The following are quotes from various resources to help Pastors, Evangelists and spouses with the unique situations you encounter as you minister to others, and yet need to continually work to keep your own marriages strong. We pray they will help in the ways you need!
• People come and go in a church, but there is only one guaranteed set of people for which a minister will always be responsible: their spouse and children! Most ministers are so ambitious they try to build a ministry with folks that may or may not be with them a few years down the road. The wives of pastors are usually the neediest people I meet in a typical congregation. Statistics show that most wives of senior pastors blame the ministry for the marital difficulties they have!
Do we need to talk about what pictures come to mind when we think of the term “P.K.”? The children and spouse of senior pastors often become embittered because the husband’s focus is constantly on the needs and vision of the church to the emotional neglect of the ones he is most responsible for! (Joseph Mattera, from the Southasianconnection.com article, “Top Five Regrets from an Eighty Year Old Minister“)
• A common mistake Pastors make is they fail to put up boundaries to protect their family life. Many pastors’ wives blame the ministry for 80 percent of their marital problems. I know of many pastors who allow congregants to call their homes, interrupt family time or dinner time, allowing visits at all hours of the night, thinking this is what God expects of them. This is probably the single biggest reasons why children of preachers hate the ministry and would never even think of imitating their parent’s faith and works. This is one reason why I counsel pastors to have an office OUTSIDE of their home —to keep set office hours and separate church work from their family time in regards to affection and focus. Without setting proper boundaries, the pastor will inevitably sacrifice their family on the altar of ministry, alienating both spouse and children. (Joseph Mattera, from the Southasianconnection.com article “Twenty One Common Mistakes Pastors Make.”)
• “When I sensed the Lord calling me into ministry seven years ago, I immediately brought [my wife] Daisy into the process. We sought his will together. And when the call was confirmed in our hearts, we approached the children and told them we’d have to make some adjustments in our family routine. But at the same time, we told them that family was still the No.1 priority for me, and that the Lord would enable me to honor that while taking on new ministry commitments. And he has!” (Pastor Ralph Kelly as quoted in the Parsonage.org article “Bi-vocational Battle Plan“)
• I never dreamed full-time Christian workers could have marital trouble. Even though I had accepted Christ at a young age, it was not until I got married that I realized my sin and brokenness before God. I was truly selfish and wanted my own way. I wanted my knight in shining armor to take care of me. Instead, I was faced with disappointment, personality conflict, and trying circumstances: my husband was bedridden for two months due to unexpected back surgery; he left his job for integrity reasons without another one in place; our car was stolen; the kitchen roof caved in; and more.
Each blow knocked me off balance because I believed a lie: if I do the right things, we will live happily ever after. Instead, God used difficulties to draw me closer to Him and to strengthen me for the future. As those difficulties were stepping-stones to my cancer journey, this cancer is preparation for something else ahead. (Just Between Us Interview with Kim Newlen, “Living Above Tough Times”)
• As a pastor’s wife, the stigmas and myths attached to depression can be intensified. Have you ever believed the lie that a life of ministry and serving the Lord cannot lead to an experience with depression? Have you bought into the myth that clergy families must look as though they have it all together? Thoughts like these are simply untrue. Because of these lies, however, pastor’s wives often won’t acknowledge their deep despair or allow themselves to recognize it in their families. (Jennifer Antonsen, from the Clergy Care Network article: “Acknowledging the ‘Common Cold” which includes scriptures on depression)
• Raising four children and working as the senior vice president at the Urban Alternative in Dallas, Texas, wore Lois Evans out. Getting time to talk to her pastoring husband, Tony, was sometimes a challenge. She eventually found a free moment with him and told him she needed a break. “I have to get away and get refreshed,” she told him. She encourages wives to tell their husbands when they need some down time. “We ministry spouses often pout when times grow hectic. We hope our mates see how exhausted we are and suggest that we take a breather. Yet we often don’t come right out and say, ‘That’s it. I’ve had enough, and I’m taking a break.'” Let your husband know when you’ve hit a wall. Don’t expect him to read your mind. Everyone needs a break from time to time, including you. (Grace Clausing, from Crosswalk.com article “Advice for Minister’s Wives from Minister’s Wives“)
• A longtime tool for my [pastor] husband had been a day away, alone, with God without the calendar. A day to refuel, to rest. For years, he suggested that I, too, get away. Hah! My family needed me. I needed to be needed. The house might collapse if I left home for a day …or maybe my family would get along fine without me. Then where would I be? Finally, truth dawned: I either had to go or fall apart.
