Church history is full of bad marriages.
John Wesley—founder of the Methodist movement and one of the three key preachers in the First Great Awakening (along with George Whitefield and Jonathan Edwards)—had a notoriously bad marriage that was full of fights and fits. He and his wife, Molly, relentlessly insulted each other, and their arguments went from private to public.
John thought Molly was a rebellious woman who should quietly wait for and on him. Molly was tired of being home alone while he was gone for months at a time on preaching trips. Once, in 1758, when John was preparing to go on another preaching tour, his parting words to her were:
I hope I shall see your wicked face no more.
Not quite pillow talk, Mr. Wesley.
John and Molly separated again and again, until she finally left once and for all. He wrote in his journal:
Finally, she left for good. I did not forsake her, I did not dismiss her, I will not recall her.
An Unacceptable Excuse
This is sad indeed. A man who is considered by many to be the organizing force behind the First Great Awakening could not organize his life in such away as to prioritize his wife and could not bring a great awakening to his dead marriage.
Wesley pathetically tried to excuse his long absences and cold demeanor behind a ministry mantra: “for the sake of the cause.”
According to Robert Southey, in his book “The Life of John Wesley,” Wesley compared his own ministry impact with the impact of his wife’s life with these cut-to-the-heart words:
…of what importance is your character to mankind? If you were buried just now, or if you had never lived, what loss would it be to the cause of God?
My Own Turning Point
Tragically, Wesley is not the only man of God to have a marriage ruled by the Devil. And this is not true just of church history—it’s true all across the world in many churches today.
It was true in my marriage early on. For the first several years of my marriage, I was busy preaching at my church on Sunday and leading Dare 2 Share the rest of the week. When I wasn’t on the road or in the office, I came home to collapse on the couch and watch television. I, like Wesley, subconsciously excused my lameness in loving my wife and leading my marriage on busyness with “the greater cause” of Christ.
Then one night, it all blew up in my face when our argument spilled over into public, literally during a Bible study. I’ll spare you the gory details, but I ended up in the fetal position in the middle of the Bible study circle, crying unconsolably for 30 minutes. Why? Because I knew she was right and I was wrong. I was a jerk! I hadn’t been paying attention to her and her needs. I had been pulling a Wesley, “for the sake of the cause.” I wanted my wife Debbie to just suck it up and submit so I could go on the road and save lost souls.
It was my soul that needed to be saved, not from the flames of Hell, but from the ice-coldness of a marriage on life-support.