While reading through many marriage books during my first year as a wife I remember coming across an often repeated axiom. Being a godly “helper” meant supporting my husband in his ministry and use of his spiritual gifts. That did and does make sense to me. As a loving, caring, ever-helpful wife I should encourage my husband to be sold out for God! I should get my “strong-helper” pompoms out and—”Whoo-hoo! Go serve God, Honey!!”
It didn’t dawn on me until much later (mostly, after children came along) that this type of enthusiastic support might become seriously inconvenient at times. Like an hour after the morning service ended and he is still talking with someone about some struggle in their life at the moment. Or those Saturday afternoons when instead of spending some quality time together I am bringing dinner and the boys to a worship rehearsal and listening to him sing from the stage. And sometimes it’s something smaller, like encouraging him to write a blog post that the Lord has been laying on his heart rather than asking him to watch the boys while I go grocery shopping (and every mother knows the glorious, vacation-like joy of a grocery run without toddlers : ).
During those scenarios, I find that my pompoms droop and my cheering spirit comes out more like a lack-luster, “whoo-freaking-hoo.” In fact, I eagerly trade in my cheerleader costume for that of a martyr’s outfit (though I don’t know exactly what martyr’s wear…). I choose the silent sufferer because honestly, I feel as though complaining out loud just makes me sound like a rather unspiritual, whiny baby. So I just resort to some aggrieved sighing at strategic moments and hope that Paul gets the hint.
And what I’d really like to ask God is this, “Do I get some type of spiritual credit for being inconvenienced?”
(Even that question sounds whiny.)
But perhaps contained within the whiny confines of that query is a legitimate question. If I sacrifice something that I hold dear so that my spouse is able to serve God, isn’t that sacrifice noted by God? It may not be that I am actively using my gifts in the moment, but I am facilitating my husband’s use of his.
I think of the Philippian believers. Paul commends them regularly throughout his letter for their generous giving. Because of that giving he gratefully called them his “partners in the gospel” (Phil 1:5; cf. 4:15). I’m sure that you’ve heard countless missionaries remind us that our prayers for and giving towards specific evangelistic endeavors makes us “partners” in their ministry. Truthfully though, I’ve always been skeptical of this reasoning. I’ve thought that maybe they were just saying those things to keep people like me from feeling guilty for not jumping in the proverbial boat (because they never use modern missionary stories) and sailing into spiritual darkness, children in tow. Could God really be pleased with my feeble “money and prayer” routine while they sacrificed everything for Jesus? But Paul calls the Phillipian believers his partners. That is, the Philippians were working, not for Paul, but for the spread of the gospel when they gave. And that’s really how God saw it.
So if God counts giving money to Paul (the apostle) as spreading the gospel—what does that mean for my Sundays waiting for Paul (my husband)? Just like sufficient money was Paul’s obstacle in trying to spread the gospel, we all have circumstantial difficulties which keep us from exercising our gifts. Small children, crazy hours at work, family demands and all of the other things that make your current life, well, full. Time seems to evaporate and spiritual gifts go seemingly unused.
Which brings me back to that Sunday morning when all I wanted to do was get my tired, grumpy, crying-at-the-drop-of-a-hat children home only to discover that Paul was engrossed in a heart-to-heart conversation with another believer. And just like I couldn’t fly (we do have planes now!) off to a foreign country to help missionaries spread the gospel, I couldn’t step into my husbands conversation. And yet, there was something I could do—a way I could partner with my husband as he ministered with his gift. In this case, God didn’t want my money, he wanted my time. Instead of demanding that Paul stop his conversation so that we could leave, God wanted me to give this limited and precious commodity to my husband for the encouragement of that fellow-believer. In that sense, God wanted me to partner in the encouragement of the gospel through Paul.
So I can “partner” with the glory of God in worship by watching the children while Paul does to music practice. I can “partner” with Paul’s gift of encouragement by editing his blog posts when I’d rather be watching TV. I can “partner” with the gospel when I stay home so Paul can go on a week long mission’s trip. Whenever I choose to willingly serve Paul by giving up my time and energy, I become part of his ministry—not his ministering—as he uses his gifts for the glory of God.
Thinking this way won’t diminish the inconvenience of staying late or not having Paul around, but it will give those things meaning as I look beyond the difficulty to the opportunity of serving Jesus. Even if I feel as though I am nothing more than a tired, babysitting facilitator, God sees my sacrifice and is pleased. That should make be grateful enough to even break out the pompoms every once in a while : )