The fight was a doozy. Probably the biggest fight we had in our first year overseas.
We were about five months into our life in the developing world. Southeast Asia was taking a toll on us, but in very different ways.
Can we talk, honey? I asked politely. I was feeling bored with language learning. Things were moving slow. I’d left a culture where I could connect with women and dig my heels deep in ministry. I felt like a complete failure on the foreign field.
We’re not doing enough, I said. Look at our house! We have nice couches, everything is clean, and we have all this time when we’re not in language school.
I didn’t move overseas to set up a little sanctuary for myself! I don’t want us to spend the rest of our lives raising kids who don’t know how to interact with people different than them. I want our home to be a place we SHARE with others.
Look at how selfish we’re being! There are prostitutes and drug addicts all outside our gates, and WHAT ARE WE DOING ABOUT IT? Nothing. I’m basically doing nothing on a daily basis.
My husband’s eyes glazed over. He didn’t respond. He just walked into the kitchen for a glass of water.
I was not amused. And I hadn’t spilled my guts just to let out hot air. We were in SE Asia for crying out loud.
So, lest I be ignored and my urgent feelings be invalidated, I followed my husband to the kitchen and pressed a bit further.
Would you LIKE to respond to everything I just said? I mean, don’t you agree??
Gavin looked up at me with disbelief in his eyes. I saw immediately that I had pushed too far. But I felt that strongly about needing druggies on my couches. I prepared for the fight.
Oh, I don’t know, Lauren. Last time I checked, I was living in freaking ASIA in 100+ degree heat! And I’m learning a tonal language! And I’ve given up a six-figure salary as a doctor in the U.S.!
We have ants. Lots of ants. And our roof has been leaking for months. And I wouldn’t be dealing with ANY of this if I had just stayed home. I don’t need to sacrifice any more. I think I’m doing a pretty good job of that already.
I was appalled. How could such un-Christian things come from his mouth? Did he even care about other people at all?
Gah, Gavin! You know, sometimes I just want to light a fire under your butt so you’ll DO something.
And then he said, Gah, Lauren! Sometimes I just want to put out one of the 1,000 fires you have burning at the same time and tell you to SIT DOWN.
It was an eye-opening conversation heated discussion we shared that night. For the first time in five years of marriage, I finally realized that Gavin doesn’t see the world the same way I do.
Actually, we view ministry quite differently. Our pre-field training told us this, but it didn’t really sink in until that night.
When I was frustrated from a lack of outreach opportunities, Gavin was missing deep relationships with one or two people he could walk alongside.
When I was feeling bored with language learning, Gavin was seeing it as the greatest ministry opportunity he could be investing his time in during our first year abroad.
When I was ready to jump feet first into fighting all the poverty and sadness around me, Gavin was wondering why he left a thriving ministry back home to come to a land where he couldn’t have a significant conversation.
As I said, Southeast Asia was taking a toll on us, but in very different ways.
We’ve come to learn that this is because our apostolic genetics are not the same.
Let’s dive in just a bit deeper here, because what I’m about to share with you has revolutionized our marriage on the field.
In the New Testament, we see the Gospel extended to the Jews and also to the Greeks (Romans 1:16, Acts 20:21, 1 Corinthians 1:23). But the mission strategy was very different for engaging the descendants of Israel versus people who had never even heard of a Creator God.
Perhaps the same person could have reached both populations. But God called two different men to do the job: Peter and Paul.
Paul writes in Galatians 2:8, “For he who worked through Peter for his apostolic ministry to the circumcised worked also through me for mine to the Gentiles…”
So, it could be said that there is an apostolic ministry to the reached (Petrine) and to the unreached (Pauline).
Some of us are more drawn to disciplining believers into a deeper, more meaningful walk with the Lord (Petrine apostles). Others of us want to blaze the trail towards people who have never heard the first word of Good News (Pauline Apostles).
I like how Alan Hirsch and Tim Catchim map this out in their book The Permanent Revolution: Apostolic Imagination and Practice for the 21st Century Church:
Misunderstanding the core differences in Petrine and Pauline apostles had caused my husband and I to hit road blocks in our marriage before. I am more Pauline in nature, while he is more Petrine.
But the differences in our ministry styles became glaringly obvious once we moved overseas. These terms and definitions have given us so much good ground for conversation since that blowup last year.
We are learning to embrace our differences, and use them to our advantage. I seek out people we can welcome into our home, but Gavin goes the long distance in relationship with them. And honestly, this is a combination that makes for a powerful marriage in cross-cultural work.
I praise God for that fight!
We’re still learning how to unleash one another as high functioning apostles of Christ, but we’ve come a long way in a short time. I hope this post can be used as a conversation starter for you and your spouse, too! Plan a coffee date and use these questions as a launching pad:
Would you identify yourself as a Pauline or a Petrine apostle?
How would you identify your spouse?
If you have different apostleship styles…
How has this caused friction in your marriage in the past?
How could you see this as a benefit in your combined ministry?
If you have the same apostleship styles…
How could this be a hindrance to your effectiveness abroad?
How can you engage someone of the opposite apostleship style to provide balance in your work overseas?