I sat at the funeral of a young man from our community. He died a tragic death and the church was packed with people who loved the family. In the middle of the funeral service, I stopped mourning his death and began mourning his life. His mother got up to the microphone and publicly thanked his aunt, saying “She raised him because I was often busy ministering to other people.” She didn’t seem sad about this, but I was. I thought, “I hope I never, ever minister to other people at the expense of my children.” I don’t think the young man died because his mother abandoned him for ministry, but I do think his – and her – lives could have been different, if only…
Ten years ago, I was on the Speaking Team for a wonderful ministry. About once a month, I’d travel for a 2-day weekend to speak at events that encouraged teen girls to walk with the Lord in modesty and purity. It was a wonderful opportunity and I truly loved it. But, no one knew that my marriage was significantly immature and suffering. Ryan and I couldn’t discern that my extra work and traveling were taking a toll on our weak marriage. I didn’t know how to intentionally strengthen our marriage so that it could thrive in such circumstances. In combination with many other struggles and circumstances, our relationship sunk so low that we were on the brink of divorce.
As God healed and strengthened our marriage, I had to cut way back on my ministry work with other people – that meant no speaking or teaching for a long time – anywhere. In fact, I didn’t travel anywhere without my husband for years. We needed major TLC to become stronger in the Lord.
Now 10 years later, we gasp at the miraculous work God has down in our personal lives and in our marriage. We are truly amazed. Our relationship is 100x stronger and we both have matured significantly. (How’d that happen except by the grace of God?!) Ryan fully supports me in my spiritual gifts and has always encouraged me to walk with the Lord and to serve Him faithfully – in our home and out of our home. Yet, I’m afraid that if I commit more time studying, speaking, and traveling, I’ll blow it again. I’m afraid I’ll leave Ryan feeling lonely and our kids feeling lost.
I’m sure you’re familiar with the common storyline of “The Woman Who Neglected Her Family in the Name of Ministry”.
Sadly, we see it all of the time.
No one sets out wanting to live that story, and yet it gets lived over and over again.
At the same time, we’re also familiar with the common storyline of “The Woman Who Worshiped Her Family Instead of God.”
Either woman could be me, but I’m praying for rescue.
I’m (slowly) learning that life doesn’t boil down to two extreme possibilities:
1. Don’t speak, and protect your family.
2. Speak, but abandon your family.
If God is beckoning me to develop this gift for His glory, then He is calling each family member to join me: we’ll do this thing together. We will walk by faith and not by sight, and we’ll trust God to help us.
As each member of our family walks with the Lord, develops spiritual gifts, and offers his or her life in ministry, here are a few things we’ve gotta hold onto:
* We must treasure the lessons we’ve learned. May I always practice the lessons I’ve learned about honoring and serving one another. May I hold-fast the truths about God’s purpose for the family unit. And my I exercise disciplines like keeping healthy boundaries and saying “yes” or “no” at the right time to the right person.
* We must know who we are in Christ. I must always be a Christian first, Ryan’s wife second, my childrens’ mother third, cherishing these relationships far above my desire to be a vibrant and generous teacher.
* We must serve as members of the Body of Christ, for Christ’s sake. Alongside my desire to protect my family, I must be a vibrant and generous teacher, if that is what God deems good. So I’ll have to communicate openly with my family and invite them to join me in ministry. Already, Ryan and the children pray for me before I speak or teach. I ask them for ideas. They ask me about the lesson ahead of time; they want to know how it went afterwards. I know they see themselves as a part of the ministry; this is a priceless gift I must steward well.
Above all, regarding any spiritual gift, ministry work, or family life, this will always be true:
“Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you…” (Matthew 6:33)
What do you think about this common dilemma amongst Christians?
What has enabled you to “do all for the glory of God”?