On personal retreat, I tasted heaven. A retreat is both respite and restoration, regardless of frequency. Once a month is manageable for most people. Whether at a state park, retreat center or even a hotel, elements of a day away might include contemplative reading, napping filling with God’s Word and presence, long walks watching for God’s touch, singing hymns or choruses, journaling or listening. Away from home and work, the Lord again woos, restoring love for Him and family. Tangents and priorities untangle; dreams and desires resurface.
Finding a quiet place for a few hours or a full day reaped soul dividends as well as a full loneliness. I begged God for a network of support for my various tightropes: wife, mother, ministry spouse, writer, and speaker. It was unfair, impossible and overwhelming to expect [my husband] Rich to meet all my needs. I watched and prayed for people further down the road. Now 20 years into ministry and marriage, a net stretches around me, ready to catch me should I slip. (The articles goes on to describe this “net.” This quote is written by Jane Rubietta, from Parsonage.org article, “Married to a Pastor …The High Chair Day.”)
• The difficult years in my marriage were the first time I had to seek God. I read and cried through the Psalms every day. He encouraged me as no one else could. I learned to focus on what I knew about Him rather than circumstances. By the time I received my cancer diagnosis, it was natural to turn to the Lord and His Word. When I have sleepless nights, I rest in the inner quietness that comes from knowing the Lord. He is trustworthy, reliable, and will see me through difficulties and disappointments. I am so burdened for women to know Him for if they don’t know God, where do they go for help when faced with serious difficulties? (Just Between Us Interview with Kim Newlen, “Living Above Tough Times”)
• A crucial key to maintaining your love for God while meeting life’s many obligations is remembering that everything has a season (Ecclesiastes 3:1). God doesn’t want us to do it all now. Sometimes when my children were young I got frustrated that I wasn’t using my administrative abilities outside the home. But it just wasn’t my season yet. God’s first priority was for me to focus on my kids. I can remember women getting upset because I declined their invitations to speak at their churches and retreats. But as my children grew older and started school, God opened up doors and created new desires that matched those opportunities. My season had changed.
It is important that we love God in whatever season is upon us rather than simply complain. Sooner or later, spring will replace the cold of winter, and fall will replace the heat of summer, as God moves us into new opportunities that fit His will for us in the changing seasons of life. If we try to change seasons on our own, then we might remove ourselves from His will. As a result we will lose our peace, power, and productivity. (Lois Evans, from the book “Promises, Promises” compiled by Denalyn Lucado)
• Through my communion with God I have learned how to read [my husband] Mark. He still often retreats inwardly when the pressures of being a pastor, author, and speaker accumulate, but I have learned not to take his withdrawal personally; instead, I lift him to God. God often shows me little ways to bless him, to help him see we’re in this together, to let him know I love him and support him. The best thing I ever did for my marriage I continue to do every day: I speak few words to Mark first thing. Instead, I fill my early mornings talking —and listening —to the One in heaven who cherishes me. He fills me and shows me how to interact with the one on earth who cherishes me. (Cheryl Buchanan, a contributing author to the book, “The Best Thing I Ever Did for My Marriage”)
• How emotionally/spiritually healthy is your marriage? As a pastor’s wife, are you doing most of the work to keep the relationship fresh? Women tend to be more relational and open with their feelings. That is a gift from God to us husbands, but that does not let us off the hook regarding keeping our marriage fresh. This needs to be a true partnership. Many pastors’ wives are taking on this load and worse, are believing it is their total responsibility, yet deep inside resentment begins to grow. Leaving this resentment unchecked can help direct a marriage towards the rocks. If the emotional relationship quotient is out of balance in your marriage, in other words, if you are the one doing most of the work to keep communication flowing, then now is the time to do something about it. (Geof Cornelsen, from the Clergy Care Network article, “As Go the Leaders“)
