Some time ago my husband and I were invited to talk to a group of students on how we juggle marriage and ministry. Thomas and I have been married for 26 years. We’ve spent the last 30 years together. Just saying it out loud makes me feel 3 000 years old, but you see, I met my husband-to-be when I was very young. Like, minus 3 years old, give or take.
We have been in ministry for as long as we’ve been together, some of that time in full-time ministry, and some as volunteers. We’ve been part of a church plant, as well as serving in a traditional church. We’ve ministered in Norway and abroad, in short-term ministry and long-term missions.
Still, my husband is my best friend. I feel at home whenever we are together, no matter where we are.
We don’t always lead balanced lives. In fact, my kids joke with me, saying that the closest I get to a balanced life is eating something sweet and salty at the same time. They are so funny! Not. Well, they are. Kinda.
Ministering in unity
As we prepared for the talk, Thomas and I reflected on how we still prefer ministering together. We certainly complement each other. I know that he will cover my weak spots, and he knows that I will see things that he doesn’t. He is brave when I’m shy, and I can communicate what he can’t. It’s a good mix. Some of it came naturally just by who we are as individuals. Some we’ve had to fight for.
Having a very sick child for many years may take a toll on a marriage, if you let it. The divorce rate for parents of chronically ill or handicapped children is over 88 %. Fostering children may also affect your marriage. Rejection and vulnerability can trigger defense mechanisms that can make you lash out against the one person you think should be able to take it – your spouse. Unless you constantly choose your significant other, time will most likely tear your marriage apart.
Add being in ministry and serving others to the mix, you can easily start believing that everybody else is more important than your own family. There are so many needs everywhere, and the flesh responds to feeling important, right? While your family knows all about your feeble attempts and failed efforts, the soothing words of strangers may line up with your desires and need for significance. Suddenly, you have chosen comfort over healthy resistance and become alienated from your tribe
Truth be told
The students who were between 20 and 30 years old listened attentively as we talked about life and marriage. About putting our relationship with God first always. About choosing each other daily. Of wishing the best for the other at all times. We talked about how one’s success is a victory for both of us. How we never compete, but cheer each other on. We talked about building a legacy for our children and sharing whatever we have been entrusted with. We parent and nurture, but above all, we love.
Suddenly my husband said something that stopped me in my tracks.
After so many years, I obviously know how to push her buttons. That doesn’t mean than I have to do it. I can choose not to.
Of course, I would have preferred not to have those buttons. I wish that I had a saint-like patience, a peace-inducing presence, and an irreproachable memory, but I don’t. I know it. My family knows it. And, thanks to my husband, 50 students know it, too My buttons are still intact after many years of marriage, thank you very much! But that just makes him determined to cover me.
Do we always get it right? Of course not. But we share whatever we have, and right now, this is it.
We give each other the gift of cover. We don’t ignore the faults of the other and we always speak the truth. But we lovingly and prayerfully cover each other’s shortcomings, just as we ourselves find a hiding place under the shadow of His wings.
How will you love your spouse this year?