When one of you is experiencing a spiritual crisis, it can have a huge impact on the relationship.
My husband just had his first book published – Blackbird Singing in the Dead of Night: What to Do When God Won’t Answer. He’s done lots of writing through the years and has contributed to numerous books. However, this is his first full-fledged-photo-on-the-cover book. I’m very proud of him!
The book is a spiritual memoir. Which totally makes sense. If Greg’s going to write a memoir, it is going to have a strong spiritual thread running throughout. The book tells of a two-year period in which he was seeking vocational direction – and God fell completely silent.
Would we continue in the ministry, our vocation and calling for 30+ years, or would we make a clean break and plunge headfirst into the nonprofit we had created eight years previously? Would we take a step of faith into a largely unknown future? (For me, this translated will we give up a perfectly fine salary with benefits in order to pursue a dream that may or may not pan out – much less put food on the table?).
Now, don’t think this didn’t impact things at home!
Greg was senior pastor of a large, influential, wealthy church in the South. He was on television every week. He was actively involved and recognized in the community. As a minister, he was “on call” 24/7. He was constantly putting out fires in the church (a church, after all, is a complex institutional machine) and counseling/supporting individuals, couples and families who were putting out various personal fires of their own.
AND he was experiencing his own spiritual crisis.
While he was waging a spiritual battle, I was focused on day-in-day-out activities to keep the home and family running somewhat smoothly. My motto is, “when there’s something I need to do, tell me. Until then, I’ve got life to live.”
It’s not that I’m not supportive. I believe Greg would say that I am very supportive. It’s just that after 35 years together, I understand that we often experience life on two different planes. Greg would admit that he largely lives life between his ears and in his heart. He’s a big picture kind of guy, optimistic and given to dreams. I live life with both feet firmly planted in the here and now and facing life head-on. He calls me “earthy”.
Our saving grace through that 2-year experience was that we were consistently finding ways to have fun and to affirm life. As has been true in our marriage, we’ve lived life and faced problems with a collaborative attitude. Even though it was Greg’s vocational crisis, it was our life and our future.
I learned a few things on this roller coaster two-year journey:
• Advice, unless it is asked for, is not helpful
• When a person is in crisis, emotions can change from day to day and moment to moment – it’s helpful to be a “non-anxious presence” just to walk alongside
• We are unable to fix another person’s problems
• Gentleness and tenderness are preferred over harshness and task-focus (isn’t this always the case?!)
• Affection and physical touch can be reassuring and comforting
• Every day life has moments – no matter how small - that can be and should be celebrated
• Living with gratitude and grace keeps everything in perspective
• We all need meaning, purpose and direction in our lives – and sometimes it’s hard to find.
Finally, after two years, Greg gained vocational clarity, we gained clarity on our future and we transitioned out of pastoral ministry. We now have a new calling - to serve people through Directions, Inc. as they lead their organizations, relationships and lives. We continue to share a passion for helping couples enrich their relationships through Better Marriages.
Last night I was on a flight home after a long weekend. For the third time I was reading Blackbird Singing in the Dead of Night: What to Do When God Won’t Answer. My row mate asked me about what I was reading. I handed her the book and told her how much I was enjoying it. I looked away and felt a smile playing on the corners of m lips. She asked if I knew the author. I looked her in the eye and replied, “I’m sleeping with him.”
Life is interesting. Sometimes, it turns out, the journey is the destination in disguise.
Keep reading. Keep learning. Keep growing!
This article was originally published at Better Marriages . Reprinted with permission from the author.