• Pastors: Put your wife second in your life. After your relationship with Jesus Christ, your bride is your highest priority. One of the ways you encourage her and show her she has value is to dialogue daily, date weekly and depart quarterly. In your conversations, make sure you’re talking with her about her spiritual walk, the kids, her dreams. If you do talk about the church and ministry, make sure she brings up the subject first. She cares as much about the church as you do but she just wants to know she is more important to you than the church. Pastor, Jesus has a Bride, and you do, too. So go home to yours. He’ll take care of His. (Ken Whitten, from the Crosswalk.com article, “5 Ways for Pastors to Encourage Their Wives)
• Publicly praise her ministry. Many times a pastor believes that to praise his wife publicly shows favoritism and a sense of entitlement, but it truly demonstrates a spirit of gratefulness for her calling and recognition for the sacrifices she makes every day for your ministry. Keep in mind, her greatest ministry may be in the home and not in the church, which is even more reason for fulfilling Proverbs 31:28 “Her sons rise up and call her blessed. Her husband also praises her.” (Ken Whitten, from the Crosswalk.com article, “5 Ways for Pastors to Encourage Their Wives)
• As pastors’ wives we are in a prime position to influence others by our conduct… good or bad. Queen Vashti was a woman in a prominent position. Her public refusal to honor her husband’s unreasonable request struck fear in the hearts of the king’s men (as described in Esther 1:15-18). Little did Queen Vashti suspect would be the long-range consequences of her conduct. She was deposed as queen, banished forever from the king’s presence, and never again mentioned in the pages of Scripture.
Whenever I read Queen Vashti’s story I think of pastors’ wives. We, too, have the ability to influence others by our conduct. Had I not allowed the Holy Spirit to silence me that day outside the church, venting may have given way to godless chatter and gossip. A few days after that incident the woman I talked with said, “I’ve made up a new rule: Only good news! I’m not talking negatively about anybody, even if it is true.” By praying about the situation we have come to see our hearts changing, the atmosphere at work brighten, and the employee in question working hard at getting along better with the rest of the staff. “[She] who heeds discipline shows the way to life, but whoever ignores correction leads others astray.“ Proverbs 10:17 NIV (Meredith R. Sheppard, from the Loisevans.org newsletter article, Wives In Touch with God and one another, November/December 2006)
• As the pastor’s wife, I am set up to be an example to the flock. The definition of “example” is “to act in such a way as to arouse the imitation of others.” How can people imitate me unless they watch me and evaluate me? Recognizing this basic principle of discipleship helped to change my attitude toward the scrutiny I receive. It has also enforced a discipline in my life that I would probably not have had otherwise. (Devi Titus, from the book, “Help! I’m a Pastor’s Wife,” Edited by Michele Buckingham, Creation House, Strang Communications Co.)
• Q: What is the largest obstacle you face as a senior Pastor’s wife? How do you address it? A: Expectations that are sometimes beyond my call or my time allocation. I answer people with as much grace as God can give to let them know in a gracious way that I can’t and why I can’t meet a particular expectation. Right now it’s my grandchildren —I have an obligation to my family. That is why we’re called to equip the saints. Learn the gift of delegation. Stay in your gifted area and then train the saints to do the work of the ministry. You may be in a church.
But in the process of doing everything, keep the mindset of training the saints. In 1 Corinthians 12 it talks about gifting of the body. We are gifted women of God who are married to pastors. God has gifted us before the foundation of the world, predestined us to do a particular thing or two or three. Things can get frustrating when a pastor’s wife tries to fit the role of the last pastor’s wife or the ideal role that has been passed down culturally in the church. You need to be who God has gifted you to be. (Lois Evans, from Loisevans.org article, “We are Gifted Women of God“)
• God did not make a mistake. He knew we would be pastors wives no matter how ill equipped we feel, or how resentful we may be. What’s done is done. Now is the time to turn to God, to ask his forgiveness for a lack of trust about his plan for your life, and to start from this place. Whatever we may feel we are lacking, be it wisdom or recognition of a spiritual gift, we can ask God to give it to us. Perhaps it’s a love for the people, or even ourselves. We can ask God to fill the void and use us for His glory in a place designed by Him for us.
