The following article is part of a series where Ryan Williams and his wife, Natasha, write corresponding articles on ministry throughout times of trial. This article is the companion piece to Natasha’s post on the topic of care for marriage.
Marriage is hard to analogize; it’s so deep, so complex and so important that most analogies fall woefully short and this one will be no different. Imagine you love playing golf with your wife. From day one you just got one another, you caddied for one another, and just clicked. That’s all well and good, but what would happen if the golf course was just mud? You could try as hard as you like but there’s no way you are golfing well on that.
Trial in ministry is like a sprinkler on full blast day and night on the turf of your marriage. It can turn it to mud real quick and make the thing you love doing together almost impossible.
It will never be possible to turn the sprinkler off completely during times of trial, but you can definitely do something to reduce the stream, or deflect the incessant pouring of water that will turn your marriage to mud.
Engage With Conflict
This holds true for any relationship, but especially your marriage. Conflict will not go away if you ignore it. In fact, the best marriages in ministry I know are ones where husband and wife know how to have conflict. Ask the pre-marriage counsellor in your church what the two most important things are for marriage success and they’ll tell you communication skills and conflict resolution.
If you are going through trial, chances are your life is full of conflict and adding more at home is the last thing you need. There is a distinct difference between the conflict you have at church and the conflict you have at home. The conflict at home is with your best friend. Surely your best friend should have their grievances heard above those who actually mean you harm.
Spend Time Alone
Alone, you know as one. Oneness is the very thing you and your wife have in Christ through your covenant of marriage. Community is great, they can be helpful, but if the only time you have together working on your marriage is with other people or with other couples in the church, you need to find time to be alone with one another.
I know life stage might make this tough if you have little kiddos, but work around it. Bring the kids if need be and fight for time together alone. It will probably take a couple of days to re-connect and might take some conflict resolution to get back on common ground, but you’re not going to have much of a marriage if you don’t press in and make time with one another a priority.
Don’t succumb to the lie that when you are exhausted at the end of the day that you’ll find quality time then, because neither of you will have the energy to turn the sprinkler off. Cultivating your marriage means giving it some quality time and focus.
Don’t Settle for Less Than True Intimacy
As a man, I think intimacy is a great thing until it comes to emotional, relational, personal, or any type other than physical. If your marriage is to weather the storm of ministry trial, all forms of intimacy must be cultivated. Cultivating intimacy means truly being a one woman man, pressing into the deepest levels of friendship, honesty, vulnerability, and trust with your spouse. It will probably be a challenge, feel difficult to connect, and will feel exposing, but if you want your marriage to be sheltered from the atomic impact of church trial, cultivate all intimacy. It’s of the utmost importance.
Ministry trial will come and go but your marriage must make it through. What do you truly gain if you lead like a champ through church trial but forsake your marriage in it? It’s just not worth losing your marriage for the church. Do whatever you can to care for your marriage at this time and when it’s all over you’ll be back to “golfing” on beautiful fairways and immaculate greens with your number one partner.