We do this with our words, just as God told the ocean where to let land begin, where the sun should give way to the moon, and where winter should stop and spring should start. As He communicated, we communicate, drawing up boundaries and bringing order to the chaos.
Conversation #1: How can I help you?
I'm amazed when I watch my husband on Sunday mornings because everyone wants a piece of him, everyone needs or wants something from him, and he handles it all so calmly. But there are few, if any, who seek to help him. So I want to be that person. I want to help him.
Unfortunately, there have been times when I've hindered rather than helped because I've determined how I can best help him without actually asking him. What I find is that when I ask, he doesn't want me to run a whole area of ministry or run myself ragged doing a bunch of stuff; he simply wants me to be an emotional and physical support to him as he carries out his ministry. I've learned that he often communicates this to me nonverbally: his shoulders droop when he's tired of talking about church stuff, for example.
This conversation has changed a bit since last spring when Kyle said to me, "Christine, you often ask me about my day and what I did, but that shifts us on to church issues so quickly. I think it's best for me when you ask how I'm doing. That keeps the focus on my heart and helps me open up." I loved that, and it's been so helpful for me as I try to help my husband.
Conversation #2: I need your attention.
Sometimes the tables are turned, and I am the one who needs the heart questions, but my husband is burdened, busy, or distracted and is not asking them. Or we haven't had undivided time together and the cracks are showing. This is when we need to have the "I need your attention" conversation.
This conversation must be carefully considered because there is a fine line to walk between the extremes of expecting our husbands to meet our every need and not asking for what we need for fear of becoming an additional burden to him. The woman who walks right in the middle is one who trusts the Lord to sustain her but also takes seriously her role of bringing her needs and her husband's blind spots to his attention.
So we must learn to discern what we're feeling and thinking, carefully consider what needs to be said or asked for, and then approach our husbands with gentleness, clarity, and love. Kyle says that men appreciate when we're able to communicate these things with as little emotion as possible and with clear thoughts and action points. We also should look for ways to affirm them when they respond to what we've said.
Conversation #3: Let's talk logistics.
One Sunday early in our church plant, I sat down in church, read the bulletin, and learned along with the rest of the congregation that there was an event scheduled later in the week and that I was the host! That unfortunate miscommunication was just the catalyst we needed to develop a system for communicating about our calendar. We began a weekly calendar session (ours is on Sunday evenings) in which we talk about the coming week, the upcoming month, and we make decisions about we'll do.
We've developed a few principles that guide this discussion:
- What can we handle? It's only taken me forever, but I've finally started learning myself and what I can and can't handle as an introvert. Because of this, we don't do more than two nights in a row of evening activities.
- What are our personal priorities? We are committed to one another and our children above any others, so we get family weekends on the calendar before the church gets on our calendar. We also plan ahead for date nights. We keep Sabbath days free.
- Who are our people priorities outside of the home? The people we're discipling and the leadership of our church get the most of our time, and those times get on the schedule.
- Finally, what are we saying to each other and our kids through our calendar?
Conversation #4: The glass is half-full.
Ministry can, at times, feel like a constant battle against discouragement. Sometimes we're so overwhelmed with the problems, issues, needs, and things that need to be better that we lose sight of what God has done and what He's doing. And the truth is that we're not going to get a whole lot of encouragement from other people. So what do we do? We need to create a culture of encouragement in our homes, where even the smallest of victories are celebrated, where we spur one another on to have eyes and hands of faith, where we reflect on the good things that are happening. We need to be constantly recounting how God has been faithful and how He is faithful and how He will be faithful in the future. Because He has and is and will be.
The best thing about these conversations is that we don't have to wait for our husbands to take the lead in any of these areas. We can initiate them; we can create an atmosphere of loving communication that brings order to the chaos and invites purpose, growth, help, and encouragement to dwell within our homes.
What conversation would you add to the list?