Ever think back to a really hard time in your life that you thank God that He brought you through it AND that you never have to go back to it? That is how I think of my marriage, well, the early years of it as we navigated a new ministry. Yikes! That sounds terrible - doesn't it? But I promised complete honesty in this blog from day one - so there it is. The good, the bad, the ugly.
Our marriage and our lives in ministry had a messy beginning and I do not want to go back. Years later now, I love my marriage AND getting to do ministry with my husband. It is my dream and my favorite thing. We don't always get it right and there are challenges for sure, but we now choose to use our strengths, differences, gifts, and passions together. We have learned to value each other instead of fighting each other.
In the early years I felt like my husband loved what he was doing while I sat on the sidelines and watched. I wanted the love and attention that he poured into church and into the youth ministry. He wanted me to come alongside him and be just as passionate about our church as he was. The trouble was that the thing I wanted most was the newly wed bliss of spending time with each other when I got home from my full time job. So many of those nights were filled with events and meetings. Every event or meeting or requirement the church had stole more and more of my joy. As a result, I was not a happy person.
I love The Office - (for clarification, I am referring to the American version.) Have you ever seen it? The primary arc of the show is the office romance of Jim and Pam. It is the classic boy chasing girl and eventually he catches her. In the early seasons of the show, Jim is madly in love with Pam and heartbroken as she does not reciprocate. Eventually in later seasons, she falls in love with him and they finally get married. At their wedding things go haywire and they sneak away from all the craziness. All dressed up, they exchanges their vows privately on The Maid of The Mist, away from their crazy guests. The camera shows them, arms around each other, standing on the back of the boat looking back at Niagara falls and Jim looks into the lens and smiles. FINALLY. He got his dream girl and she is the most important thing.
I have watched that scene over and over. It is one of my favorites. I have even paused that very scene of Jim looking into the camera and showed my husband. This is how every girl wants to feel, I explain to him. She wants to feel like her man is madly in love with her, that she is the priority, that SHE is the most important thing. To be fair, that is super easy to feel on your wedding day. But when life sets in and your ministry begins - it sure is amazing how fast that feeling can evaporate and you begin to question if it was ever there.
I fought for my husbands attention in those early years and he fought for me to see how important his job was and to be a part of it. It was his "all" in those days. I felt like it was my competition. It was a vicious cycle. I thought ministry was stealing my husband away from me and I was resentful. The more I pushed the more my husband tried to show me the importance of what he was doing. I just wanted him. I wanted to feel like Pam. That I was the prize and the most important thing. He wanted to feel like I had the same call and passion as he did. And he worried that I didn't. It took years of communicating, fighting, and forgiving to lay down our defenses and hear the other person. It took a dying to ourselves and seeing the other ones heart. It took time. We needed to figure out how to navigate ministry together.
The reality is that I feel that now. I feel like, and I know, that I am the most important thing to my husband. And it was true back then I am sure. But we didn't know how to communicate that with each other. My husband didn't know that sometimes it was ok to cancel a meeting because I really needed him. Or that he could show me I was his priority without giving up his passion and work ethic for his ministry. I didn't know back then that seeing him work hard and being loyal to an organization would become something I admire most about him. We needed help to see the best in each other and to express what we each needed. Instead we fought against these things.
I wouldn't trade those years. They taught us so much and have made us stronger. But I do wish we were better equipped back then. It was a lot of years of hurt. We even left ministry for a while. But we always worked on communicating what we each needed and what we perceived the other person meant when we didn't get it. We have helped other couples navigate their marriage and ministry because of what we went through.
What is the biggest struggle you and your spouse have in ministry and what do you do to work through it? Please comment below (I would love to interview some of you on this topic to share in future posts as we encourage each other in ministry).