My husband and I are both missionaries. We met whilst on the field in East Asia. That was in 2004. He had been there a couple of years already and me -newly arrived. We got married a few years later and were raising our 2 kids there until God called us to the US last year to work on this side of missions for awhile. We have experienced a lot together (some might say too much!)
In the midst of all of this working together (we led teams together, oversaw ministries together, taught Christian discipleship classes together, trained together, discipled together, mentored together, parented together, cried at how much time we had to spend together -just kidding, kind of) we learned that although we share the same values, we have very different strengths.
My husband is like a made-from-scratch (with fresh ingredients and the perfect amount of seasoning) stew. He needs time to simmer, think, and “mull it over,” as he likes to say. I am like a…um…a bologna sandwich. You just need a couple of slices of bread and some mayo and you’re good to go. Maybe not the healthiest or best-tasting option but in a pinch, it’ll do the job.
I prefer to “get to the point”. I am super practical and like to do things quickly. I also have a tendency to jump into opportunities without over-thinking it. Rich takes his time and does things thoroughly. He considers well the consequences (good and bad) of decisions we are facing and comes to a logical, well-thought-out conclusion. We complement each other well but we don’t always
get along, I mean, share the same ideas!
One of our friends referred to us as “Beauty and the Beast” when we were engaged. I was the Beast!
But I had been raised to think that Rich, as the head of the house, should take the lead with pretty much everything and waited for him to do so. Even though I was a competent single missionary before I met him (well semi-competent, at least), after we said our vows, I felt that I should wait for his direction. Honestly, I didn’t even realize I was doing this until years into our marriage.
This created a lot of frustration in our union. Basically, I wanted Rich to act like me, with my strengths and spiritual gifts and wiring, and when he didn’t, I was frustrated. And then he was frustrated because he couldn’t be who I wanted him to be and wasn’t going to try.
It wasn’t until God began to set me free of some of the stereotypes I had of husband and wife (some of the traditions of men but not necessarily of God) that I was able to step out and be who I was made to be. This gender stereotyping was ultimately keeping people from hearing about Jesus. (Thoughts have consequences!)
How, you ask? Well, basically, the Holy Spirit was stirring ideas inside of my entrepreneurially-bent mind about how to reach the lost. I would present (or not present) the ideas to Rich. He would seem less than enthusiastic (Norwegians are generally much less animated than Americans in their responses) and I would dejectedly put the idea on the shelf.
The Holy Spirit had to show me that He had given those ideas to me, not to my husband. He expected me to walk them out, with or without the applause of my husband.
Now, it wasn’t as though Rich was opposed to the ideas -feared for my safety or thought they would bankrupt us or something like that. It was just that he wasn’t the one who received the burden and vision for the ideas. I was! That’s why it was up to me to do something about them.
Rich was supportive and told me to go for it, but he didn’t don pom-poms and run alongside of me cheering “rah-rah” (though I wish he would have because that would have made for a pretty awesome Youtube clip). I had to decide that I was going to get up and do it, with or without his help. And so I did.
It was during this “awakening” that I had the idea to “Gospel-bomb” an apartment complex near ours. At the time, we were living in a city of 9 million people in an atheist country in East Asia (any guesses?!), so I was pretty sure at least some of the people in those apartments didn’t know the Lord personally. (Did I mention only 8% of the country’s population is Christian?)
I had the idea to burn a video presentation of the gospel story with a copy of the New Testament onto CDs, pass the apartments’ security guards to enter into the complex, and drop them into the tenants’ pigeon holes (mailboxes).
I was a little nervous. Rich again said to go for it but did not feel like he needed to be a part. In the past, this would have deterred me, but I was realizing that this was more between God and I than between me and my husband, so I did it! I pushed our son (who was a year old) in his stroller to distract the guards and make me look more harmless! I uneventfully passed out 100 (or 200, I can’t remember) CDs to our neighboring complex. I don’t know what became of those little seeds, but I trust through my obedience and through our prayers, that God used them for His glory.
So my point is this:
(That was a good tweet if I ever saw one! LOL!) Yes, God wants us to serve and bless our husbands, but there may come times when we have to choose who we will honor first. The answer must always be Jesus. I’m not talking about wifely rebellion here (I just made that up -in case it’s a real thing, I’m not referring to it!!). We, as wives, are called to serve our husbands. By serving others, we are serving the Lord.
And what if your husband is not a believer? Should you go to church if he tries to convince you not to? In that case, I present to you, for consideration, Paul’s answer when he defied government authority (an authority that the Bible tells us we are also to submit to) in Acts 5:29, “We are to obey God, rather than men.”
I’d say you really have to go with your Holy Spirit gut instinct on this one. It may be that God is telling you to honor Him privately until your husband comes around. It may be that God is saying to step out in boldness, trusting that God will honor your choices for Him in your marriage.
Peter tells us in 1 Peter 3:1 that if your husband does not believe, submit to him so that he may be won over without words by your behavior. Submission does not equal timidity. Submission is a heart attitude. You can be submitted to your husband and not necessarily do everything he wants you to do. I submitted to the government authorities in East Asia, but I did not obey everything that they demand of those living inside of their borders because my ultimate loyalty is to God. He is my highest authority. No person or government or husband can prohibit our hearts from honoring the Lord.
And for those with Christian husbands, we have to remember that sometimes there is the aspect of timing. You may feel burdened to do something and strongly feel your husband is meant to do it with you (or you are meant to do it as a family) but he is not yet on board. It could be something that will come further down the road. In those situations, I would counsel my sisters to stay the course in prayer and lay it down at God’s feet. If it is truly of him, God will work it out and you will have been faithful with the impression He gave to you. If it was just your own whim, it will pass.
Those were some clarifications, but if God has put a dream on your heart, you don’t need to wait for your husband to start it for you! Pray into it. Pursue it with wisdom. Take a step forward. Read about others who have done what God is nudging you into. Great accomplishments have been achieved for the Kingdom because people were brave enough to step out without the support of those around them. And Psalms 138:8 promises that He will perfect that which concerns you. If it’s done for an audience of One, you’ll never find a bigger Fan.
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You can also read about how my imaginary spouse had become an idol in Grieving the Man My Husband is Not.