“I moved in, but I’m not settled!” After an arduous week, I sat on the couch while in conversation with my mom. I felt the strain of moving to a new environment—new job and new churches— for the fifth time in my marriage—now with three kids. The stress of home, work, and school left me reeling.
Our family was riddled by fatigue, and we were drowning in the obligation of academics, home, and the constant absence of my spouse, who was tending to ministerial duties. While he was gone, the brunt of the domestic obligations fell on my shoulders with three tender-aged children. He questioned how he could help, but my fatigue hampered my ability to communicate those areas of needs effectively.
It took my husband and me two years after that initial conversation with my mom to find some balance in our lives. We realized we needed to make a concerted effort to evoke the change we wanted to see. It took some time, but we decided to make significant changes. We outlined a grid of responsibilities and routines for each member of the family. From the first day the schedule was implemented, a peace ensued and enveloped our minds. The children felt openly included, and their sense of direction for each day was concrete in their minds. My husband and I felt re-centered as well. We worshiped, cooked, and played together. We also filled in gaps with the children when Dad was absent, tending to pastoral duties, and vice versa for myself when I was absent.
The thought of balance
Now, as I contemplate what our past looked like versus our present situation, I can recall the words one minister shared with us early in our ministry: “Marriage is the sum of unequal parts. Some days it’s sixty-forty, other days it’s seventy-thirty.”
Can a marriage survive with partners not equally contributing 100 percent? Could it be that even though both partners are committed, they may not always be at their best for various reasons (e.g., illness, accidents, schoolwork, or additional work-related projects)?
The concept of balance is of even greater concern for ministerial families! The pastor’s job has been branded as a 24-7 engagement of meeting other people’s needs. I submit that every individual must have boundaries to preserve the essence of who they are in order to nourish their relationships and health. Relentlessly immersing self in work for the “cause of Christ” is detrimental in the long run. Even Jesus rested and took time to pray and nourish His relationship with His Father and the disciples. Why should mere mortals seek to do otherwise?
Pastoral ministry will have no respect for family care and ministry unless we infuse that balance into it. It is common knowledge that human beings have a longing for balance in their lives. What it looks like for each person is not inherently the same, but it is important that we find what keeps us calm, cool, and collected. Thus, when ministers and their spouses agree to set clear open boundaries about where work and home begin and finish, bountiful health blessings await them in the end!
Subscribing to the cliché that ministry is a 24/7 job, without a plan, opens the door for familial heartbreak and psychological scars for husbands, wives, and their children (if they are blessed to have any). And yes, the pastor’s job mirrors an on-call protocol; therefore, a plan on how to respond to the unexpected events is important. Both spouses should know the response before the call comes. Thus, when the mathematical scale is tipped, the spouse understands how to compensate for the unequal parts. Vice versa in the daily home life, clear delineations of each spouse’s role are vital to maintaining balance. I would assert here that an understanding of what it takes to fulfill your spouse’s role is also equally important—just in case life unexpectedly tips the scale in your home—which, in fact, it will.