When You Don’t Feel Called and He Does

I’ve heard the story more than once.

Man and woman fall in love. He loves Jesus. She loves Jesus. It seems meant to be. He cracks open a bit of his soul to share a dream. The dream is not exactly what she envisioned, but the rest of the story is so perfect she nods, smiles and pushes aside the aversion she feels to his heart call.

There is a wedding. It’s Pinterest perfect with lights hanging from trees bowing branches, mason jars full of peonies, and a beautiful bride and groom basking in the glow of forever love and commitment. It seems like a fairy tale.

Then he mentions the “dream” again. He wants to pack up life and move to that place. He wants to swing the door of life wide open and walk out into all the unknown. The place where she doesn’t want to go.

She hoped he had forgotten.

This isn’t my personal story. My dreams have mostly coincided with my husband. I won’t pretend to know the real tension or struggle this can cause in a marriage. What I do know is some of you know exactly what I’m talking about.

What happens when he feels called somewhere and you don’t?

There are a dozen angles we could analyze this conundrum from. I think the bottom line comes down to one question.

Do you trust the Holy Spirit at work in your husband’s life?

When my husband-to-be approached me about marriage- yes, we pretty much skipped the whole dating scene (another story for another time)- I was more than hesitant. After a month of sleepless nights I realized God was calling me to believe His Spirit at work in his life. Less than a year later we were married.

That choice, to believe the Holy Spirit rather than my fearful flesh, revolutionized how I approached each decision in our relationship. My first thought was no longer my fear. My first thought became, “God, how are you at work in our life together?”

That is a dangerous question to ask. Asking that question might take you to the Middle East or to a bad part of town or simply far away from your comfort zone.

As I write this it is as if I can feel the resistance across the miles and through the screen. Some of you are living on the field and you are disengaged. You didn’t want to come in the first place and you’re counting down days until furlough with a thick red sharpie marker.

Perhaps your husband knows this. Maybe you’ve been all kinds of obvious about your dislike of your so called “calling”. It might be your husband is oblivious, too busy to notice from the middle of ministry and mayhem that can be a life on the field. Seeds of bitterness are burrowing into hard soil and bearing rotten fruit. It’s easy to undermine his leadership and be passive aggressive when something deeper is churning in the murky waters of your soul.

This is the part where we get down to some good old-fashioned confession.

If you aren’t on board with the mission you need to tell him.

The health of your marriage is paramount. Your ministry on the field is only as strong as your marriage is behind closed doors. It might mean coming off of the field to heal and get on the same page or it might mean your heart receiving a massive purging in order for you to stay and serve together.

What I believe more than anything is if God has united you with your husband and you have committed your marriage to Him, He can and will change your heart.

Do you believe that? Do you want that?

It’s ok to say honestly you don’t. God can change a hard heart, he can give you a heart of flesh for a heart of stone. If God can strike a man blind on the Damascus road and rearrange his whole life then I know He can change your feelings about the who’s, where’s and when’s of your life and calling.

But sister, He longs for you to humble yourself and allow Him to change your heart. The fertile, soft soil of your heart is where God can grow your soul to desire the same things as your husband. Just as He has made you One in marriage He rejoices to make you One in mind and calling too.

Photo Credit: johnhophotography via Compfight cc

27 Comments

  1. Linda Thomas March 24, 2015

    You’ve shown a lot of spiritual maturity here. Twice I totally balked at my husband’s wish to work on the overseas field. In the first case, I was in my twenties and we had two little kids and he wanted to move to a dangerous place in South America. The second , some 15 years later, we had an empty nest with grandkids on the way and he wanted to move to Africa. In both cases I had to give God plenty of time to show me going to the overseas field was really His idea and it was OK to go ahead and do the scary thing. Philippians 2:13 says God helps us to first will (want) to do His will and then to carry it out. I had to give Him time to make me willing to be made willing to go. I’m writing my second memoir now, about the South American years, and not more than 10 minutes ago I was working on the part I’m telling you about now. Oh, you know,  Jessica,I could write pages and pages here….. I send you a big hug. You are so amazing.

  2. Linda Thomas March 24, 2015

    And I forgot to mention in my above comment that WOW! Did got bless me in both South America and Africa!!!! I would have missed so much if I’d stomped my foot down and refused to go.

