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Deborah Waterbury has been counseling women for over eight years, and has personally experienced the potentially devastating effects of pursuing intimacy with her spouse over her relationship with Jesus Christ. In her new book, Painted Window, the full-time women's minister shares a fictional tale which highlights the need for both men and women to pursue Christ and accept the fullness of his love.
For years Waterbury has been teaching from the Song of Solomon, a book of the Bible she feels has been widely overlooked and under-taught due, in part, to its intimate and even sexual nature. But the book, she says, is needed to help Christians understand what it means to be the Bride of Christ.
"I believe that book is in the Bible to point us to our ultimate, intimate relationship with Christ as the bridegroom," Waterbury told The Christian Post on Friday.
Inspired in part by the Song of Solomon, Painted Window is based on a fictitious story Waterbury began using in her counseling sessions with other women. She used it because it seemed to help them understand how their pursuit of happiness in worldly things was actually holding them back from happiness found in a deeper relationship with Jesus.
The story features Elizabeth, a peasant woman with a dark past who gets locked up in prison. Reginald, the king of the land, falls in love with her, but she has a difficult time accepting his love.
The title of the book comes from the window in Elizabeth's cell, which has been painted over. The window is symbolic of the woman's sin, Waterbury says, because even when Reginald (who is a symbol of Jesus Christ) is standing right on the other side, she cannot see him a through the window of her own failures.
"I feel that we look at Jesus through the veil of our sin, always – as we should," said Waterbury. "He's perfect and we're sinful creatures, but unfortunately the veil of our sin darkens the truth."
The book also features a Bible study and follow-up questions after each of its eight sections, which help readers process the story's meaning and apply it to their lives. Waterbury, who is a former high school history and literature teacher, says it's basic knowledge to use stories to get a point across, and even Jesus did so.
"Teaching 101 tells you that if you want to get people to really understand and apply a difficult concept, tell it in story form, because we just process that better," she said.
For a long time, Waterbury says, the relationship between she and her husband, Jeff, suffered because they thought they could find fulfillment in one another. Ultimately, they disappointed each other, and their marriage began to unravel.
"We were just miserable, and what we know now is that we were miserable because each of us was trying to make the other one Christ. No matter what Jeff did, it was not going to be good enough," she said.
Waterbury began having affairs with other men, and her husband turned to pornography. They stayed married primarily because they had young children at the time, but they no longer liked each other. Sometime after she lost everything – her reputation, ministry and marriage were ruined after one of her affairs became public – she felt God calling her back to focus on Him and to no longer depend on her husband for joy.
"I just kind of laid myself aside and put all my emphasis on Christ," said Waterbury. At the same time, her husband was discovering these truths independent of Waterbury, and their relationship eventually began to mend.
"I became what I already was, which is a woman of eternity," she said. "This is where I am on the way to where I'm going, and I got to get my eyes off of these things here, because these things here were never designed to bring me the happiness that I need. That's only going to come in my real bridegroom, which is Christ."
Waterbury acknowledges that it can be difficult for Christian men to view themselves as the Bride of Christ, but says men can gain some important lessons from her book too. She currently has plans to make the story of Painted Window into a trilogy.
Waterbury serves as a full-time women's minister at Faith Community Church in Tucson, Ariz., and travels the world teaching Christian workshops through her ministry, Love Everlasting Ministries.