Being raised in a pastor's home, I had preconceived ideas of what 'married in ministry' looked like when my husband and I entered ministry. It did not take long to recognize a truth so simple - each experience is different and individual. For my husband and I, it has been a completely different journey than that of my parents. We have ministered to a different generation with issues that needed more creative ministry, which did not fit the paradigm I had created. But there has been joy in allowing God to teach both of us new tools for a new day.
Marriage is both wonderful and challenging. But when you add it to life in ministry, it is often lived out in what feels like a 'fish tank', with all the world watching every move. Especially when you live in the parsonage, on a hill, directly in view of a board-controlled church. When the pressures and schedules of ministry are added in the mix of your family life, an important goal is to have a scheduled time to connect with each other. An uninterrupted, one-on-one time with our partner in life. Those times are not only vital personally and spiritually, but they are treasured.
Ministry is different than other vocations as too often you 'can't leave it at the office.' Emergencies happen. Bible studies are often in your home. Youth run in and out your front door as if they are your own kids. Although it can be taxing at times, there is nothing like the joy of watching lives change daily before your very eyes. And as you do life with each other and your community, you watch your marriage grow, blossoming into something bigger than the action happening inside the walls of your home.
Those have been the joyous times. When we as a couple chose to be an open book in our own home, we watched the youth gravitate to our dinner table. I can still picture one particular night as friends of my teenage kids kept showing up at the door. I kept cooking. After three pounds of chicken fingers, lots of mashed potatoes, gravy and bread, we realized almost two hours had passed as we sat around the table sharing stories and laughs with each other. The result of living such a reality before those youth? Changed lives. Those from broken homes were able to watch a family interact with each other. They saw a mom and dad still together, talking with each other respectfully, treating our teenagers with love and speaking life into them. And they heard us pray. Often we ended up in the basement with worship music and prayer.
Doing life together.
That is one of the greatest joys of being married in ministry. We can be side by side praying for others. We can dream, plan and pray for vision together. Our lives are not separated in our daily activities but they interact constantly throughout the day as events we are involved in somehow continue to tie together and build our local community. Even during the times when one of us had to work outside the home, our main focus and vision always got back to the growth of those within our ministry. And a healthy marriage will pour over into our ministry among God's people.
...a healthy marriage will pour over into our ministry among God's people.
But marriage in ministry is not always full of joy. There is the pain of watching the person you are one with being betrayed by someone they poured so much into. We have an enemy of our souls who does not want to see our ministry thrive. He doesn't want to see people change their lifestyle and start living for Jesus. He works to plant seeds of doubt in the minds of those under us. No matter how much we sacrifice our own evenings with family in order to pour into their lives, or for your spouse to do so, the enemy works to cause them to doubt and mistrust the leader they had esteemed so highly before.
It can be a balancing act at times - seeking to please only God, but living with the lack of pleasing man. Standing up for your kids when they are feeling the scrutiny of people. Not allowing yourself to hold grudges or point fingers in your marriage when that scrutiny seems to be holding your kids back. Those are the times I have wanted to run from the call that I knew had been drawing me since a child. In my mind I have quit many times over. When the secretary started a protest behind our backs. When false accusations rose. When you hold your teenage son back from barging into a board meeting because he overheard those accusations. Those are the times you want to leave.
So why stay? For those who say, "For the first time I understand that God loves me." Or, "I've never had a pastor visit my home before." Or, "I didn't how a family unit worked before I watched you." And you walked through it all together, growing in your marriage and in Christ's love.
No marriage is perfect. So when you are in ministry and frustrated at your pastor husband, where do you go? Who do you talk to? You realize the enemy would want to twist what you say and cause a seed of dissension. So who can you run too? For me, those are the times I have drawn closer to my Lord. I have asked for His perspective on the matter - and His perspective on my husband.
For me, I have loved those times of ministry together. The joy of seeing someone years later, walking in the freedom that started under your ministry. But I have also cried, and yes, at times, yelled out in desperation, from the undeserved treatment my husband has walked through due to the judgments and action of others. But during those times, I have learned to lean into my Father for comfort and understanding. He doesn't always bring the understanding. But the comfort falls like a blanket around me. Then I am able to pick myself up, dust off the hurts, and minister again.
Learning to understand his calling, not just your calling, is priority in ministry.
Loving your husband God's way is priority in each marriage. Learning to understand his calling, not just your calling, is priority in ministry. Melding the two together is a creative act of God as we keep putting Him first. The rewards? Stronger marriage and changed lives. And a heart that, despite the disappointments, says, "Ok, God. Let's do this again!"
Life in the Fish Tank is ENTRY THREE in February's blog series, Marriage + Ministry. What have you found to be the greatest joy in your ministry marriage? Your greatest struggle? Join the conversation by posting below and via our Facebook community this week.
Rhonda Anzivino and her husband have been married for 31 years and in ministry for 26 years and currently minister and reside in Baton Rouge, LA. Her philosophy of ministry was formed from childhood as she watched, not only her parents, but other ministers by whom she was surrounded. "As a family we were very connected with other ministers and ministries. They were always my heroes," Rhonda recalls. That example, coupled with the examples her husband had in his life and their study of scripture formed how they now view ministry to the body.
In her free time Rhonda loves to paint, write, read, work in the yard, and be a grandma. Her greatest passion in ministry is mentoring. "I love to help others see their giftings and callings and to help them grow in those areas. The greatest joy to me is seeing those I pour into be all they can be!" Follow Rhonda's blog at www.insecretstrength.com or email her for more information on her mentoring opportunities.