    1. Jessica Hoover March 25, 2015

      Sweet Linda, I love that your experiences offer so much to us as young women. Thank you for being faithful to sharing those hard fought lessons and all the cracked beautiful pieces of your journey. Know that you have very personally encouraged me and made me a braver follower of Christ.

  3. Monica March 24, 2015

    Thanks for this post Jessica… really enjoyed reading it over.  The story you depict is not something I have experienced personally, but I have seen it with other couples and appreciate all your insights shared on this topic.  I loved this quote:   Your ministry on the field is only as strong as your marriage is behind closed doors.  

    This is just so true- even when both spouses share the ‘same’ call/vision/dream.  I have been challenged in this new season of my life because my husband is feeling a strong indication from the Lord that we stay in the States for an extended time while he finishes his advanced studies and to be closer to his aging parents.  If it were up to me- I’d haul our whole family back to Asia tomorrow!  But we are a team, and at this time in our family’s life, I see my man pursuing the Lord whole-heartedly, and I also see the wisdom in the decisions we are making for the near future. What I love about him is that he really values my input and thoughts each step of the way- and even though our personalities, pursuits, and skills are different, our common values of family life and service remain strong and intact.  This is a time for me to trust, and let God grow me in our ‘current call’- so this post comes at an interesting time!  Thanks!

    1. Julia March 24, 2015

      I feel the same way.  I prefer to live outside the U.S., but God’s call and my preferences rarely line up at the outset.  On the cusp of another transition back to the States, my husband is full of anticipation, whereas I am dreading more goodbyes.

    2. Jessica Hoover March 25, 2015

      Monica, I think you bring up something really important. Just because our husbands may believe strongly in a calling they must first and foremost remember their first ministry being to their families. Your husband is making the decision to do the thing he sees as serving his family best. I really resonate with you about the idea that there are times when it would be 100% easier to just pack the whole thing up and go back to the field- I say that as a family who has chosen to stay in the States for the foreseeable future. It is a challenge to trust God at work in our lives and in the hearts of our husbands.

      1. Monica March 25, 2015

        Thanks so much!

         

  4. Lindsey March 24, 2015

    Have you heard the story a lot? Because this is MY story and I have never heard or read about anyone else this has happened to. As much as I love and get so much from this blog, in a way I feel completely different from most of the women here-I never desired to go overseas , and I was the girl in G.A’s (for all you baptists out there) who never payed attention during the overseas workers’ lessons.  It seems like all the women on the field know that this is where they are supposed to be. This is not me. I fell in love with a guy who had this calling and within 2 years of marriage we are here. Most days I try to pray through it. I am so homesick, constantly. It’s not anything about America I miss-it’s family and friends. I hate raising my son away from his grandparents and all they are missing. And I hate not having a church community-or any community really. Our team is us.

    But I promised my husband 3 years at least. And I knew what I was signing up for when we got married. I feel like if I can’t tough it out I will be breaking a promise to him and destroying his dream. I have no idea what I will do when 3 years is up if we are not on the same page. I pray and worry about that everyday. Sorry this sounds so complainey and bleak…I was just thrilled to read this and hear that I might not be the only one.

    1. Elizabeth March 25, 2015

      Oh Lindsey, this was my story, too. My heart goes out to you as you find yourself in this place! I am so sorry. So sorry. I thought I was all alone too, when I was going through this, and even though I’m no longer an unwilling accompanying spouse (“trailing spouse”), it felt so good to read this post this morning and realize I was never really alone. So let me say it again: You are NOT alone in your feelings.

      It feels so dark right now. I remember how dark it felt, how black the future seemed. How much pressure I was placing on myself not to ruin my husband’s dreams, and how I felt nothing would ever be ok again, and how it would all be my fault. (I wrote about that here http://trotters41.com/2013/10/22/i-was-once-a-trailing-spouse-the-whole-story/ )

      What you are describing here are really deep, dense, and painful issues. There’s the missing family and friends, the not wanting to disappoint God, the wanting to love your husband well. There’s the trying to find your place and not even feeling like you fit in among other women overseas, while also wanting to be at peace overseas. So much to process. And I just want to offer to communicate privately through email if you’d ever want to talk about this kind of stuff.

