation and we begin to make crucial decisions about our time, what we listen to, and how much we deal with alone.  We begin to move away from the umbrella of authority and protection of our husbands.  This is a dangerous place to be.  God gave you this gift, but He did not give you license to go against His design of marriage.  He intends for wives and husbands to be united.  Can not our God be all powerful to give us a ministry and not have it interfere with our marriage?  If it does interfere, the ministry - or that particular aspect or situation - is not of Him.

With counseling much wisdom is required.  Some of that wisdom is knowing when to talk over the issues with your husband and when to keep them quiet.  It's knowing when to allow him to take your burden.  Wisdom is needed in knowing when to ask him when to go and when to put up boundaries. Wisdom is following his advice.  All of our wisdom is found in God.  He gave us this ministry and gift.  He surely has given us the right man to accommodate that gift.  Seek Him.

Then, grab two cups of coffee, sit down with that other precious gift from God - your husband - and have a heart to heart chat.  He'll love that you make time for him, too.

*Note:  I write to the informal, non-professional "counselor" - the one who listens to her friends and acquaintances.  I do not write for professionals.  Professional counselors must keep confidentiality.


LizAnnQ said...

What a blessing!
I think, because of their leadership role, husbands offer a greater sense of the importance of leadership. Many, many times I've been seeking my husband's input after listening with a friend, and no matter what the topic it is usually not more than five minutes before he will quietly ask "What is their (husband's/parents'/pastor's) view?". While I definitely strive to include much pointing to leadership anytime I'm chatting with someone in a difficult time, sometimes it continual directing them back to leadership (especially that they may not want to seek due to a preconceived idea of their views) is hard to focus on. My husband calmly gives his wisdom, keeping me from getting caught up in emotions, and often giving much wide insight for me to pass along. :)
Thank you for this incredible series!!

LizAnnQ said...

(As one who also has had the blessing of holding a coffee cup and sitting across from someone, listening to their heart, since high school, I wanted to clarify that the girls the Lord has led across my path for the most part are Godly young women in stable home situations with wise, Godly parents; girls who are generally seeking a listening ear or help with handling a crush, growing closer to the Lord, or sorting out their thoughts on a life decision. It is from this vantage point that I comment; a listener and friend, striving to channel Christ to those simply needing a boost along life's road.)

Victoria said...

I did leave out that important bit of information. Not only must we as counselors seek the wisdom of our own authority, but we have a responsibility to direct those we counsel back to their authorities. We are sounding boards and givers of advice. Some of that advice must be to encourage them to talk with their husbands, pastors and/or parents. Thank you for the reminder!