“What if my spouse and I don’t agree?”
Mobilization workers often field this question. Whether a couple is dating, engaged, or married, they can sometimes disagree on what God has for them in the future. If we took the whole of a relationship, we would probably not use the word “sometimes;” but rather “at some time” you will disagree on what God is asking you to do in the future.
In the world of kingdom ministry, this issue usually revolves around two questions:
1. Should we get involved in cross-cultural ministry?
2. When should we get involved?
Here is the short answer – don’t take active steps toward missions-related ministry unless you are both convinced that is where God is leading. You will encounter obstacles like the following, and it’s important to meet them together.
- Most cross-cultural work involves significant change, and it will take a toll. You may be changing companies, benefits, focus, worldview, finances, and countries. Moving from one place to another is nearly always involved, but this is not just moving from Cleveland to Seattle – this move is more likely from Cleveland to Johannesburg, South Africa! EVERYTHING will be different. And the change doesn’t just affect the couple; if there are children involved, you are uprooting them from everything they know. They likely have no voice in the decision that takes them away from relatives and replants them in a culture where not only do they know no one, they are also different from everyone around them.
- Cross-cultural living takes energy away from other things. When living in your home culture, you know what can be accomplished in a day and still have time for faith, family, and friends. When you enter a new culture, navigating differences (language, food, customs) in daily life costs a lot more energy. This puts the worker in a deficit, which results in frustration and may lead to outbursts of anger.
- Culture Shock, which usually appears after about 6 months, tends to strip everyone of whatever coping mechanisms they had to cover weaknesses in their character. Life can get raw and ugly sometimes.
These things are unavoidable. They will happen to you if you follow God’s leading to go. If half of the couple has “gone along with the plan” while not being fully at peace with it, a rift will form as difficulties mount, and finger-pointing and blame-shifting usually follows. And what kingdom work can happen outwardly if the workers are crashing inwardly?
But what should you do if you feel that God is leading and your spouse does not?
Pray, and ask that your spouse prays as well. Pray separately and pray together. Commit to each other that you both will follow in obedience no matter what you collectively hear from God. If you have kids and they are older, have them praying as well.
Seek counsel from experienced mission workers and from the outreach leadership at your church. More information can dispel the fear of the unknown.
Let the Holy Spirit do the talking. Don’t feel like you must continually bring it up. Your spouse probably knows you want to. Give them space, which shows respect, trust, and love.
Become an active sender and supporter of global work. Maybe God doesn’t want you to go, but instead for you to facilitate those he HAS called to go. Continue to pray for kingdom-needy areas of the world. Prayer is a powerful tool for us, and we don’t use it enough.
Engage the world at your doorstep. There are few communities in the United States that don’t have groups of people from other cultures living in them. If God is not leading you to another country, go to the people he has brought right to you!
Our founder once said, “Your ‘calling’ is what God has created you to do. Where you do it depends on his leading for you at that moment in time.” Trust that God will clearly lead you and your spouse to apply your calling from day to day. When he does, be obedient.