We must understand this: It is God who gives us the desire to do His will, and then it is God who gives us the power to do his will (Ephesians 2:10). Then, as we spend time in God’s presence, we may have to apologize to our husbands for not believing in their ministry and God’s call. (Donna Williams. From the Loisevans.org article: “A Pastor’s Widow Speaks“)
• I have heard the argument that the wife of a pastor is not called, only the husband. I beg to differ. Though I am not so naive as to transfer the call of the husband to the place of the wife, I do believe the wife is called. She is called by God out of darkness into His marvelous light. She is called to follow Christ, called to submit to her husband and hold him in high regard. She is called obey and honor her Pastor. She is called to discover and develop her spiritual gifts. The wife must believe that she is called to stand by her husband’s side, to hold him in high esteem before the congregation, for if she does not believe this then the saying, “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy,” will apply not only to the home, but also to the church. (Donna Williams. From the Loisevans.org article: “A Pastor’s Widow Speaks“)
• In 1 Corinthians 12 it talks about the gifting of the body. We are gifted women of God who are married to Pastors. God has gifted us before the foundation of the world, predestined us to do a particular thing or two or three. Things can get frustrating when a pastor’s wife tries to fit the role of the last pastor’s wife or the ideal role that has been passed down culturally in the church. You need to be who God gifted you to be. (Lois Evans from an loisevens.org article, “We are Gifted Women of God“)
• While serving as a pastor, seven in ten (72%) clergy have been propositioned to engage in romantic or sexual activity by someone other than their spouse. Eight percent face this type of sexual temptation a few times a year. Because of this and other factors, a third of pastors believe they are more vulnerable to sexual temptation than non-pastors. The unfortunate result of sexual temptation is that some do succumb. Five percent of the pastors in our study confess to having committed adultery at least once since becoming a pastor. Two percent admit to committing adultery more than once. In most cases this is not known by the respondents spouse (53%), denominational leaders (86%), or congregation (93%). (John C La Rue Jr, from the Christianity Today Library article, “Pastors, Marriage, and Sexual Temptation”)
• Tragically, some [Pastors] will turn to an addiction, an escape out of what they see as a no-win proposition: become someone else, fit the mold, or fail. Instead of pushing back on leadership stereotypes that have long deserved questioning; instead of focusing on their strengths and becoming who God crafted them to be, they cave in. Addiction, whatever the substance or behavior, then becomes a welcome oblivion, especially to those who have visited that oblivion before. Is it possible that your addictive patterns are severe enough that you will need to leave the pastoral ministry altogether? Yes. My former husband is a prime example of a person whose addictive behavior was at such an advanced, severe stage, he was incapable of managing himself, much less a flock.
Whatever your situation at this point, however, it is a fact that you are cherished by your Maker, Redeemer, and Sustainer. You are loved beyond your ability to fathom. The emotional baggage you are carrying as a pastor and/or the addiction that is holding you captive this very moment may actually be the opportunity for you to experience God’s love more tangibly than you’ve ever known. (Sally Morgenmaler, from the great Christianity Today Library article, “Does Ministry Fuel Addictive Behavior?” )
• We are to be godly examples to those we serve. This certainly includes all areas of home and family life as well as all aspects of our church ministry. A perfect ministry and perfect marriage are not necessarily in order to glorify God. However, obedient hearts that strive to please God in every area of life are necessary if our example is to bring honor to the name of Christ. Not surprisingly burnout, is often related to difficulties in marriage. Rarely have I met a man who had given up his ministry in desperation who had a healthy, successful marriage.
