Do Christians still believe in covenant marriage?
Author with Ph.D. in Clinical Christian Counseling shares her personal story of divorce and infidelity in new book
As prominent pastors continue to fall into sexual sin, the headlines betray the reality that many church leaders refuse to acknowledge. According to Barna Research, nearly one-third of born-again Christians admit to having extramarital affairs. A Christianity Today survey found that 23% of pastors admitted to sexually-inappropriate behaviors with someone other than their wives. On the Ashley Madison website, which introduces people who are already married or in relationships to other people, nearly 48% of the membership is made up of people who identify as “born-again” Christians or as Protestants. These are statistics that Dr. Carol Erb knows all too well, both professionally and personally. But in her home, the percentage was 100%.
In her new book, Enveloped: From Shattered to Secure, One Woman’s Search for Unending Love, Dr. Erb describes her picture-perfect existence. She was the proud mother of three young sons, married to a highly-regarded man in the community and the church. But the day her middle son came through the door with the matchbook –adorned with voluptuous women promoting a topless bar which he found in his father’s car– that was the day the picture began to seem completely out of focus. But the matchbook was only the beginning. It started to become clear, as the weeks and months went by, that her husband had been unfaithful for a long time and was intent on leaving his family. After trying to get family and friends to reason with her husband, Erb approached her pastor who told her he did not do marriage counseling. She then tried a Christian counselor who offered her no plan to try to heal the marriage or work through her own grief. She felt utterly alone.
“Grieving all the losses was the most difficult,” says Dr. Erb. “There is the personal loss of a spouse, the marriage, watching the children suffer, financial loss, and loss of relationships of family members and friends, as they were also hurt and negatively impacted. Lastly, there was an unforeseen loss I encountered within some Christian circles, as divorce disqualified me from certain areas of service. Divorce is a firestorm and the ripple effect goes on for years.”
Enveloped describes Dr. Erb’s journey in detail, holding nothing back from the raw emotions she felt during those tumultuous years. But the demise of her marriage ultimately led her to pursue and obtain her Ph.D in Clinical Christian Counseling where today her practice helps couples overcome marital betrayal by dealing with the anger and heartbreak, and learning to regain trust and communication. Dr. Erb has made it her life’s work to help couples rebuild their marriages through individual and couples coaching as well as Christian Couples Retreats. She believes there are certain behaviors that are wreaking havoc on Christian marriages in today’s culture.
“The most difficult issues facing marriages are infidelity, pornography addiction, and independent behaviors,” says Dr. Erb. “When a marriage is plagued with any of these behaviors, it requires a specific, deliberately-executed plan to build a brand new marriage. The couple has to be willing to admit mistakes, learn to communicate with openness and honesty, and gain skills to resolve conflict. They purposefully need to take action to rebuild trust, look at past pain and recognize how it transfers into the marriage, grant and accept forgiveness, and learn each other’s emotional needs. Then, they can begin the work of meeting those needs in order to bring back romantic love.”
Dr. Erb also believes that society as a whole has lost the understanding of marriage as a covenant and is more inclined to view marriage as a contract, and many Christians have begun to accept that societal shift. “A contract marriage is ‘until you do something that I don’t agree with.’ A covenant marriage is ‘until death us do part.’ Most states have no fault divorce, and often couples start their marriage with a pre-nuptial agreement, which leans more to a conditional contract marriage rather than a covenant marriage, which is an unconditional solemn binding agreement made before God. All divorces in one way or another are caused by sin, but not all divorces are sinful. Jesus made it plain that one ground in which a believer might divorce is due to unrepentant sexual sin. Another ground is when a spouse leaves the marriage, abandoning their spouse and breaking the bond of marriage by divorce.”
The woman who didn’t have anyone to help her at her moment of crisis has become the support that so many desperate couples reach out to as things are unraveling in their marriages.
“While Enveloped is a heart-wrenching story,” says Dr. Erb, “it is also filled with promise and a hope for the future that can only come when you’re completely surrendered to the love God has for you. I wrote this book to show the possibilities of what a woman can accomplish when she allows God to enfold her in His loving arms. My book is not so much about me as it is the story behind it. The hero is God.”
For more information, visit www.DrCarolErb.com.