I believe that God has called us to minister together, regardless of the titles or status that have been given to us. It has been great to have worked in so many different contexts, as it has enabled us to see the way that God has brought us together to bless others. Regardless of who is earning what or working in which position, we hope that God is using us. I am aware that all marriages are different and there is great blessing in this diversity, but we have found that it is great to work alongside each other.
Dealing with Pain
We have also experienced pain as other people have not always seen things this way. With or without good reason, people can say and do hurtful things to others and it has been hard to be on the receiving end of this at various point of our ministry. It has been even harder for me and Neil to see each other go through this. There have been times when it has been appropriate to get involved and verbally support one another. Most instances, though, it has been necessary to say nothing publicly but support and pray for one another within our relationship. Seeing loved ones go through difficulties is tough and in ministry people can be thoughtless, selfish or down right spiteful. For me, having my foundation firstly in God but also with my husband has made it easier to cope with those difficult times as I struggle to love those who have hurt me. Neil also allows me to keep perspective, as I am prone to take comments and reactions too personally.
Balancing one another – our different gifts and abilities
Indeed, in many ways, we do complement one another, and our different gifts and abilities bring equilibrium to the relationship. Well, that’s how it is on a good day. I am currently thinking and praying through this, but I don’t think that there are many genetic male and female characteristics, although many are nurtured. However, there is no doubt that Neil and I are very different, and as we learn more about each other and ourselves, we are trying to serve God through these different giftings, in the big and small things of life. I remember going to a Christian women’s conference when I was at university and being shocked by the assumptions made about marriage, gender differences and parenting. The speakers appeared to be saying that the women’s role was clearly in the traditional mould of home-maker and primary carer. I spoke to a leader afterwards and explained that this did not make sense to me; I was preparing to marry Neil at the time and it seemed fair to share out the domestic duties as we would both be working full time. I liked cooking but Neil was better at ironing – why wouldn’t we use our different gifts within our home? I was told that once we got married, I would want to make a nest for my husband. I have ironed a shirt once for Neil, at which point he laughed heartily at my efforts and the iron has never touched my hands since. In ministry, Neil has a real heart for children’s work, whereas my love is youth ministry. In the big and small things, God has placed within us different passions, gifts, talents and abilities. Our prayer is that God helps us to work together to bring out the best in each other.
Of course, our marriage is not perfect and there is conflict. Neil is one of the few people that sees the whole me, not just the presentable parts that I reveal to everyone else. This means that I am not always fun to be around, and the same applies to Neil. We have found that most of our arguments have two main roots. The majority come from miscommunication, either through not listening or misinterpreting what the other said. The other comes through one or both of us taking on too much and taking out the negative effects of this on the other. However, I think that the way this conflict is managed is so important and impacts on our work with young people. I can only ever speak from a place of honesty and if Neil and I have problems, then this would come out in my teaching and relational work. It isn’t appropriate to share all conflict with young people, but as we try to share our family life, some young people will hopefully see not only our disagreements but also the way we resolve them. This is both a powerful challenge and opportunity for us and a reminder to bring our differences and arguments before God, in order to provide young people with a healthy model. Most importantly, it reminds us that we are both God's children and we should treat each other as such.
After failing miserably to post this in the promised fortnight, I will endeavour to post the next instalment within a month, where I will consider modelling relationships to young people, thinking theologically and time 'together'.