I wanted to share a ministry.
When Barb and I were first married, she was always the life of the party. She was bold, determined, and she really seemed to know what she wanted. When we became Christians seven years into our marriage, I thought that God's pronouncement that "the two shall become one" included sharing the same church activities.
Although I'd only heard Barb sing at home, I assumed that her outgoing personality, combined with my love for music, made music ministry a perfect fit for both of us. As I thought about us singing together in the choir, it seemed obvious that we both belonged in this couple-suited ministry. But the more I tried to show Barb the benefits of signing up, the more distant she became. She always seemed to be preoccupied with other things, and she avoided eye contact with me. I stopped asking how she felt about the ministry after she answered me one day by screaming, "Will you quit pushing me!"
After that, Barb found other interests. She started burying herself in books and Bibles and listening to different sermons and teaching tapes. But when I offered my point of view about what she was doing, she would get upset. I watched, confused, as the emotional walls between us grew higher. Trying to comfort Barb with a hug was like holding a block of ice. She may have responded physically, but her emotions were worlds away. For weeks, even the limited conversation that we held had icicles hanging all over it.
He was trying to control me.
Before becoming a Christian, I was afraid to show my real self to others. My boldness was a facade that I used to hide my insecurities behind. Born to laugh, Gary's ability to carry on a conversation with anyone always made me feel at ease with him.
After I became a Christian, though, God started showing me who I really was. No longer driven by the need to please people, I learned that I didn't really like crowds or big parties. Besides this, God gave me a hunger to study the Bible. I spent hours reading it, digging into reference books, and listening to teaching tapes. In a recurring dream I saw myself standing in front of people, teaching them from the Bible. When I shared this with Gary, he wasn't enthused. That hurt me.
Gary's mind was set on us ministering together. He tried convincing me that music ministry was best for both of us. When I told him I wasn't interested, he suddenly entered my world. He flipped through my notes, read my books, and shared his opinions about them with me.
I felt like Gary was trying to control me. Inside, I was seething with resentment, so I froze Gary out of my life. Since he worked a swing shift, I found all kinds of ways to avoid him. I often thought of saying something to Gary, but every time I tried, the words would get stuck in my throat.
What Gary and Barb Did:
Frosted feelings were damaging their marriage; it was time for some honest dialogue. Together, they decided to meet in their living room with a trusted friend—and full-time counselor—and poured out their hearts.
"That conversation took the pressure off us both," says Gary. "For the first time, Barb and I openly expressed our own side of the issue. With a third party involved, neither of us could interrupt while the other one was talking. We had to control our emotions, and state our thoughts clearly."
"The key to resolving our conflict came when our friend discussed the importance of setting boundaries within marriage," adds Barb. "We learned that although Gary and I are one before God, it is still okay to be unique individuals as well. Having separate gifts and callings in our lives doesn't take away from the unity of our marriage. In fact, by encouraging each other to follow God's leading, our marriage can be strengthened."
"I never really wanted to spend hours reading Bible commentaries any more than Barb wanted to sing in front of people," says Gary. "I finally accepted the fact that her desire was to teach, and I was content with music ministry. From that point on, as we stayed within our own callings, the icy feelings melted, and we started growing more strongly together."
"As we both follow God's calling, we now have a freedom to share how God is working in our lives, and to be genuinely excited for each other," says Barb. "Our level of communication has deepened, and that has helped us to deal with other sensitive areas in our marriage. The encouragement we give to each other provides greater strength and unity between us."
"Aside from enjoying a new-found supernatural peace in our marriage," Gary says, "we've also discovered a greater joy in sharing other things as a couple. We now look forward to taking walks and going for bike rides."
Jealousy and envy still creep between them, though. For instance, Gary was asked to be a lead singer long before Barb was invited to teach at church. But instead of letting this cause division, Gary and Barb spent some quiet time together to find out how and when the disturbing feelings started. This enables them to deal with hurts and insecurities—together.
"We're so blessed that God's love has replaced our anger and resentment," Gary concludes. "We've learned that if we want our marriage to be the best it can be, we need to be at our individual best. And God is always more than willing to bless us when we are obedient to his ways."
by Simon Presland
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