Observations of a Christian Leader

Maybe it’s too recent to be trying to draw conclusions from the Bill Hybels escapade from 2018. Even so, I always like to analyze and if possible, to learn.

Well, there are so many elements to consider: slander, immorality, fidelity in marriage, church discipline, leadership, spiritual abuse, repentance, and many more.

But I guess the thing I kind of hone in on was a topic that only seemed to get minor coverage in the barrage of online articles, blogs and emails: the condition of Bill’s marriage. Let me share something that Bill reportedly said to one of the women who told her story. The woman related something like this:

On one of our business trips, Bill and I were alone is his hotel room and he was telling me of all his disappointments in his marriage. When I left the room he hugged me and said that he thought we would make a great team together.

Again, this is paraphrased, so I might be conflating more than one story. But the reason this caught my attention is because of something else I once read, that was published by Bill’s wife. I guess that she was reflecting on their many years of marriage and she told a bit of the story of how they met. She said that they dated in their late teens and even one time broke up. A relative told her that it seemed that they could not live with each other, nor without. But in the present day, she was happy to think that they pushed through and stayed faithful to one another all these years.

Well another part of her reflections included the reference to the time that she realized that the Christian faith of her childhood did not work for her as an adult. In fact, she stopped attending church altogether. She told about that time as if to praise Bill for his willingness to allow her to drop out of church and even to protect her from the board.

But think about Bill for a minute. He had almost singlehandedly built one of the largest churches in the US. He had written books on church leadership and was a sought out speaker and authority. In essence, his whole life was church. And his dear sweet wife says one day that she wants no part of it? She is not even sure she believes in this flavor of Christianity any longer?

I mean, based on this facet alone, no wonder Bill was disappointed in his marriage. His partner was dropping out of his life’s work…at least temporarily. And yet, he apparently still had a felt need for someone to be his comrade and confidant in the work ahead.

My first thought as an analyst is to consider the value of picking the right spouse. Of course they were young when they married, so maybe they really could never have seen how their lives would turn out, decades later. Even so, how disappointing to realize one day that you are unhappy in marriage. And maybe she was unhappy too. Of course, she was rich and didn’t have to work, thanks to Bill. Yet she still worked as an author on the side. But maybe she was frustrated to have to attend church all the time when she was not sure if she really believed any longer. Well, I guess she really was upset, since she eventually stopped attending Bill’s own church. Sure, Bill acted cool about it and even shielded her from the board in case they should raise their eyebrows at the notion of the pastor’s wife not attending church…and maybe she being on the path of leaving the faith entirely.

But certainly Bill could have been devastated. At least emotionally. Here he is reaching thousands of unchurched Harry’s and Mary’s every week and his wife shrugs her shoulder and says, “not interested”? What about all those passionate female leaders in the church who really tracked with Bill’s vision, drive and leadership? Of course he could find them nice to be with, particularly when his wife was indifferent at best, and critical at worst. Maybe he could only dream about having someone like that for a partner in life. Someone he could really work with, shoulder to shoulder.

And so, as the stories go, he took business trips with some of these female leaders, and eventually started using amnesiac sleeping pills to protect himself should he ever go to far.

So I guess in this day when there are so many articles that attack Bill’s possible infidelity, here’s a different perspective altogether: Maybe Bill should have divorced his wife years back and let her go find fulfillment as a magazine writer…outside of the church scene. And then maybe he could have found a better partner for his life’s work. I am almost always not an advocate for divorce; and yet if an ending of their marriage twenty years back could have eventually prevented this recent demise, maybe in the end it would have been a better alternative. Not sure.

Let’s not assume that Bill just has a wandering eye for any other woman. Rather, maybe his wife was doing her part to make herself unattractive to him.

Men and women are said to be different in what leads to losing interest in a marriage. Women need to be loved (in general) and men need to be respected (in general). So if Bill’s wife didn’t really care about his work and life passions, maybe he interpreted that as disrespect. Even subconsciously. And maybe he subsequently found it harder to love her with that hanging over his head.

I understand that celebrity spouses have a hard lot in life. But what if Bill was not a successful Christian leader, but something totally different? Even then, I think his wife should try to be a true partner…or leave. What if Bill’s passion had been, instead of church, to own a doggie day care center? Imagine if he had invested his whole life in that, and after a few decades his wife one day said, “Yeah, whatever…who cares. I don’t even like dogs.”

There’s a big difference between having a job and leading a church. A job might be 40 hours a week, but a church could be all consuming. The spouse of a church/business leader frequently has to invest much more than of someone who merely has a job. Maybe his young wife had no idea about the future and what Bill would eventually become.

Well, I am sure that they both had their faults, and all that and more contributed to what happened. But as I said earlier, before we just focus on Bill’s possible failings, let’s take a minute to consider what she might have done as well. Like they say, it takes two to tango.

© 2019, Alignment Life

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