      I do truly believe God can change a heart, as Jessica talked about. But there are no cookie cutter ways that He does it! Your story will not look like mine; it will look like yours. But I believe God wants to reach down and help you, and lead you, together with your husband, into whatever the future holds. I don’t know what that will look like, but I do believe marriage is worth fighting for. That’s exactly the advice we received from our elders in our time of need. I was disappointed not to hear a “go or no go for launch,” but only counsel to honor the marriage covenant. However, it ended up being one of the best helps in overcoming our difficulties. Anyway, you can read my story, and if you want, I would definitely be willing to talk more about these issues.

      So much love and prayer for you today <3

      1. Lindsey March 25, 2015

        Thank you so much for your sweet response, Elizabeth.  Your blog post sounded like me in so many ways-only I did not wait for my own call from God to move over here with my husband. I wish that I had. But he was laid off from his job (that he never loved) and we took that as a sign to move up our plans.  I think this would be slightly easier if he had discovered this call after we were married. As it is, I feel a little like he married me under false pretenses if I refuse to stay here. Like coming here was almost a part of my vows, if that makes sense….anyway would love to chat more. Is your email on your website?

        1. Elizabeth March 25, 2015

          Our family’s email is on that site, yes, but it’s mostly my husband’s. You can reach me privately at emarietrotterATgmailDOTcom. Am praying for you (and for me, that anything I might say would be God-honoring and helpful).

          1. Jessica Hoover March 25, 2015

            Elizabeth, thanks for jumping in and sharing your story with Lindsey. I felt this post deep in my heart, but like I said I can only offer so much insight because I haven’t walked this particular road- only been an outside observer.

    2. Jessica Hoover March 25, 2015

      Lindsey, as I said in the post, it’s not my personal story, but YES, I have heard this story A LOT! It has been something that has burdened my heart deeply because I have been friends and served with women who were opposed to the dreams in their husbands heart. Your comment wasn’t complainy or bleak. It was real and honest and something that I think few women who experience this want to admit because it sounds unspiritual.

      All I know is that God can change our hearts. I haven’t experienced God doing that in this particular area of my life, but have experienced it in equally significant places in my life. It’s easy to want to change our husbands, but more than likely it is us God wants to change. No really wise words. Only prayers that your marriage would be encouraged and that your heart would be softened to whatever God has in store for your little family. {HUGS}

  5. J March 25, 2015

    I feel our situation is the opposite. I love my friends and family in my home country  but have never felt really comfortable there and had told God I would go wherever he wants me to be. We were in my home country when we met and after we got married. My husband had always talked about working overseas and his home country seem to be the best fit and turned out to be where God would have us. We have been here for over 2.5 years. He had an international upbringing and has not found it so easy coming “home. ” Work has n0t been easy (he is in the medical field) and things are happening much more slowly than he would like. Every so often he talks about going back and I don’t feel it’s the right time. I feel he knows God wants us to stay longer, he is just finding it hard. I am having to trust God for His will for us without trying to impose my own thoughts but allowing God to speak to my husband and for us to trust Him together. Please pray for us.

    1. Clarissa March 25, 2015

      I’m praying for you right now <3

    2. Jessica Hoover March 25, 2015

      The situation can definitely go both ways. I totally get feeling more comfortable outside of your home country. Will pray for clarity and peace for you and your husband.

  6. Phyllis March 25, 2015

    Complete honesty here: my husband and I have an ongoing, underlying disagreement. Even though we’re both 100% about living where we do–that’s never been an issue for us at all–I really needed to read this, because of the other thing we disagree about. Thank you. I know I’ll be coming back here for reminders often.

     

    That’s something I’ve noticed. I pray and pray that I would be able to agree with him, and many days I’m getting there. And then there are days where I DON’T, and I really have to fight bitterness.

    1. Jessica Hoover March 25, 2015

      Phyllis, I think that the enemy doesn’t want us to be of One mind with our husbands. No wonder we have to fight so hard for it. He wants us to be in disagreement because that means he can threaten our work and God’s glory through our marriage. Keep pressing on sister and praying for God to work and provide peace. I’ll be praying too.

  7. J March 25, 2015

    Thanks for your prayers Clarissa.

  8. AndyLJ March 25, 2015

    Jessica,  I find it a bit heavy handed to suggest that the woman is always the one who has to change, and that it is always our weakness/sinfulness/lack of fath, etc that is the problem. Some of those who commented above pointed to opposite situations where the guy was less sure about the call and wanted to go home.

