Is that what you’re hearing now that you’re sharing your story?
Trisha: Yes, these spouses feel they’re on a journey with their spouses in this ministry, but as the church grows, you slowly get pushed out the door; you’re not needed anymore. There’s always adapting that has to take place, but no one is speaking to that. And that’s where loneliness and a huge sense of guilt comes in. You feel guilty for wanting the attention of your husband, guilty for getting upset when he’s not home because he’s ministering to so and so, guilty for wanting to have family time but being told, “This is part of the sacrifice of being in ministry.” So there’s a mental war going on.
Justin: And when you have a wife living out of guilt, she’s never able to give the best parts of her heart to her husband because there’s always that perception that “I’m just not good enough.” It’s a cycle.
Trisha: It’s a spouse thing, not just wives. Truth is there’s no part-time ministry. My best friend’s husband felt the same way, like he came second to his wife’s ministry at our church.
In our situation, we had a man (Justin) and a woman (my best friend) who were burning it at both ends at the church, and they understood each other’s world because they were in it, and their spouses weren’t. And their spouses were already feeling like they’re not providing what they should at home. It was a recipe for disaster.
Church planting accelerates that. The ingredients seem to come together faster. When you start out with 30 and go to 300, there’s just so much change, so much pressure, and that pastor, or that staff person, that spouse gets lost in it and never knows if it’s possible to speak truth.
Do you believe it’s possible to lead and grow a church and still remain healthy?
Justin: When we came back into ministry, it didn’t feel like it did before, didn’t have that sense of euphoria like it had before. So we started going to counseling. The counselor told Trisha: “You’ve basically re-engaged with the other mistress.”
When the affair happened, there were really two mistresses in my life—the woman I had the affair with and the church. Two things I was giving my attention and adoration to that should be reserved for Trisha. And even when the other woman was out of the picture, the church was back in the picture.
Trisha: After all we’d been through, I really thought we were going back to the promised land when we decided to move to Nashville to minister at Cross Point. But when we got here, we realized ministry is just as messy here as anywhere, and it was overwhelming to me. I wasn’t frustrated with Justin or Cross Point. I was frustrated with God.
Justin: It is possible to grow a ministry and have healthy boundaries, but the pastor has to set those. The only reason I had boundaries is because I felt like I had to with Trisha. I felt that at some level, she was holding me back—her wanting me home, her calling me four times a day. Everyone sees the affair, the moral failure, but there are these little incremental losses that begin to accumulate along the way, and before you know it, what started out as a small distance grows to an insurmountable one. That’s how church leaders justify their choices. Because they’ve been so disconnected from their spouses for so long, it doesn’t seem wrong anymore in their minds.