We were two years into our church plant, and by all accounts we were doing well. More people than expected were showing up for weekend services, our church was becoming known in the community, and we had become a self-supporting church. Knocking on doors, mailing out flyers, setting up church in a school cafeteria each week, and late-night planning sessions were all paying off. My husband was beginning to feel like our church just might make it.
I felt it, too. I had logged every hour alongside my husband and had watched as our baby church was beginning to grow. I felt a sense of contentment and purpose in what we were doing and I knew God had called us to it.
Yet, those first two years demanded every ounce of our time and attention. We didn't come up for air, it seems. With little money and no family near for free babysitting, date nights were unheard of. Our conversations were peppered with sermon ideas, staffing suggestions, brainstorming sessions, and meeting agendas. We gave our best to everyone else and came home too tired to engage each other.
So that night, as we settled in bed in the cover of darkness, I finally said it. I admitted I wasn't happy.
I told him that we had become fantastic ministry partners but our marriage was being tossed by the wayside. My voice was steady but tears streamed, warming my cheeks. I wanted to see our church grow but not at the expense of our marriage. What good would it be if we had an impactful ministry but didn't have each other? With quiet reserve I shared my heart. I didn't accuse. I was too weary for that, maybe even numb. I simply spoke the truth in love.
Then I was quiet. So was my husband. Uncomfortably quiet. My heart pounded as I wondered how he would respond. When he finally did, I knew the Holy Spirit had been at work. My husband didn't become defensive or angry. He was broken. He apologized, and over the next few weeks we made a plan. A plan we still follow today, 12 years later. We pinpointed three ways to partner together in ministry and at home.
-- Partner together to meet the needs of ministry.
God says that my husband and I, as a married couple, have "become one." If God has called my husband to a task then, by extension, He has called me to that task. He has chosen us for ministry. So, whether I like the limelight or prefer to be behind the scenes, I am called to love, support, encourage and be physically present for ministry. When my husband sees my active involvement and feels my support, he feels loved and honored.
-- Partner together to meet the needs at home.
It's not my job to raise the kids and keep the house while my husband is out changing the world. Instead, we act as a team on the home front. My husband pitches in around the house to be a full partner with me -- not just through chores, but with fun stuff like dates, off days, vacations and family nights. He takes the initiative in these areas to plan fun stuff for our family to do. When I see my husband so "present" in our home life, I feel loved and valued.
-- Partner together to meet the need for intimacy.
Knowing the busyness of life, we set some protective boundaries to make home a soft place for us to fall. For instance, we limit appointments, as well as social media in the evenings. Our goal is to know each other more than everyone else. Intimacy doesn't just happen. It is developed ... over time ... together.
Maybe you relate to what I experienced 12 years ago. Maybe you're living it right now. Could I give you some advice? Talk to your husband -- in love, not anger or bitterness. Make a plan to partner together in ministry and at home. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Tricia Lovejoy's husband Shawn is pastor of Mountain Lake Church (http://mountainlake.tv), with Atlanta-area campuses in Cumming and Gainesville. This column first appeared at NAMB's www.Flourish.me website, an online equipping community for ministers' wives.
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