A good marital relationship provides a haven for couples in the midst of the pressures and struggles of ministry. A marriage that has been honored and lovingly nurtured provides wonderful support during difficult times. In addition to a sound marriage, there are certain attitudes and mindsets that are crucial to weathering storms. The ministry is fertile ground for burnout partly because of its intensity, partly because it is a field where one serves unpredictable and often ungrateful people. (Diane Langberg, from the book “Counsel for Pastors Wives”)
• When questioned about his successes as a pastor of a large church, Pastor and author Rick Warren said the following: “None of what happened at [our church] in the last 26 years would have happened if we hadn’t worked on our marriage first. There is too much stress in ministry to have stress in your marriage at the same time. So you better get that one solidified and know where you’re going on that and, fortunately, in the early years, we got some help. We did get counseling in the first two years.” (From a radio interview conducted by Family Life Today with Dennis Rainey)
• Pastor Rick Warren: Within just a couple of months after we got married, I ended up in the hospital, I was so sick from the stress. I was angry. It was, like, wait a minute, I saved myself for this? …I was just flat out angry at God —and felt cheated —and [my wife] Kay thought she was going crazy. And that’s where we had to say, “Okay, we’re going to get help.” Kay: [Rick] was a youth pastor at a church, and we just felt like there was nowhere to go, nowhere to turn.
Rick: And even 30 years ago there was much more of a stigma even than there is now. I was making $800 a month working at a Christian college. I was actually going to college and teaching college at the same time, and our counseling bill cost was $100 a week. So half of our income was going to counseling, and we racked up a $1,500 counseling bill. That’s the best $1,500 I ever spent.
People say, “Well, I can’t afford counseling.” “Well, you can’t afford not to get it. How much is your happiness worth?” My wife is my best friend today. There would be no Saddleback Church, no AIDS ministry, no peace plan, no tens of thousands of churches going through our seminars without that. And I’d pay $1 million for that counseling today —really —if it put me in the rest of my life.
Kay: It didn’t solve everything, I mean, I don’t want to make it sound like if you go to counseling, man, everything is going to work great. It just opened the door for us to begin to talk. We didn’t even know how to talk to each other about all the places that you have conflict –sex, money, marriage, in-laws, communication, and we had conflict in every one of those. (From a radio interview conducted by Family Life Today with Rick and Kay Warren.)
• There are pastor-centered challenges to marriage. Ministry is consuming. It’s time-consuming. I’ve always been busy with staff meetings, responding to messages, prayer meetings, business meetings, appointments, counseling, and sermon preparation, not to mention weddings and funerals. Life is busy. That can be difficult on a marriage. But not only is ministry time-consuming, it is also all-consuming, because it is so demanding.
…The ministry can become a mistress. You can become married to the church. In terms of that marriage relationship, you can become a very ugly man —a preoccupied man, who may sit down at the table with your children but be somewhere else. Believe me, the ministry can be seductive, especially if you’re deriving your self-worth from what you do. Early on, when I was both in ministry and seminary, my wife saw that I had become so preoccupied that I often was somewhere else, distracted, as my children sought my attention. Seeing enough she confronted me: “I don’t mind your being gone so much I can handle that. But when you’re here, I would really like you to be here.” She suggested that I needed some professional help. I was insulted and angry. But after I cooled down I realized she was right.
During the second counseling session, the counselor, a minister himself, observed that I was attempting to establish my self-worth by my performance as a pastor. He assured me that given my mind-set, whatever I achieved, I would never find satisfaction. The answer, he said, was to establish my worth apart from the ministry. That was the best personal advice I’ve ever received. Today I define myself by my relationship with God and with my nearest and dearest —not ministry. Sometimes my ministry is up, and sometimes it is down. But my self-worth is not tied to my professional vicissitudes. And more importantly, I am not for the most part a distracted husband or grandfather. (R. Kent Hughes, from the book, “Pastoral Leadership for Manhood”, pages 24-25)
• Don’t be mistaken —accusations WILL come. There are always those who will cause division and strife in the Body of Christ by their words and actions. Oh, that we could avoid such people —but they will always be with us. It is something that we as pastors and ministers need to be constantly aware of for several reasons. As we live our lives in the famed “glass bowl” we are responsible for our actions and the words we speak. All of us have made mistakes or said things we wish we hadn’t. Whether said in exaggeration, or just said in wrong timing causing misunderstanding —we are made constantly aware of the fact that the words we, as pastors speak, carry more weight than anything others may say.
