Several years ago, Daniel came to me to tell me that he felt led to go back to school to work on his Master’s degree. He had a fire in his belly and was excited about the challenge of taking classes online and working toward a goal. This seemed like it was coming from out of nowhere, and the whole idea was a bit overwhelming to me. Let me shed a little light on my surprise by explaining that when Daniel and I were in college together twenty years ago, he hated school and wasn’t very good at it!
Throughout our marriage, Daniel has had many ideas or new goals that he wanted to pursue. Some of them have disappeared when left alone, others have led to tremendous growth or even life-altering change for both of us. After a couple of weeks of discussion, the education pursuit only got stronger. This was something we agreed Daniel needed to go for. We mapped out a two-year plan that allocated our time and financial resources in a way that worked for the whole family, and Daniel began his journey. I held down the fort at home with our children while he began taking online classes.
Watching our spouse change is not always easy. There are times our spouse makes giant changes for the better, and we can jump in and go with them. Whether it’s with fitness, finances, education, spiritual, or other life-changing pursuits, we can see that the change is going to be good for them and eventually for us. But the process can be complicated if we aren’t on the same page. Even if you are supportive of a change your spouse is going through, if unguarded, your thoughts and emotions can begin to wage an internal war against the relationship.
At times, I remember feeling left out, left behind. I was often jealous that Daniel was getting to pursue something that I wasn’t. The enemy also worked on me internally, tempting me to undervalue the part I was playing at home. I had to keep a constant check on my own heart so I could continue to encourage Daniel, rather than become resentful of him. And on the other side of that coin, Daniel had to continually check in with me to make sure I was still okay with his journey. He was so careful not to overload me. He was aware of what he was asking of all of us and was considerate of our time and feelings while he moved forward.
It took Daniel about two and a half years to get his Master’s Degree in Pastoral Counseling and Leadership while still working as Executive Pastor at our church. We both made sacrifices, but it was worth it to have a front-row seat to his passion and growth. I was so proud of him for his accomplishment. But I was also appreciative of HOW he did it. This was a personal goal that would benefit our entire family in the long run. But as much as possible, he went to great lengths to ensure we didn’t feel cheated of his time at home. He would put in a couple of hours of school before the offices opened to ensure he was still home by 5:30 and have dinner with the family every night. He did his best to work on assignments on his days off, while the kids were at school. I could tell he was exhausted at night, having gotten up at 5:00 AM to workout and get to the office, but he still managed to muster a little more energy for us at the end of each day. I am proud of him for how much he accomplished and for continuing to include us in his triumphs through the process.
Change is an inevitable part of personal development. If we don’t grow, we can become stagnant. If you are watching your spouse grow and change right before eyes, your response can make all the difference in your relationship. Ephesians 4:2 says, “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” In humility, check your own heart and see if there is a way you can be included in this transformation. Even if you can’t take on the challenge directly, search for ways to be supportive and stay connected to your spouse through this season.
If you are the spouse who is experiencing this exhilarating propulsion to change and your spouse is not, be patient. You, too, must keep tabs on your heart and motives and look for ways to lovingly include your spouse. Have grace on them and be considerate of how your passion is affecting their life. Carefully consider the expectations you may be intentionally or unintentionally putting on them.
We’ve heard it said that every ten years, we become a different person. If this is true, we have to be diligent about evolving together, rather than separately. Our goal is to cross the finish line of this Marriage Adventure together. To do that, we have to stay connected, supportive of each other, and full of grace on every leg of our journey.
Enjoying the Adventure,
Daniel & Bonnie