January 24, 2013

Am I Willing? (and a Giveaway!)

My post today is actually the introduction to my book, The Church Planting Wife: Help and Hope for Her Heart. Read to the end of the post to find out how you can win 1 of 5 free copies of the book!

Unpacking in our new home in a new state far from our families, I opened a box marked Fragile with big black letters. Inside, buried under bubble wrap, I found my framed wedding vows. While I searched the master bedroom for the perfect spot where the frame could hang, I read what I had committed to Kyle on our wedding day. Just as it had when I had first written the words, my heart stopped on one line.

I vow to support the ministry that God gives you.

My husband and I wrote those wedding vows in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, on a trip with my future in-laws just weeks before our big day. Outside, snow blanketed the ground and inside, armed with two spiral notebooks, Kyle and I sat purposefully to write the words we would covenant with each other for life.

As soon I put pen to paper, the weight of the task gripped me, calling for all the wisdom I could muster. But none came.

I thought.
I took a drink of water.
I thought some more.

After staring at the blank spiral notebook page for twenty long minutes, I questioned the conviction that we should write our own vows. What to write? How does a twenty-three-year-old girl understand what a marriage commitment entails, much less express it in words, words that will be spoken as a promise before God and people? I couldn’t slap down a string of loving sentiments and check off another item on my wedding to-do list. Each word I considered writing took on so much weight that I could not write one at all. Remembering the sample vows the minister sent us, I pulled them from my luggage. Oh, good, I thought. Something to copy. But after plagiarizing I, Christine, and waiting for inspiration to follow, hesitation paralyzed me.

Exasperated, I glanced at Kyle’s back for clues as to what he was feverishly writing. I should have been glad his thoughts were spilling out of him like a waterfall—after all, they were meant for me—but, instead, I felt a rising irritation that my own words were not coming.
Why was this so difficult for me? My hesitation, I knew, had nothing to do with how I felt about Kyle. My certainty about him had developed over three years of dating, beginning in our final years of college and culminating in our engagement on my twenty-third birthday. Even before we started dating, when we were acquaintances, and I observed his purposeful approach to relationships, he intrigued me. He was a natural leader, quietly drawing others in by his example and vision. Other college men gathered around him with respect in their eyes; a man’s man, one might say. When we began dating, he increasingly captivated me with his passion for life, his sense of humor, his humility, and especially, his gentleness toward me. I never tired of him; a lifetime felt too short a period to be his companion and know all I could know about him. Three years of dating solidified my desire for him; marrying him was only fitting. Besides, it seemed we were individually moving toward the same goals. Why not do it together? I wondered if other couples felt as happy as we did; certainly I hoped everyone experienced what I experienced with Kyle.

Reminiscing inspired me, so with pen to paper once again, I urged myself on. What do I want to commit to this man? What will I promise him?

After mulling my answers to those questions, I translated my thoughts into vows of commitment, words finally filling the paper:

I, Christine, offer myself completely to you, Kyle, to be your wife in marriage.
I vow to put my relationship with Christ first in my life, but nothing else before you,
To place our home under your leadership,
To place your needs above my own,
To support the ministry that God gives you,
And to love you with the faithfulness that God has shown me.
I commit to standing beside you faithfully in all circumstances.
Kyle, you are my best friend and a treasured gift from God.
I dedicate our marriage and our home to the lordship of Jesus Christ and look forward to serving Him together as one.

I read the vows several times, each time imagining myself speaking them on our wedding day and, each time, hesitating at the promise to support Kyle’s calling into ministry. Although they were weighty, the other lines felt right to me; I could confidently make those promises to Kyle. I considered scratching the ministry line because it seemed out of place for wedding vows, but my heart felt unsettled at that prospect, too. I couldn’t pinpoint the difficulty surrounding this one vow. Kyle had a clear call to ministry, of which I was fully supportive. In fact, although I had rarely voiced it, I had felt a similar call on my life from the time I was in high school. I suspected I would marry someone with the same calling. When Kyle told me what he wanted to do with his life, I thought, Well, of course! as if it were silly to consider anything else. We rarely discussed the calling—it was a given, a natural next step for both of us, something we were willing to give our lives for. The hesitation, then, to put my support in writing surprised me. Possibly for the first time, in the middle of writing my wedding vows, I considered what ministry might mean for my life.

At that time, we both attended seminary while Kyle also worked for a Christian men’s organization. Although we’d held separate ministry leadership positions in college, we had never done ministry together, but we certainly hoped for opportunities in which we could serve side-by-side. In that vacation spot, as I considered the future with a moment of God-given clarity, I saw what a lifetime of ministry might entail: shouldering heavy responsibilities, giving ourselves away to others, living far away from family, or possibly enduring criticism or defeat for the sake of the gospel. Because Kyle had surrendered control of his future to God, my vow of support meant stepping into his shadow and following him where God led. Was I willing? Was my conviction so firm that I would speak those words to Kyle and to God in front of my friends and family?
Eight years after that day, I stood in our new home, holding those vows in my hands. We had just moved to Charlottesville, Virginia, to start a church from scratch. I recalled hearing the term church planter in seminary, but had not known what it meant, certainly not imagining the term would ever describe us. Yet there I stood, dusting off a frame of my wedding vows in a home and a city where we didn’t know anyone. Although much had changed since the day we wrote our promises down on scratch paper—we had three little boys and Kyle’s experience of serving on staff at a church in Texas— the same questions arose in my heart, urging for a silent renewal of the vow I had made to my husband. When I’d first said those words, they had been a general affirmation of the calling on my husband’s life. Now we faced the difficult work of church planting. My support and affirmation of my husband’s ministry would be crucial.

Was I willing?

You've just read the introduction to The Church Planting Wife: Help and Hope for Her Heart. Would you like to a win a copy of the book? I'm giving away 5 copies between now and Monday, January 27th. To enter, simply share about the book on Facebook or Twitter in this way:

Facebook: Go to this link: https://www.facebook.com/TheChurchPlantingWife. Under the most recent post that says "I want to win a copy of The Church Planting Wife!", click "share", add a personal comment if you wish, and share it with your friends. Your share will be your entry.

Twitter: Use this tweet as your giveaway entry: I want to read #TheChurchPlantingWife by @christinehoover! (http://amzn.to/Tn4ssE)

I will announce the winners on Facebook and Twitter on Monday at 2 pm EST. I hope you win! And thanks for sharing.