When Pastor John Gray likened his wife to a coat, a covering, claiming that he had to grow into her, I wondered what that simile meant.
It was coded, poetic language but if you’ve been around church folk or silver tongued talkers for any period of time, you were likely able to discern that beyond a compliment to his wife’s emotional maturity, it pointed to some bad behavior on his part. Some action she covered to maintain his image and reputation in the faith community and beyond.
I wondered what that behavior was but I figured we’d never know. I was wrong about that. Within the past few days, a sermon featuring John and Aventer Gray surfaced on YouTube. In it, John Gray confesses that he let another woman “get too close.”
This is the same John Gray who told women, with the help of Ciara, that if we’re seeking a husband, we need to be moving and operating in the spirit of wife before we become one.
“When am I going to be found Jesus…I been in here worshipping you… but I’m still single. Here’s what the scripture says, ‘He that finds a wife, finds a good thing.’ Didn’t say he that finds a girl that he’s attracted to, who he then begins to date, who he then calls his girlfriend, who he then buys a ring, proposes and makes his fiancee, who he then marries later, who becomes his wife. You’re not a wife when I marry you. You’re a wife when I find you. You become my wife when I marry you. But a wife is not a presence of a ring, it’s a presence of your character. Too many women want to be married but you walking in the spirit of girlfriend. Ask the Lord to deliver you from that spirit. Carry yourself like you’re already taken. I promise you when you carry yourself like a wife, a husband will find you.”
When I wrote about this the first time, I argued that Gray’s use of the word “taken” was to be translated as worthy. It’s an ancient and archaic suggestion that a woman’s value is attached to whether or not a man has chosen her. I talked about how the word wife was not synonymous with a woman who loved herself. Because God knows there are plenty of women who unite their lives with another, only to find they should’ve, could’ve and needed to love themselves a bit more.
In that original essay, I also wrote about Gray’s attempts to simplify the probability of marriage based on what a woman should do. In following ancient tradition, he never shared the ways in which men could prepare for marriage or what it looked like to walk in the spirit of husband. For as many married clergy men who preach from a pulpit every Sunday, there’s very little instruction about what a good husband should be.
At the time, I thought it was a missed opportunity, sexism as usual. Now I know he didn’t speak about the spirit of husband because he was and maybe still is unclear about what that means.
In the recent sermon, just as John Gray is sharing the brokenness of their marriage, saying that because he was being used by people, no one cared about he and his wife as a couple, Aventer Gray snatches the mic. And as hard and as long as women have had to fight to speak in church, I wished she had let him offer further explanation and insight.
I don’t believe you need to share everything with everybody, especially with a platform as large as Gray’s and particularly after the year he’s had. And before you fully heal something, it’s probably best that you don’t divulge. But since the Grays decided to open up this book, I would have loved to hear John Gray share with the church what he’s learned about being a husband since he almost lost his marriage.
As animated and theatrical as Aventer’s words were, we’ve heard them before. We’ve heard women blame the devil for a man’s shortcomings. We’ve heard women blame another “strange woman” for infringing upon her marriage. There’s no shortage of manuals instructing women on the ways in which they should pray and hang in there after their husbands cheat.
What we needed to hear before Aventer snatched the mic was her husband take accountability for his actions. The devil is not married. Maybe the strange woman wasn’t either. But John Gray is. Surely as a man of God sharing testimony of trials and triumphs, he’s learned something in the process. For one reason or another, he’s just decided not to share those lessons as of yet.
Instead, Gray would rather us see the expensive car he bought for his wife or Bishop TD Jakes exorcising the spirit of suicide from his mind. Images and messaging that position Gray as both a hero and a victim instead of a flawed man taking responsibility for actions that caused him to need to renew his vows with gifts and made him feel depressed and unworthy in the first place.
I don’t say this to make light of or belittle his thoughts of suicide. I do think if suicide has been a consideration in the midst of his marital turmoil then perhaps he should wait for this particular season to fully pass before he and his wife step further into the public eye to host a conference on relationships.
John Gray has said numerous times that he didn’t see men in his family do right by their wives.
I believe that. There are millions of men just like him. There are men who’ve taken the phrase “head of the household” to mean dictator. There are men who believe their role as a husband entitles them to a servant called wife. There are men who get married not because they have any desire to love and support a woman but because they believe it’s the next logical life step. There are men who think protecting and providing are the extent of a husband’s duties.
Quiet as it’s kept, there are also women who didn’t have examples of good wives modeled in their families either. But church, patriarchy, and the combination of the two, swooped in with instruction on how these women could become wives, so they could cater to men in a legal/spiritual institution. And John Gray, like so many other pastors, picked up on this pulpit preached advice and passed it on to the women of his congregation and beyond. Sadly, the messages from church and society didn’t offer similar clarity for men who desired to cater to women. In fact, the world never told men, like it told women, that catering to women was something they should aspire to do.
After Bishop Jakes called out that suicidal spirit, he spoke over Gray’s prostrate body:
“It’s not a stage that you prayed for. It’s not a building that you prayed for. It’s not an opportunity that you prayed for. You’ve always wanted God to make a man out of you and He’s using the stage to make a man out of you. He’s using the building to make a man out of you. He’s using the opportunity to make a man out of you.”
Hopefully, when God makes a man out of John Gray, he’ll use that wisdom not to speak to women and what they need to be as wives but what men need to be as husbands.