Pursuing A Healthy Marriage That’s Beyond Ordinary
I chatted with Justin and Trisha Davis this week about building a healthy marriage in ministry. Justin is on staff at Cross Point Community Church in Nashville, TN as a campus and teaching pastor. He and Trisha founded RefineUs Ministries in 2009 after a four-year hiatus from ministry to pursue restoration in their marriage and have recently published a book called Beyond Ordinary, when a good marriage just isn't good enough.
I started reading Beyond Ordinary last week and am really enjoying it. I appreciate the Davis’ honesty and vulnerability in sharing both their joys and struggles in marriage. I wanted to talk with Justin and Trisha about their story because it’s an example of restoration and healing through a moral failure in a ministry context. Moral failure is never easy to talk about, but it’s something I personally wish the Church talked about more in hopes that we could help point each other to our need for God’s grace.
If you're married, I hope our conversation inspires you to pursue a healthy marriage that is beyond ordinary, and whether you're single or married, I hope to inspire you to be a person always sharing God's love and grace.
Holly: Thank you for being willing to open up about the challenges of pursuing a healhty marriage in ministry with us. What were the warning signs of your ordinary marriage that were there that you didn’t see until it was too late?
Justin/Trisha: There were several things that were a part of our marriage that we thought were just a part of marriage. We had no idea that they were warning signs. One was that we equated the absence of conflict with the presence of intimacy. In other words, if we weren’t arguing and weren’t fighting, then we assumed our marriage was doing okay. Another was both of us lived with a sense of entitlement. I [Justin] believed that Trisha owed me. She owed me that she got to stay home with the kids. She owed me that she had a nice car to drive. She believed that I owed her. I owed her for having dinner ready. I owed her for cleaning the house. We held each other hostage in our sense of entitlement toward one another.
Holly: When the affair came to light, what steps did you take to pursue recovery?
Justin/Trisha: The first thing that we did that was very helpful was separation. We were separated for over 2 months. This was important because both of us were so broken and hurt. If we lived in the same house, we would have just wounded each other more. So separation for the purpose of reconciliation is very powerful. Secondly, we went to counseling often and for a long time. We both went personally, and then we went together. It was an essential part of our recovery process. Finally, we surrounded ourselves with a trusted group of friends that encouraged us, prayed for us, and helped us. This community was instrumental in our healing process.
Holly: How did your Christian community react to the situation?
Justin: Our church was very hurt. It was a church that we started and not only did I cheat on my wife, I cheated on all of them. Despite their hurt, they loved me and our family so well. They paid for all of our counseling. They covered Trish’s expenses for two months. They were helpful in watching our kids and providing opportunities for Trish and I to spend time together. They didn’t pretend like it didn’t happen or say it was okay. Nor did they excommunicate me and damn me to hell. It was a very nice balance of grace and truth in our lives.
Holly: What do you wish you had known as newly-weds in ministry that you know now?
Justin/Trisha: A lot. But I think the main thing would be how important the spiritual aspect of marriage is. We knew that marriage was emotional, and we knew that marriage was physical, but we underestimated the spiritual aspect of a healthy marriage. There is a spiritual battle for our heart and for the heart of every marriage. I wish we knew that and were more proactive in fighting that battle for each other, not with each other.
Holly: What can senior leaders in ministry do to support healthy marriages among staff members?
Justin: First, I think they can create a safe place for honest conversation. For years in ministry, I was afraid to admit any marriage problem or any moral problem (lust, porn, etc.) because I was fearful of being fired. So for senior leaders, the best thing they could do for their staff is to share some of that out of their own heart/life/marriage. Go first. That will create a safe place for your staff to be honest and open about struggles before they turn into failures. Secondly, they need to model putting family first in their life. Most staff members take their cues from the senior leader on priorities. If the senior leader has the Church as his mistress, more than likely his staff will as well.
Holly: What would you like to tell our readers who may be dealing with the pain of brokenness now?
Justin/Trisha: You are not alone. We know you may feel alone, but Jesus is with you in your pain. He is with you in your brokenness. Healing comes as we confess to one another and pray for one another. We are in this together, and we long to be a resource to cheer you on and help you have the healthy marriage God longs for you to have.
Holly: Thank you, Justin and Trisha!