SHE LOOKED straight at me in the eye and asked the question most marriage counsellors dread to hear, “So, do you think that there is any hope in saving this marriage?”
There is one thing one needs to know about marriage counsellors and that is we never give a straight answer. How can we, given the many imponderables that need to be weighed?
My answer was, therefore, an indirect one. “It takes two persons to make a marriage and only one to break it,” I said. “From what you have told me, he sounds determined to end this marriage.” Her husband had earlier threatened that he would make life difficult if she did not accede to his demand for a divorce.
She was silent but seemed satisfied with my answer. I felt relieved having got out of a tight corner, but this soon gave way to doubt over the adequacy of response. I spent some time reflecting on the matter. What could I have said if I was not constrained by professional considerations? What should I have said as one believer to another?
When I asked if she had discussed the problem with her pastor, she side-stepped the issue, and said that she had wanted to hear a professional opinion. Our conversation left me with the conclu-sion that she had already examined her options from various viewpoints rather thoroughly. She had not come to hear me extol the importance of marriage or the value of patience; neither did she expect me to warn her about how a divorce could affect her or her young child.
Yet much as I felt assured that I had acted professionally, it did not stop me from wondering what my Christian duty to her was. Should I have given her a verse of hope to hold on to or maybe dismiss her with an exhortation to believe that God can work miracles and that one need not lose heart? Or perhaps remind her that behind every cloud is a silver lining or that there is a greater purpose which we sometimes cannot fathom? And that we nevertheless should not give up?
It also occurred to me, that while these ideas may be true in themselves, the most appropriate task at that point was to simply be there. What struck me then was that my Christian duty was to listen to a hurting soul. Listening involves the suspension of judgment. It is a quiet yet dynamic process that makes space for the other to fill with words and, on many occasions, deep emotions. Listening allows the listener to take away, if only for a brief moment, the burden of pain and suffering.
This question of what my Christian duty is to hurting individuals is one that we grapple with frequently. It is the consequence of having to live a Christian life in a fallen world. As a young Christian I was encouraged to use the question “What would Christ Himself do in this situation?” as a guide to daily living. This response presupposes that one is walking closely with the Father. Some people may try to obtain guidance by turning to the Bible or by identifying the Christian ide-als and values at the heart of each query.
In my encounter with my client, I saw that my Christian response was not to be overtly spiritual but to be, dare I say it, humane. Being humane is, I believe, another expression of being spiritual. Being humane gives form and substance to the compassion of Christ.
Benny Bong, a member of Kampong Kapor Methodist Church, is a family and marital therapist.
ACS (Int) to have new Principal in 2010
ACS (INTERNATIONAL) will have a new principal in January 2010. He is Mr Kerr Fulton-Peebles, who will take over from the Rev Dr John Barrett, who will be retiring. The Rev Dr Barrett has been heading the school since its incep-tion in January 2005.
Mr Fulton-Peebles is 53 and married with four children, aged 23, 21, 18 and 13. He is currently the Headmaster of King Edward’s School, Witley, Surrey in the UK, an Anglican coeducational boarding and day school with a significant proportion of international students.
He was previously the Principal of King William’s College in the Isle of Man.
Mr Fulton-Peebles was born and brought up in Scotland. He has an honours MA degree in Geography and Economics from Edinburgh University and a Post-Graduate Diploma in Education from Moray House College of Education, Edinburgh.
He is a member of the Headmasters/ Headmistresses Conference of the UK (HMC), is the chairman of HMC Projects in Central and Eastern Europe and represents HMC on the Council of International Principals. He is a trained School Inspector, and has wide educa-tional experience, including experience of administering and teaching GCSE and the IB Diploma.
He and his wife are very committed Christians. He was brought up in the Church of Scotland. Since moving to the UK, he and his wife have become communicant members and have been attending services at their local Anglican Church regularly.
Mr Fulton-Peebles will visit the school for a period in November for discussions with staff and to begin the handover. However, the Rev Dr Barrett will continue to lead the school until the end of the year.