Whether it is fair or not doesn’t matter — it is so. Standing in a place of authority is a grave responsibility and one in which we will be held accountable for. Therefore —“it is best to listen much, speak little, and not become angry” when others bring accusations against us unjustly. (James 1:19) Defending ourselves only sets our accusers up as judges and juries over us. “Vengeance is mine I will repay, saith the Lord.” (Hebrews 10:34) This is where our trust in God comes to play and where our faith is tested, proven and grown. (Shannon Parish, from the Sarahstent.com article, “Accusations”)
• Jesus made a habit of getting away from the multitudes. I think He knew the blessings found in time away. Sometimes the best way to minister to others is to get away from them. Sometimes the best way to enjoy our families is to get away with them. It doesn’t take a conference; it doesn’t require money. All it takes is a simple day off. (Steve Van Winkle, from Christianity Today Library article, “A Good Day Off“)
• Guard your marriage and family. If you do not build in some protection, your congregation will consume nearly every moment of your day. Your husband will lose himself in his assignment if you do not intentionally carve out time to be together. (H.B. London, from the Parsonage.org article “A Salute to the Pastor’s Wife“)
• “Publish your ‘day off’ in the church bulletin. Let the congregation know when you will be away on vacation or otherwise unavailable. Teach the members of the congregation to control their ’emergencies,'” Larry advises. “Few things really require a minister at midnight.” Encourage members of the congregation to call during office hours. ” (Pastor Larry, from Parsonage.org article, “Time to Do Homework”)
• Call “time out” on church business. Date night or bedtime is not the opportunity to rehash a committee meeting or critique a sermon. Make some days (and nights) off-limits for discussing ministry issues. You make wedding vows as well as ordination vows, so give your relationship the attention it deserves. (Linda Riley, from Parsonage.org article “How to Fall in Love Every Day“)
• I have some advice for every ministry couple that will enhance [your marriage]. You two —take your day off. As Barbara and I get around the country to pastors’ conferences, we are appalled at how many ministers and their wives don’t take a regular day off. The “we’re so busy” pleas don’t carry much weight with us. We’ve served in every size of church (with no staff and multiple staff) and have written over 30 books while doing it. We’ve been busy, but we’ve always managed a day off. We’ve come to understand that those who go without a day off are not taking their work seriously as some might imagine, but rather are taking themselves too seriously.
Admittedly, the work is always there, and there is always too much to do. And true, we can often do it better than others. But we also know that workaholism is often rooted in self, be it insecurity or the need to be needed or subtle self-idolatry —”God won’t work unless I’m there.” Believe us —it’s your moral responsibility to God and each other to take a day off. Even more, it’s your moral responsibility to forget your work —to mentally dismiss your ministerial preoccupations and not allow your professional concerns to dominate your time away. (R. Kent Hughes, from the book, “Pastoral Leadership for Manhood” pg. 32)
• Maintain a regular schedule with a weekly lunch or breakfast to discuss family “business” and a date night for fun and relaxation. If regular dates seem impossible, take a hard look at your calendar and make the necessary adjustments. Ministry families have full schedules, but most have the advantage of being flexible. Maybe you can make time for an afternoon rendezvous when the children are at school or at a sitter’s home. (Linda Riley, from Parsonage.org article “How to Fall in Love Every Day“)
The following are quotes from various resources provided to give Missionaries and their spouse’s insights and help for their marriages:
• God may be calling one of you into ministry or a career, and you may have the gifting, but unless you work together as a couple, you’re going to struggle. You have to realize that when God calls you, He has an equally important purpose for your spouse; His call to you is not to be independent of your spouse. So if God is prompting one of you to move in a certain direction, you’ve got to ask yourselves and Him “How does this work for us together?” Unless you’re on the same page, it may not be the right thing to do.” (Frank Pastore – from the book, The Best Advice I Ever Got on Marriage)
• I read many Christian books about the way marriage was supposed to be. I never dreamed full time Christian workers could have marital trouble. Even though I had accepted Christ at a young age, it was not until I got married that I realized my sin and brokenness before God. I was truly selfish and wanted my own way. I wanted my knight in shining armor to take care of me. Instead, I was faced with disappointment, personality conflict, and trying circumstances: my husband was bedridden for two months due to unexpected back surgery; he left his job for integrity reasons without another one in place; our car was stolen; the kitchen roof caved in; and more.