    Conflict and lack of unity is always a call to soul search and let God search us and teach us to love and serve and communicate even when it is hard, but sometimes conflict is a really important sign of things we can’t put into words yet but somehow KNOW—needs of kids or our own bodies and psyches that are not thriving. Sometimes conflict and “dis-ease” is a sign that something needs to change even if we can’t explain exactly why. Time off the field can be helpful to all to see where the family is at in a different context and reassess together with the help of supportive outside perspectives.

    I don’t think your readers are in this camp, but Jesus was very harsh against the Pharisees–doing the right things for outwardly the right reasons–but often misjudging what was truly important in God’s eyes.

    1. Jessica Hoover March 25, 2015

      Oh friend, I hope that is not was communicated. I don’t think that the woman should always be the one to compromise. My suggestion is that this need not be a compromise. I was speaking to a very specific situation. I think that a lot of soul searching and straightforward communication needs to take place before you are EVER on the field in a situation you don’t really want to be in.

      What I’m speaking to is those of us who have agreed to go with our husbands to the field, are there now and still struggle. One thing my husband has committed to me is to always maintain our family as his first ministry. There may be times when that means coming home no matter how strongly he feels his calling.

      The bottom line is that this IS a two way street. But since can’t change our husbands we are only left with the option of being soft to the Spirit changing our own hearts (or praying God speaks to his in the meantime). Absolutely, it is sometimes our husbands who need to change! Well, rather it is probably on some level both of us because that is the continuing work of sanctification in our lives, both personally and through our marriages.

      I probably just muddied that up even more, but this is a good conversation that we should keep going.

      A 100% agreement that the situation can go both ways. I only chose to tell it from this particular perspective because I have experienced this with friends and colleagues. This is one of those things that can happen a million different ways and at the heart of all things is our own hearts bent. That is something that only the Spirit can discern in each of us and whether or not that needs to change.

  9. Martha Wright March 26, 2015

    I am really touched and thankful that you have broached this subject.  Thankfully, my husband and I have always wanted to be in East Africa, and we hope God will permit us to stay a long time.  We love the challenges of our life (although we do hope we haven’t put too great a burden on our children.  It was for them that I wanted to leave at one point, but God gave us peace about some of the things that were discouraging, changed some of our circumstances, and we’re on to new changes and challenges.)

    One thing I would like to mention that I hope potential overseas workers will consider, if they are going to work along with others in a team or as colleagues in some way:  it is very important to your colleagues for you to want to be there, and it can be very heavy for them if you don’t.  I really hope that doesn’t sound mean, because I don’t intend it to be – it’s because of my sympathy for their suffering that I have suffered along with them.  I have heard more than one wife say in a choked-up, martyr-like tone, “I will submit to my husband and follow him wherever he will go…” and honestly, they looked like they wanted to die.  How sad!  I find myself wondering how a husband can do that to his wife and how a M board can go along with it!  Yes, some do get past their initial reluctance – but many don’t, and they drag their teammates, neighbours, colleagues, children, family, etc. down with them.  Speaking as one of the teammates of miserable overseas workers, I hope people will be, as you have recommended, truly honest, and that the Lord will speak to the hearts of all involved, for His glory – but not necessarily our “dreams.”

    1. Jessica Hoover March 26, 2015

      Martha, I love the experience that you bring to this conversation. I too have encountered women who are how living a martyr’s life on the field. I don’t think that is a healthy mindset. Certainly there are “suck it up” times on the field where we do things we aren’t thrilled about for the sake of our calling. However, I don’t think that is a place God wants us to stay in.

      I second what you said about how it can affect the health of a team. It really can. I’ve wondered the same thing about how aware some agencies are of the situations that we are talking about. I think often it is hidden. That is why I stressed honesty.

      I wrote a piece- I don’t think it has posted here yet- about serving alongside people who have mental illness or emotional issues that impede their work. I think that this is not altogether unlike those issues. When we were on the field my ministry ended up often being with people we served with. Sometimes, as much as we want it to be otherwise, this is the case. Praying for you as you serve and encourage the women around you.

