“So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore, what God has joined together, let man not separate.” Matthew 19:6
My husband and I work full-time in the ministry at a residential boys home for troubled young men between the ages of twelve and twenty-one. Lee is a counselor and works hands on with the boys. Before our girls were born, I helped out in the office doing administrative tasks. Early on in our ministry here the temptation for both of us was to see those jobs as separate entities. It was difficult to see the practical joining of hands of the administrative and the residential aspects of the home. I in particular struggled with this. It was challenging for me to find my place in the ministry. I felt as if I was working a secular office job and my husband was getting to do all the “ministry”. Even now that I am a stay ay home mother, the temptation to feel that way is still there.
I had to learn to see the joining of our job descriptions, the dependency that each aspect of the home had on the other. I also had to learn how to join Lee in his ministry to the boys. Now that joining could not be literal. I could not counsel with the boys or spend my days alongside him doing manual tasks around the property. I had to learn to unite with Lee in prayer, communication, and small tasks that I could accomplish such as cooking the meal when it was Lee’s turn on the rotation.
To join in our verse from Matthew means, “to yoke, bind or unite together.” The Lord wanted husbands and wives to be teams. We talked a little about that in the chapter on contribution, but now let’s take a new angle. Lee and I have always worked in the ministry, so much of this will be directed to joining your husband in ministry, however, I hope that you wives who have husbands in the secular field can recognize that your husband’s secular job is his ministry and then you can filter the same principals into your own marriage.
As my struggle continued, the Lord brought me to a prominent New Testament couple: Aquila and Priscilla. Paul mentions them on multiple occasions throughout his letters, and he always mentions them together. You will never read about just Aquila; his wife Priscilla is always recognized alongside him. They were a unit, a team, who lived, ministered and traveled together. “After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife, Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all the Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to see them, and because he was a tentmaker as they were, he stayed and worked with them.” Acts 18:1-3 (emphasis added)
This is the first time that we are introduced to the couple. Notice that it says that both Aquila and Priscilla were tentmakers and that Paul worked with them. In an age where women rarely worked or were recognized it is interesting to note that Paul not only acknowledged Priscilla’s contributions, but also the fact that he worked alongside her. This shows us that she was a not just a mere presence in the shop, but an actual force in its productivity. She joined her husband in his work and also in his ministry to Paul.
Later in the same chapter we see this ministry unit again. “Paul stayed on in Corinth for some time. Then he left the brothers and sailed for Syria, accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila.” Acts 18:18 Now I know that it is not always possible to travel with our husbands. We have duties at home that must be cared for, and if you are like me, then traveling with small children is more headache then it is worth. Nevertheless, it is still possible to join our husbands as they travel. We can cover them with our prayers while they are gone, ensure that they have everything they need before they go, hide notes of encouragement or Scripture in with their socks, and we can keep our complaints about them going silent and instead support them with enthusiasm. When they return we can ask detailed questions about the trip and carry any prayer needs that developed into our own closets. Stay involved!
Once again in chapter eighteen of Romans we witness Aquila and Priscilla in action together. Verse twenty-six is speaking of Apollos, a new believer, and reads, “He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately.” Discipleship is a wonderful ministry that husbands and wives can join forces on if the wife is willing to recognize her role and also willing to make contributions.
When we first came on staff at Youth-Reach Houston, I knew that I would not be counseling any of the boys. I would not be involved in their direct discipleship. Soon after we were in the swing of the things though, I really began to feel disconnected from the boys and from that area of Lee’s life. I wanted to respect the confidentiality that he was to share with the boys, so I didn’t ask many questions. I was still unsure of the boundaries of a woman’s role in the ministry, so I certainly did not make many suggestions.
Over time though as the Lord began to give me direction and confidence, I began simply sharing some of my observations. I would notice when a boy was sad or angry and comment on it. A few boys came through the program that my broken family and dysfunctional past really enabled me to see through. I would share with Lee experiences that I had and how I had felt or reacted to those situations. It offered him insight and discernment, which his own experiences had limited him in. Before long my role was securely established, Lee’s confidentiality was still being respected, and I was able to join my husband in his ministry to the boys.
