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The Best, Dangerous Question You can Ask Your Spouse

11 Feb Spiritual Formation | Comments Off on The Best, Dangerous Question You can Ask Your Spouse
The Best, Dangerous Question You can Ask Your Spouse
 

Ministry Relationships in All Shapes and Sizes

Ministry relationships come in all shapes and sizes – everything from working with volunteers to paid staff, from students to adult leaders and more.  It seems like new relationships are being formed all the time, while others have lasted for decades.  There are seasons marked by productivity and ease and others marked by turnaround, re-staffing and re-tooling.  Some relationships are grounded in the practical and pragmatic, while others are driven by emotion and passion for the cause.  As leaders, we have all kinds of relationships that surround us in ministry, and people know you because they know the ministry or they’ve come to know the ministry because they know you.

There is one relationship, however, that impacts all others, one that transverses the landscape of ministry, one that gets what you’re going through, but tends to be overlooked. It’s a relationship that can sometimes go underappreciated, that can become strained or overextended.  They understand both you and the ministry from the inside, the outside, the front side and especially the backside.  They’re with you in the midst of things even when they are not physically there with you.

It is your spouse.

A Dangerous Question to Ask Your Spouse

I have only ever served full-time in camping ministry, and from my perspective, I cannot imagine anything so unrelentingly all-inclusive.  I live where I serve.  I eat where I work. I don’t have the option of clocking in and clocking out.  There are seasons of ministry where hundreds of people come and stay for months at a time.  Without exaggeration, I feel “on call” all the time.  And yet, I bet you could say that you’ve felt the same way about your church, non-profit or para-church ministry from time to time.

Busy, demanding ministries can ask for our everything.

Of course, I love camp and I think it’s going great.  It’s what God has wired me for and given me a passion to do.  It hardly feels like work.  That got me thinking, “Does my wife Kelly see things the same way?  Are we on the same crazy ‘I love camp’ page or not?”  I realize I could be completely missing her perspective on this very important issue.

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So, I asked her if we could sit down and talk.  I had one big, dangerous question to ask her:

“Concerning camp, what things do I do that impact you negatively?”  (In other words, “What am I doing wrong?  How have I failed you?”)

I reassured her that I really did want to know and that I welcomed her honesty. Yikes!  Once I said it out loud, I realized this was a very heavy question, and all of a sudden I wasn’t so sure I wanted to hear the answer.

Thankfully, what followed was a good, honest conversation that allowed us to both freely share how we felt about our experience in ministry.  It was reassuring to hear how God had been sustaining us over the past ten years of ministry. There really weren’t any pent up frustrations to unload on each other.

It was frankly a little unnerving. Afterwards, I wondered if Kelly was being completely open with me.  Had I offered a safe place for her to show me her heart?  Could she be honest with me about me?

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In the days following our conversation, I asked a trusted friend and a mentor to share their thoughts and perspective.  My friend suggested that there may still be things for us to learn, things we simply couldn’t see in this season of life, things that may have crept in over time or things we simply choose to overlook. His advice was to keep the conversation going.  My mentor said, “One thing?  That’s not surprising.  You’ve been together in ministry for over a decade.  I think, along the way you’ve figured out how to do it well; figured things out of necessity or God’s grace or, more likely, a bit of both.”

As I think back on it, it was a terrifying question to ask, and yet a great conversation to have. I am deeply thankful for my wife and glad to have friends and mentors that speak into my life, my marriage and my ministry.  I am excited to keep the conversation going – to work on that one thing and whatever else arises in the future.

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Some Lessons for the Road

Here are a few things God brought to light from this heavy question.  I pray they are a help, an encouragement and a challenge for you and your spouse.

#1  Difficult does not always mean bad

Ask God to give you a love for your spouse that overwhelms and overcomes any discomfort, nervousness or fear you have. Just because you face difficult situations, seasons, or questions does not mean you’re facing something bad.

#2  Create a safe place

Give your spouse the expectation that you welcome his or her honesty and want to hear from them. Invite them to speak into your life and ministry habits on a regular basis. Commit to giving grace and showing mercy (both of you).

#3  What you don’t know…

What you don’t know, you don’t know. What you don’t know is what you need to find out.  Fresh eyes, unbiased ears and a new perspective can be very helpful.  Invite a mutually trusted friend or mentor to speak into your marriage.

#4  Don’t stop listening to each other.

Holiness leads to happiness, not the other way around. While you’ll undoubtedly face numerous opportunities to be made more holy in your marriage, you won’t always feel inclined to keep communicating with your spouse. Now is always a great time for a deep, honest conversation with your spouse.

Ben Myers
Camp Director at Arrowhead Bible Camp
Ben Myers has served as the Camp Director at Arrowhead Bible Camp in Brackney, PA for the past 13 years. Arrowhead is a ministry committed to discipleship through its programs for adults with developmental disabilities, missions opportunities for youth groups, and mentoring of High School and College students. Ben also teaches as an adjunct professor at Lancaster Bible College and holds degrees from Cairn University and Baptist Bible Seminary.