In just one year of marriage, my perspective on ministry has changed dramatically. What I thought I knew about ministry just wasn’t working in my marriage. I was at a loss until one small shift changed everything for me.
My problem was, I looked at the Bible like a book rather than a person.
Applying the Bible as a user’s manual was my approach to ministry. If there was a problem, I used the Bible to fix it. Whatever the situation, I could find the appropriate Bible verse. I could then say the right prayer invoking said Bible verse and all would be well. People went on their way and I didn’t have to deal with their issues any longer.
But when I got married, that all changed.
When my wife moved to Florida to be near me, she left everything behind. She left what was comfortable and familiar to start life with someone she had only known for a total of 7 months.
We were engaged immediately after she moved down and 3 months later, we were married. But as the realization set in that her life had completely flipped upside down in a matter of months, things became extremely difficult for her.
She didn’t (and still doesn’t) like Florida. She missed her family and friends back in her home state of West Virginia. She wasn’t feeling a connection with my church or with my friends.
Nothing seemed to be going as planned.
And so I resorted to what I knew best. I looked to the book. I wanted her to stop missing home. I wanted her to stop disliking Florida. I wanted her to stop feeling frustrated at her job. I wanted her to stop feeling disconnected from my life and my community and my friends. I wanted her to hurry up and be happy.
So I tried to use the Bible to fix the problem.
I encouraged her to go to church when she didn’t want to go. I set up times to hang out with friends in hopes that she would see how great they were. I prayed with her. I encouraged her to look for opportunities to be a light at her job.
I said some Bible verses. And I prayed again.
I would pray and things would seem to get better for a while. I was sure things were on the upswing but then just a few weeks later, she would admit that she still didn’t want to go to church, she was still struggling at work and she still didn’t like Florida.
Through all of this, I couldn’t understand why my solutions didn’t work. I felt like she wasn’t trying hard enough and I was doing everything in my power to fix her problems. I was getting frustrating at how long this was all taking.
But relationships are not machines. There are no quick fixes. There are no parts you can replace. There is no software to upgrade.
I couldn’t just use the information of the Bible to make things better.
My wife was experiencing the pain of the passing away of her old life. She was mourning the death of who she was before us. And over time I came to see that not only was this normal, but it was also healthy.
I learned that ministering to my wife wasn’t just praying with her because I should. It wasn’t just reading the Bible together and finding the right verses for our situation. It wasn’t just about looking for a way to fix the problem.
I learned that ministry is listening and giving space for her to be right where she was until her heart healed. Ministry was having compassion for her loss and mourning it with her.
Most importantly, I learned that I can’t fix brokenness.
Broken people aren’t fixed, they’re healed and healing takes time. There is no time limit on healing and my expectation on the results just prolonged the healing process.
Ministry is more than just a book, it’s a person. My wife didn’t need the right words to fix the problem, she needed me. I was the solution.
I realized that ministry isn’t Jesus speaking to me, it’s Jesus speaking through me.
What about you? Have you ever tried to use the Bible to fix things? Did it work?
[photo: kodomut, Creative Commons]