by C Michael PattonDecember 16th, 2009 56 Comments
Here is a question I recieved from someone as a follow-up to my last blog.
I have a deep love for the lady who I’ve been dating and I’m getting set to pop the question to her.
I love apologetics. You know that. I love teaching it as well. However, apologetics is not God. It is not the gospel. No one’s ministry is God. I have told my Princess repeatedly that God will always be #1. She must be second place. I must put her before that without putting her before God. How can I teach and defend the gospel if I am not living it? Part of living it means giving my wife the proper place in my world.
So while I’m on that, let me ask you how you make a division. How do you keep up a life of study properly with a life of marriage? I know if I give all of my attention to study, well she’s deprived and that’s not right. On the other hand, if all I do is give her attention, well we don’t eat. I have to do both. I’d like your insight.
Let me start by saying that Kristie and I love each other deeply and we are totally committed to each other. However, we have not had a “good” marriage by any stretch. I am not sure I should be saying this. Not because Kristie would not approve, but because it exposes something that causes me a great deal of shame to reveal. I wish that I could say that I had even a typically decent marriage, but I don’t think this is the case.
Kristie and I are worlds apart. Not only in personality, but spiritually as well. Well, let me qualify this some. I am not saying that one of us is super spiritual while the other is a dud, but that we are different. Kristie has never resented my ministry and has, at times, served as an encouragement. But she is not that interested in what I do. Theology is not her thing. The same is true for me with regard to her priorities. Sometimes it feels as if we are like magnets turned the wrong way. Our relationship is, for lack of a better word, clumsy. We have good chemistry in a very real way (which I am so thankful for), but, from a human standpoint, we are not a “match made in heaven.”
There is a lot more that can be said.
I don’t, at this point in my life, have a nice red bow that is coming in the form of a “but…” I am just giving you some of the background so you can understand my answer. If Kristie and I were to allow our relationship to go in a direction that “seems” natural, I think we would drift completely apart, she in her world, and I in mine. I could very easily say to myself that my work and ministry are far more productive than the treadmill of problems that come by way of my marriage. My ministry could easily get separated from my marriage and become the de facto priority of my day (and it sometimes does when I am in one of “those” moods).
However, I would say from experience that if your marriage is not going well, nothing is going well. Your ministry, insights, and everything else will suffer when your wife is not your priority. And if it does not, then that may be an even bigger problem: apathy. Apathy toward your marital relationship. Solution: Redirect all passion to ministry. What a terrible place to be. Understandable, but terrible.
“But, but, I am doing so much good in ministry. I suck at marriage.” I know how it feels, but don’t separate the two. Your marriage is and should always be your first and foremost ministry. Even if it is not as “successful” as your other pursuits, don’t compare them. Before God, you are called to love her and give yourself up for her as Christ did the church, even if you are worlds apart. Christ and the church were worlds apart, too.
(Sheesh…what self-therapy here.)
“But what if my wife keeps me from ministry? What if she only serves as massive speed bumps to my ‘calling’?”
I try to keep this in mind: God does not really need me. As much as I like to think I am significant (i.e., if I don’t get this blog done, this class taught, this person’s theology corrected, who will?), my family must come first. It is so easy to forget this or to become bitter towards your wife. There is a reason why we are told to treat them tenderly.
Your passions should not be divided, but they often will be. When it comes to the big decisions, always choose your family. When it comes to the big decisions, always choose your family. When it comes to the big decisions, always choose your family. That is something, I believe, you will not regret on your death bed. God has numerous ways to get done that which we felt like we were supposed to. If you are married, your primary area of service is your wife.
“But who comes first, God or my wife?”
Not a good way to put it. Not good at all. It is like saying, what comes first, God’s commandments or God himself. Most certainly, there are times when you will have to follow God rather than your wife, but this is not saying that God will ever call on you to neglect your responsibility to love her in order to serve him. While it is true that you put God first, I don’t know how to separate that from putting your wife first. In other words, you put your wife first precisely because you put God first.
For those of you who have a passion for ministry, do not separate this from your passion for your family. Don’t become bitter, apathetic, or dismissive towards the wife that God has given to you. She is your first ministry. If you do well with her, you have done better than one who writes, speaks, blogs, and preaches for God to the neglect of his wife.
As hard as it is for me to say, if your ministry is not providing for your family, find something that will.
- What Does Love Look Like in Marriage?
- How My Passion for Ministry Almost Ended My Marriage
- Married to the Ministry? Why Jim Left the Ministry and Faith
- Is the Threat of Divorce Ever Justified?
- Is it Possible to Marry the Wrong Person?