Peace, Ice Cream, and Togetherness
“If you don’t want us to be in the ministry anymore, just say the word. Right now, you make the decision. What’s it gonna be?” We had been doing ministry together, but as singles, longer than we had been doing ministry together, as husband and wife. Any couple with years of marriage to their credit knows that those first years of wedded bliss can be peppered with heated battles of the wills—which are typically silly spats that “old married couples” just blow off because they have learned which battles to pick. Adding the stresses of ministry to marriage has the potential of becoming polarizing. But, as young couples do what young couples do, the emotions of the moment ebb, forgiveness gently flows and the make-up is great! Huggy, kissy, lovey! But, not this night. Together, staring at the ceiling in the dark bedroom, both of us had had it. It, being the frustration with the ministry and with each other in the ministry, had exploded into a huge argument. My hubby wanted peace. I did, too. He was torn between tension of the calling pulling on the home. I was torn in half.
He was torn between tension of the calling pulling on the home. I was torn in half.
Perhaps, it was from holding my tongue and internalizing while church people felt the freedom of expressing their displeasure and opinions. Perhaps it was from high expectations from the leadership while I did not even live up to my own. Perhaps it was insecurity from the past stepping on my heels. Perhaps, it was all of these and more in a perfect storm converging at that hormonal time of the month. Regardless, there it was. “Right now, you make the decision. What’s it gonna be?” Acutely aware our future was in my hands, I lay there with eyes unblinking, staring at the ceiling in our dark bedroom. My mouth was dry. I wanted out. I wanted us to be a regular couple who attend church, together, on the weekends and some Wednesdays. I wanted to be the normal couple who work 9-to-5 jobs and leave the stress of work stacked up on their desks until Monday morning. I imagined we could be the idyllic couple who hand-in-hand leave church on Sundays to happily spend the remainder of the day at the lake and not give one thought to church finances or who decided to leave because of something said in a pulpit. I wanted my husband to drive a new sports car, if he wanted to, without repercussion that a preacher should not be making that kind of money. And, I wanted to not be told to not wear a new dress on Easter so others felt better about not having a new dress. For heaven’s sake, my double-pierced ears are not of the devil! Nobody else lives like this… why do we have to? Staring up in the dark, it seemed like forever as I remembered the personal calling to ministry I felt as a student in summer church camp and the many conversations with the guy I was going to marry as we dreamed about life and ministry, together. I was dreamy about him and how the preacher life would play out. As ugly as that night’s argument felt, it was a revelation of how differently men and women think and how immature I was. I swallowed and licked my lips. Somehow feeling the weight of the future on my chest, but knowing the future would be with the love of my life, I whispered my decision. Then, my young hubby reached for my hand in the quiet darkness and prayed for us. That "early marriage, dark room decision" made so many years ago has been strengthened in the repetitions of doing the work of ministry and in living through some of the worst times in our life. From then to now, we have done it, together. And, we have stayed, together. Together is a word tapping a deep joy in my soul.
Together is a word tapping a deep joy in my soul.
Honestly, surveying back, the greatest of struggles have been the blindsiding situations slamming into our lives like a Black Rhinoceros ramming into a clown car. It always happens at a time when both my hubby and I were physically tired and spiritually sapped. I am thankful for a man who asks, “Have you had your Jesus-time this morning?” because he understands the enemy goes after the weakling. As old-fashioned as it may sound, we read the Word, together, and listen to the Word preached, together, thereby strengthening our spirits. We work well, together, my preacher-man and I. Not everyone has this luxury. Many don’t see it as a blessing. Where he ends, I begin and vice versa. Even though ministry locations and job descriptions change, we hustle hard, observing, processing and doing the work.
Then, after the Word and the work, we rest and play, together. Sometimes, it’s a quiet evening by the fire reading or it’s hiking over rocks and roots discovering a new trail or it’s a tall twist ice cream cone at our local drive-in. Joy is sweeter when there is peace and ice cream in the marriage! It’s been said: for every struggle is an even greater joy. I don’t know. I haven’t been counting. What I do know is that God has given me joy in creating a wonderful marriage with the man I love. And, we can face any struggle in or out of ministry, together.
Samalee --"Sam" to friends-- and Terry Allen have been in ministry together since before the day they said, "I do," in 1985. Still under the belief that student ministry is the best job ever, the Allens continue to help feed, educate and medically-assist students in India as mission representatives with Calcutta Mercy & Huldah Buntain. The couple also recently launched a support group--MVP Leader Group--for ministry families. You can find MVP currently at their website and on Facebook. Their son, Dane, and daughter-in-love, Emily, serve on-staff at The Church at Pleasant Grove in Tennessee, where "Sam" & Terry lead a weekly Bible study life group when not traveling for the ministry. Hear more from the Allens on Episode 13 of Let's Talk with Sanctuary, a podcast for women in ministry and leadership.