      1. Martha Wright March 26, 2015

        Jessica, thank you for the kind remarks.  As soon as I posted this, I thought, “Oh, no!  I sound so condemning or patronising or something….”  So I am glad it came through that I really do feel for those who do not want to be here on the field – and I hope those making decisions about their lives would share that compassion.  I would love to read the piece you mentioned above.  Please post it if you can.  Many of us are starting to take more seriously the overall well-being of all our colleagues, as individuals and as a group.  One thing my husband and I have made a priority over the years was maintaining friendships outside our team, so that we COULD be honest.  And those friends and their honesty about their fears, shortcomings, grief, losses, joys, and so many aspects of their lives have often been what we could hold on to through challenging times.  It’s good to get outside ourselves for a fresh perspective, especially from those whom we admire and who have grown in grace in this very life.

  10. Martha Wright March 26, 2015

    I am really touched and thankful that you have broached this subject.  Thankfully, my husband and I have always wanted to be in East Africa, and we hope God will permit us to stay a long time.  We love the challenges of our life (although we do hope we haven’t put too great a burden on our children.  It was for them that I wanted to leave at one point, but God gave us peace about some of the things that were discouraging, changed some of our circumstances, and we’re on to new changes and challenges.)

    One thing I would like to mention that I hope potential overseas workers will consider, if they are going to work along with others in a team or as colleagues in some way:  it is very important to your colleagues for you to want to be there, and it can be very heavy for them if you don’t.  I really hope that doesn’t sound mean, because I don’t intend it to be – it’s because of my sympathy for their suffering that I have suffered along with them.  I have heard more than one wife say in a choked-up, martyr-like tone, “I will submit to my husband and follow him wherever he will go…” and honestly, they looked like they wanted to die.  How sad!  I find myself wondering how a husband can do that to his wife and how a M board can go along with it!  Yes, some do get past their initial reluctance – but many don’t, and they drag their teammates, neighbours, colleagues, children, family, etc. down with them.  Speaking as one of the teammates of miserable overseas workers, I hope people will be, as you have recommended, truly honest, and that the Lord will speak to the hearts of all involved, for His glory – but not necessarily our “dreams.”

  11. Kaylee March 26, 2015

    I knew when I married my husband that he was “called” overseas. I even knew he wanted to come to Bolivia. I approached our relationship with prayer and I approached his calling with prayer. In the end I too felt called to Bolivia beside my husband.

    This was great through training, through support raising and even through the first year and a half overseas. And then things starting going downhill. There’s a lot more to the story than I want to write here (most of it can be found at my blog) but as I started to struggle I also found myself greatly struggling with our calling as a couple. I so strongly desired to return to the US. One veteran M couple very specifically grabbed us and walked us through a very hard decision (that led to a change in ministry but not a change of being overseas) and one thing the wife asked me was, “When you were walking in the light, when the days were easy, and things were going well did you struggle with your calling?” In reality I was wanting to run from a hard situation instead of dealing with my problems (contentment, fear, loneliness, etc.).

    It was also around this time that I read Expectations and Burnout and was challenged by the thought that most women overseas tend to leave between 2 and 5 years (or maybe it was 3 and 5). That was where I was at. The midst of our first term and hating it. I am so thankful today that we did not run back to the US a year and a half ago. I still struggle and am not always 100% here but I am still actively working through heart issues. I’m thankful for the encouragement I find in Romans: suffering produces perseverance, perseverance produces character and character produces hope! I have great hope!

  12. Anna March 28, 2015

    Thanks for the article.  It’s not my story, but I have known others in that situation.  I’ve seen both sides- where the wife comes to accept the ministry, even though it is the husband’s calling, sees herself as a “trailing spouse” but finds joy and they minister together.  But I’ve seen the other, where the wife is called to submission to her husband and is present physically, but resentful.  The second really has an affect on the ministry of the husband.  As you mentioned, and many repeated in the comments, your ministry is only as strong as your marriage behind closed doors.

    Also, when people ask for advice for preparation for going overseas at some point in the future, I tell them to work on their relationships- with God and others.  We’re at a hospital, and it takes many years of training to finish nursing or med school, and prepare for overseas work.  Most people expect something more along the lines of language learning, daily life skills, tropical medicine, something like that.  But your life problems or weaknesses only intensify when you go to another culture!  You don’t get to leave your weaknesses behind just because you’re sacrificing for Jesus. 😉

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