Each blow knocked me off balance because I believed a lie: if I do the right things, we will live happily ever after. Instead, God used difficulties to draw me closer to Him and to strengthen me for the future. As those difficulties were stepping-stones to my cancer journey, this cancer is preparation for something else ahead. (Just Between Us Interview with Kim Newlen, “Living Above Tough Times”)
• An important concept is to realize that cultures are not responsible for making a foreigner comfortable. It is the responsibility of the foreigner to make the culture comfortable with him or her. This is especially true with the extended family. Depending on how the couple met, the family will probably be much more traditional in its ways. (M. Neigh, from article titled, “That’s not what I meant!” Adjustments in transcultural marriage. This article is available to down load on Missionarycare.com)
• There are plenty of marriage eroders, but I think the most common and insidious is busyness. So many things demand our attention. Our ministry; children’s care and education; housekeeping in a different environment; travel from place to place. The tyranny of the urgent keeps us from paying attention to the important. Setting aside some time each day, week, and month for your spouse gives you the opportunity to relax in each other’s presence and talk about what is important. If you don’t schedule the time, you may lose touch without realizing it. If we don’t make time for each other, we can get careless and begin to take each other for granted. We quit doing the little things that make life easier for the other.
Every so often my husband melodramatically sighs, “Ah, the magic has gone out of our marriage.” He says it with a twinkle in his eye when I neglect one of the little things he has come to appreciate, like setting out his cereal bowl at the same time I set out my own. The little things do count. Remembered, they can add up to a reservoir of joy. Neglected, a cesspool of resentment. …Marriage is under attack, whether overseas or in your home country. The enemy values nothing more than breaking up leaders’ marriages. If he can destroy a leader’s marriage, so many others can lose hope and fail. If he can’t do it with a major failure, he will be happy to take a longer time and erode it with neglect. Don’t give him any opportunity. Never let a day go by without “seeing” your husband. (From the Peterswife.org article, “Marriage Erosion”)
• Come up with new ways of showing interest in your mate. Surprise him with your “good taste”: After the toothbrush and mouthwash, rinse your mouth with a weak solution of vanilla or almond extract in water. Or try some of the flavored lip glosses that teenagers love.
Pamper her with a foot rub. Vacuum her car and leave a new music tape on the driver’s seat. Start a piggy bank “savings club” and keep filling it with loose change to splurge on something you know she loves but rarely buys herself.
Send love notes, write a message in lipstick on the mirror or give him a quick call at the office to say all you can think about is seeing him tonight. One missionary I know reads his wife a different love poem each day. She feels adored —for the price of a book of poetry. (From the Thrivingpastor.org article, “How to Fall in Love Every Day”)
• Encourage openness. You can invite openness, but you can never force it. People are not oysters to be pried open with the edge of a knife. We should respect every person’s right to not reveal their inner man to us. Instead of forcing openness, invite it. When we lived in Nigeria I developed some painful boils. I wanted to force the poison out of them by squeezing them, much like you would squeeze a pimple. But my wife, a trained nurse, saved me from that mistake. She explained that if I did that I could actually force the poison right into my bloodstream, and possibly die from it. So she made warm antiseptic compresses that we applied until the boil opened and poison could safely flow out. Warm, assuring love will do the same thing. It encourages openness. (Mike Constantine, from Peterswife.org article, “The ABC’s of Communication”)
• Transparency in marriage is very vital for your survival overseas. As you don’t have all the support systems of your home country, you depend much more on one another. This dependency can only work when you are honest and transparent. Otherwise you quickly slip into wearing masks trying to cover up your needs or frustrations. Try to express your love for one another as much as possible. Show signs of appreciation in creative ways-flowers, cards, special little gifts, giving one another time and space for personal reflection and recreation, are all signs of love and value and respect for one another.
This way you not only protect your love, but model good life and communication tools to your children and to co-workers. Be aware that you are models for committed love for social, for emotional and spiritual integrity. As a wise proverb says, “an ounce of example is worth a pound of teaching.” Maybe you feel overwhelmed now and you think, “Can I set the right priorities in my marriage? Where do I find the time for dates to cultivate the relationship with my partner? How can I promote my partner’s emotional and spiritual growth if I can’t even care for my own? From where do I get the patience and the energy to be transparent and respectful and to be a good model for our children so that they feel secure?”
