Marriage and Ministry, Part 1:
Island of Exile or Island of Escape?
Kevin’s desk lamp burns late into the night. But he is not working on this week’s sermon. He is studying scriptures about marriage. Kevin is beginning to wonder if he should ever been married in the first place.
Most difficult of all is the increasing isolation he feels between himself and his wife. Kevin cannot help reflect on how he seems to see things so differently from Karen. Now, those conflicts seem to have multiplied to disagreements with his children and bickering with his staff, to the point where Kevin is considering starting a whole new life altogether.
Marooned on a Ministry Island
Unfortunately, Kevin is not alone. Differences divide people today as never before. More than three out of five pastors admit they “have few close friends.” What started as a call to serve God and people somehow morphs to seemingly inevitable conflicts. Christian couples in ministry are not immune. 84% Christians get married, but they are just as likely to get divorced (33%) as those who are not Christ-followers (34%). It is not unusual for pastors and wives to feel as if they are on an island, fighting for survival … whether exiled there by a staff, a congregation, a spouse, a family, or themselves.
In their isolation, pastors find it easy to identify with the character portrayed by Tom Hanks in the 2000 film, Cast Away: a lonely, hardworking executive with a high-stress, high-visibility job who washes up on a deserted island after an airplane crash. At first stranded and in distress, he soon learns to cope, and then resolves to change his circumstances.
In the same way, pastors often find themselves marooned in ministry. Fortunately, there is a way off the island.
Is It Exile … or Escape?
Is conflict with Karen truly inevitable? Kevin sighs. He has tried bringing around his wife to see and do things his way. But it seems as all his efforts in trying to change her or getting her to adapt have reached an impasse. Kevin is discouraged and not sure there is any hope for his marriage, let alone his family or his current work situation.
That is why he picks up the phone and says to Karen, “I have to stay at work until late.” To himself, Kevin admits what he knows is true: tonight, his isolation is an escape. He simply cannot continue to deal with all the conflict.
What Kevin doesn’t know yet is that his unique way of looking at things is by God’s design. Romans 12:6 tells us, “We have different gifts, according to the grace given us.” Kevin is about to undertake an exciting journey of discovering how his differences with his wife are actually strengths in disguise. As he and his wife unlock those differences, they will find a oneness that leads to an intimacy they have never experienced.
Will You Venture Off the Island?
Right now, although stranded and in distress, Kevin has taken an important step by admitting his isolation. Over the next three articles, I will share parts of Kevin’s journey from isolation to connectedness with his wife – a journey that ultimately impacts relationships with his family, team, and congregation in powerful ways.
As you walk with him, you may find yourself asking the same question he asks himself as he sits alone in his darkening office:
Will you stay exiled on the island of ministry – or will your isolation inspire you to chart a path off the island to lead from your strengths?