In This Issue: When God says, “go” and your spouse says, “whoa!”
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Vision Variance: When God Says, “Go” but Your Spouse Says, “Whoa!”
A couple years ago, in response to my growing inability to see both far away and up close, our eye doctor suggested I try a far-away contact in one eye and a reading-distance contact in the other eye. I know it sounds crazy, but apparently they do this all the time. I gave it a go. It felt like my head was continually, slowly revolving on its axis. I bailed out of the experiment before giving my brain proper time to sort things out – returning to glasses and holding books close enough to my face that I look silly.
Ever tried an experiment like that? Some such leaps require a bigger investment and cannot be aborted so easily. Marriage, for instance. Most of us who are married entered the blessed estate with pretty audacious promises, including, “I’ll stick this out, come heck or high water.” And we really mean it. No one, upon realizing one spouse is a morning person and the other a night person, collapses on the couch crying out, “I just can’t take it anymore!”
What if the differences run deeper? Some people find differences in terms of vision for the world and enthusiasm about God’s global purpose. In a nutshell: you hear God say, “Go,” but your spouse says, “Whoa!”
What then? Good question. Can I say first off to our single readers: Watch out! Think carefully about this issue and remain patient. And yes, that’s very easy for me to say. I’m not sleeping alone night after night. I hear you and pray for grace and patience. (If you’re a single guy into missions, asking God for a wife, and you’re not a total dope, drop me a line. I have several friends who’d like to meet you. I’m serious.)
But if you’ve already signed on the dotted line, let me tell you about my good friend Naomi. She’s an all-star by most any scale (although she’s sub-par at video games!) Naomi was married to Jax for 19 years. Together they rocked the world of mission mobilization, wrote great books and tons of articles, spoke at hundreds of Perspectives classes and missions events, and injected both excitement and solid wisdom into countless lives. They tried for years to have a child. Finally God gave them two to adopt. Within two years of signing the final papers Jax was diagnosed with brain cancer and promptly died. (Honestly, I can hardly write that without crying. And cussing.)
So it’s no longer the “Jax and Naomi Show.” It’s Naomi, leaning hard into her community, trying to figure out how to feed the munchkins.
While she’s doing that, a distant friend of hers, a good man, Ryan, loses his wife and the mother of his four kids to brain cancer.
If you’ve ever read a book or watched a movie, you know what happened, right? (Cue the soaring music.) God brought them together. They found each other, fell in love, carefully counted the cost, and got married. So now Naomi again enjoys the companionship and security of a marriage. Together they wrangle the hassles of blending two sets of kids into one sort-of set. They look toward the future with hope and gratefulness.
But wait: Ryan’s not into missions in the same way Naomi is. He’s a great guy. He loves Jesus; he is a growing disciple and positively impacts the world around him. But world mission is not his gig. (I’m not assigning value here, as if “missions people” were God’s special pals. I’m just pointing out a vision variance.)
Where does this leave Naomi? She loves Ryan and was obedient to God, not just her heart, in marrying him. On the one hand, she’s deliriously happy with this pleasant turn her life has taken. On the other hand, there’s a significant bit of identity conflict. “I love God, love Ryan, love missions. Where does this leave me?”
Naomi’s situation is not one that used to be confusing but now has worked out nicely and neatly. She’s still in the thick of it. This much is clear: Ryan and this new family are a gift to Naomi from God. What’s not so clear, though, is if she can still be “missions Naomi” in this new situation. How does she honor God, Ryan, her family, and the tug of the nations that won’t go away?
Because Naomi’s story fairly drips with happy redemption, you just know they’ll find a way forward. I can’t tell the future, but if I could, I’d forecast that Ryan and Naomi will lead a team of young people on a short term to a cool place and Ryan will understand in fresh ways Naomi’s heart for the nations. Naomi will find ways to express that heart for the nations locally and alongside the rigors of raising a tribe of disciples. At the same time she’ll grow in her appreciation of Ryan’s value and contribution to his kids, co-workers, and the broader community. And as they intentionally pursue God and each other, each distinct vision will increasingly complement the other and move them toward one vision.
Maybe your story is not so Hallmark-y. You chose your spouse, knowing the vision variance, hoping it would change, and now you face the reality that it’s not going to. Maybe you’ve both done missions for a long time, but the edgy thrill of living on the brink of poverty has faded for your wife. Maybe you came to a global vision late in the game. Perhaps a Perspectives, Pathways, or Kairos course blew open whole new vistas in your mind, but the bright fresh vision isn’t happening for dude you sleep with.
Is There Hope?
This is the part of the article where I’m sorely tempted to toss out a few gauzy platitudes and give myself a nice Dr. Phil pat on the back. But this isn’t that kind of problem. Let me instead remind us of a couple things, suggest a baby step or two, and ask for your thoughts about vision variance.
- You are not alone. All kinds of marriages are dealing with all kinds of problems. No situation is perfect. Sacrifice is required of us all.
- Your spouse is not your enemy.
- Your God has things well in hand. Yes, he highly values our obedience. No, he’s not wringing his hands, worrying about your slacker spouse.
- Has work for God become your god?
- Have you prioritized ministry over your mate? Do you really have biblical backing for that?
- Have you improperly judged your spouse, deeming them less spiritual than you? Do you nag them like a Pharisee?
- God probably values you and your marriage more than the hours you might log among unreached peoples.
- God delights to use people along the lines he designed them. Your spouse is equipped for kingdom contribution beyond what you’ve imagined.
- God has some sweet wonderful ways for you to exercise your gifts, even if that doesn’t look like what you always dreamed. As you faithfully pursue God and your spouse, God may use you among the nations in ways you never saw coming that far exceed the impact you’d hoped for.
Please take a moment and weigh in on this issue (anonymously if you wish). I would appreciate your insight.
Think this might help someone you know who’s in a “vision variance” situation? Hit the forward button and send it on to them. Thank you.
» Editor’s note: If you’d like to speak with Naomi or have her speak to your group, send us a note with “talk to Naomi” in the subject line, and we’ll make sure she gets it.
Shane Bennett writes and speaks for a great organization called Frontiers. Lately he’s wondering about how Muslim immigrants in Europe might fully experience God’s blessing.
He’s also working with some buds to leverage a $49 a month smart phone plan to raise a ton of money for cross-cultural workers. Email him for info on the plan or the vision.