A while back during one of our late night talks lying next to each other in bed, we had one of those conversations. There was a boy in the home who was me ten years ago. Our situations and reactions were almost identical. I shared my heart and my concerns with Lee regarding some of those issues. The next day in passing Lee thanked me. He told me how much he appreciated my willingness to share and how helpful my insight and discernment was in his ministry to the boys. My heart beamed, as I knew that I was being my husband’s partner.
When I consider our definition of join, “ to yoke, bind, or unite together,” I think of the effort that has to be exerted in order for each of these verbs to take action. Joining does not simply happen naturally. We must exert some force. I was naïve about this truth as a new wife. I thought that when we became one it would be a magical, once and for all done deal. But in our day-to-day lives, we have to make an effort to join together and not separate. We have to look for opportunities to be an “Aquila and Priscilla” ministry unit because life will not always hand us those opportunities easily. Aquila and Priscilla are referred to many more times throughout Paul’s letters. He sends them greetings and instructions and always mentions them together. I want Lee and I to be seen as a team in all that we do. Even if we are working independently, like with this book, I want others to know that Lee is a partner in what I am doing. It is his prayers, support, encouragement and insight that have provided the foundation for the pursuit of this goal. And I hope I can always be the same for him because the Lord Jesus himself said, “So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore, what God has joined together, let man not separate.” (man or jobs or ministries or roles or life)
The Real World …
Let us seek to join our husbands in this life we have been called to live together. Let us find ways to be his partner in all that we do.
See it as “our” life. I think that too many couples get to a point in their marriages that they view it as his life and my life. They see two distinct paths that occasionally cross. We need to be mindful of the fact that our lives are interdependent on one another, and if our marriage has gotten to a place where they are not then we need to reevaluate. Look at everything you do or he does (even if those tasks are not done together) as another aspect of the shared life that you are living.
Stay connected – ask questions. Stay interested in what your husband does even if you do not always understand. Lee loves computers. He worked in multi-media before we were married and still enjoys working on a few projects now and then. I do not understand any of the lingo, but I enjoy listening to him talk about his work. I want him to always have the freedom to get excited around me and to share his excitement. Ask lots of questions about how things are going work, what his goals are for the week and for the year. Talk with him about his frustrations and his joys. Ask him what you can do to be a part of what’s going on or how you can simply make things a little easier or more efficient. Many wives are disappointed and embittered by the fact that they are not the only thing that consumes their husbands’ thoughts and energy. Realize that there are many other things going on in your husbands’ life, and although you should be his number one ministry, he is still allowed to enjoy other things. Find out what those other things are. Get involved in those other things. Stay connected to your husband, but respect his space and allow him some freedom.
Learn to listen. Have times where your husband can ramble and you simply listen. You do not ask questions, you offer no insight or advice, you merely listen. Listen to his heart and join him in his joys and sorrows.
Support him. One of the key ways that we can join our husbands is to support them in what they do. Many times our lack of support that manifests itself through whines and complaints is what drives the wedge between a husband and wife, therefore, separating them physically and emotionally. Take the time to express your appreciation and support to your husband. Encourage him to pursue his goals and dreams.
Make the most of every opportunity. There will be times perhaps that the finances will allow you to join your husband on a business trip. Instead of making excuses of the responsibilities that you have - go. If your husband brings home a pile of work to be done, offer to type up some needed memos or proofread a proposal. I try to help Lee prepare meals at the boys’ home. I also try to take him water during the day. It allows me to see where he is, what he is doing, and how is day is going. It gives him a chance to show off a project he completed or to vent a frustration. Look for opportunities to join him in what he does, while respecting your boundaries. No one likes an annoying wife that allows no room for breathing.
PRAY. We will talk about this in much more detail later. Pray without ceasing for your husband. Carry his burdens before the Lord. Ask for specific requests and be diligent to lift them up. Be his most faithful intercessor other than the Lord Jesus!
Remember the joy you had when you were courting your husband and you planned your dreams and life together. It is easy for the details of life to cause those dreams to fade away. Staying joined to our husbands takes effort. It takes us putting his needs, his goals, and his life above our own. It means thinking of him before ourselves. “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Sometimes it means smiling and nodding when we have no idea what he is talking about. Other times it means waking up at four in the morning because your husband can’t sleep and needs you to listen. Oh, but the joyous reward for your effort. What a wonderful thing to know that you are building a life together and that you are being faithful to not allow man or job or ministry to separate you! “So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore, what God has joined together, let man not separate.” Matthew 19:6