I can sympathize with these questions. I have been struggling with them for many years. The answer lies in the secret of always starting with one point only. Sit together as a couple and think through which of the issues you both have the most difficulties with. Is it quality time? Is it caring for one another? Or is it honesty and appreciation? Make a commitment to set time apart to work on the one issue that you feel needs the most improvement. You can even set some clear goals and be accountable to one another. And if you need outside help, and have a trusted person on your field, set up some accountability structures. Always keep in mind, praying couples have the strongest advocate and helper. (Annemie Grosshausser, from the broadcast, “Family in Ministry” part 2 of 5, found on Member Care Radio)
• You are on the front lines of spiritual battles, taking Christ to people who have never heard. Such cross-cultural workers certainly would not get into sexual sin, would they? Of course, they would. For centuries military personnel in any conflict have been notorious for their sexual immorality. Engaged in physical/ideological battles in strange cultures far from family, friends, community, and church, they engage in sexual exploits. Why would you expect any less temptation for you, as you engage in the spiritual battles against the forces of evil? You are lonely. With social support absent, emotional needs unmet, and living in a strange culture with greater sexual freedom than at home, why would Satan not take advantage of you as well?
Most cross-cultural workers can quote 1 Corinthians 10:13, “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.“ “Seized” is the proper word because sexual temptation can become so strong that a person is willing to give up everything —relationships with God, spouse, and family; reputation, ministry, everything.
Before quoting the verse above and thinking you are surely safe, read the verse before it, “These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!“ (1 Corinthians 10:11-12) (Ron Koteskey, from the Membercareradio.com article, “What Cross Cultural Workers Need to Know About Sexual Purity”)
• Could you, a cross-cultural worker, get pulled into immorality or adultery? Of course you could, and the “slide” into it usually begins in harmless, innocent ways. For example, you are field director, so it is your responsibility to show the attractive new single cross-cultural worker around. Or, you feel sorry for the new cross-cultural workers who have no place to stay, and you invite them to live with you temporarily. Or, while talking with a long-term cross-cultural worker friend, Chris, you find out that Chris feels neglected at home, so you try to give Chris some extra attention.
Before you realize it, the two of you are sharing deep things, and this intimacy leads to increasing time together, and finally adultery. It happens not only with other cross-cultural workers, but with nationals as well. It happens to both men and women. It happens with young and old. If you think you are invulnerable to sexual sin, you are actually the most vulnerable. 1 Corinthians 10:12 describes our vulnerability, but verse 13 promises God’s faithfulness in providing a way of escape. Attraction to other people is very likely to happen, and if you do not know what to do, you may well find yourself in a position like King David, trying to cover up your sexual sin and causing serious problems for your entire family, field, and organization. (Ron Koteskey, from the Crossculturalworkers.com article, “What Cross Cultural Workers Need to Know About Sexual Stress”)
• It’s so good to have you home, so why are we arguing now? You have been looking forward to being together for several days or weeks, and now you find yourselves in an argument. What is the problem? Remember that both of you are probably physically and emotionally exhausted from all the things we have discussed. The spouse who stayed at home has been carrying the load usually carried by two people. The spouse who traveled is tired from work, travel, and perhaps jet lag and intestinal disturbances from getting some of the flora and/or fauna from the local water. • Both of you need to realize what the situation is. • Both of you need to be especially patient with each other. • If disagreements begin, it is best to shelve discussion until you both have time to get rested, perhaps taking turns covering for each other while the other rests. • Celebrate your reunion (when you are rested) in some special way.
Cross-cultural workers, of all people, should know the importance of debriefing. You consider it routine when you reenter your passport country, and it is the same for any transition. Coming home from a few days or weeks is also a reentry, and you both need the chance to debrief this minor transition. Again, communication is of greatest importance, so debrief each other. • Look at your journals, and tell each other everything about your separation. • Consider how this fits in to your life story together. • Decide what changes this may imply for your lives together in the future • Make specific plans for how you will cope with separation next time. • See the brochure on reentry. (Ron Koteskey, from the Crossculturalworkers.com article, “What Cross Cultural Workers Need to Know About Separation”)