I wish early on in my marriage I had realized that my marriage was also a part of my ministry as well. Really, that my whole life is a walking, breathing ministry to others. I think we tend to separate things out like, “This is my ministry. This is my life.” When the reality is, it’s all just one big ministry. You can’t really separate it out. Unfortunately, though, I didn’t really start to learn that until just a few years ago. It took our family working with the college group, Element, and me listening to another woman speak at a Bible Study, to put all of that together. I’d like to say that in the last few years, I have perfected what this looks like where my marriage and family are concerned, but I haven’t. I’m human, and sometimes my flesh takes over first (more often than not probably).
But I should explain fully what I mean. I’m going to use our Element family as an example. Quite often, we would have some wonderful college friend of our’s sitting on our couch (Oh how I miss that!!) And spilling their guts to us. There were times when it was extremely difficult to hear their struggles, hardship, and sin as they poured it out to us. I would take myself and think, “Your job is to show them grace and love through this. Your job is to speak truth to them. Your job is not to judge or physically shake them!!” 😉 I kept those times in a “ministry box”. I would remember that they weren’t sinning against me. They were sinning against God. I could be upset over what they were doing or going through, but I could not pass judgment and expect them to ever trust me and sit on my couch again. So I react with grace, love, a calm voice and gentle touch.
Now, we move to our family and marriage. Just a warning-this could get a little painful. For such a long time, it was in a different box-the “my life” box. Early on in our marriage, I had issues with spewing everything I thought or felt out without a moment’s hesitation (pretty sure that’s called Anger Issues). There were a lot of issues Michael and I had to work through on both sides. Most of them were doozies to be honest. Anytime Michael would sit on our couch & be spilling his guts out to me, I would react with anger, agitation, judgment. Later on in our marriage, after we had worked through & made it through (by the grace of God) many of those doozy issues, I realized my reaction was not as loud, but it was still the same thought process. I took anything he poured out to me as a slight against me, a sin against me instead of God. And my reaction was one that truly, wasn’t my place to give. I’d speak truth to him to be sure, but there was no mercy, no grace, no soft voice or gentle touch for him. There was no grace or love to be found-at least not until I’d calmed down.
I did not go into those conversations, yes the ones with the most important human being in my life, thinking the same way as I did when I was in my “ministry” box. The reality is that all life, even our marriages and families, should be in our “ministry” box. Well, honestly, there should be NO boxes as we should be living our whole lives in grace… love, mercy, joy, patience, kindness, fathfulness, gentleness, self-control…Our families, spouses, friends, and those we work with in the vocation of ministry all deserve that. I hate to say it, but it took me a little while to understand and “get” that. Our families and loved ones need to see love and grace in us too. In my life, they are the ones I get to “minister” to the most! I want them to trust me and feel safe to sit on my, and their, couch again.
I don’t know what you struggle with, or what your relationships, marriage look like. I know we all have our issues, and we try to keep them behind closed doors as much as possible. We don’t want others to see how messy we really are. I challenge you to start looking at those closest to you with the same eyes you look at who you minister to. Realize the “ministry” you have with those sleeping in your same bed or in the room next to your’s or down the hall. I’m telling you, it can save your marriage & family.