“Should My Spouse Go Through Language Training if Not Headed into Formal Ministry?”
Someone asked my husband and I recently if they should both be enrolled in language school. Our answer? Unquestionably. Both spouses will be interacting with the culture–and both need to be mobile within that culture. Conversely, whoever doesn’t have language or cultural training will be handicapped at whatever level caps their interaction–not just for everyday life, but for ministry capacity. Imagine a person coming to your passport country without speaking your language. They’re reduced to functioning even less than the hearing impaired (who have sign language); they’re on the outside looking in, utterly isolated from anyone by their inability to communicate.
If you’re in a particular situation–like having no childcare for small kids during language training–look for alternatives so your spouse can join, like a facility with childcare, seeing if your spouse can join during just part of the day, or enlisting the help of a tutor.
“I’m concerned about my spouse’s stamina/neediness/introversion/[fill-in-the-blank].”
I’d love to brush concerns like this under the rug: Where God calls, he enables! He has given everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3)! And there are indeed many stories, likely in your own life, where God–like Moses, Jeremiah, or others who doubted their ability–equipped you to step up in circumstances you never would’ve thought you could stand. We certainly walk by faith, not by sight.
But. (You saw that coming.) Keep in mind that, as theologian Gerhard von Rad has pointed out that wisdom is an awareness of complex reality. My paraphrase: Wisdom means not oversimplifying. We don’t overcome weakness by asserting, Hey! I’m not weak anymore! Or, I’m sure that won’t be a problem!
That may simply be a hyperspiritualized version of failing to plan. God did not give you knowledge in order for you to muscle past it: For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?
Part of considering your part in God’s Body does mean honest evaluation of who you and your spouse are, and who you are not. We’re commanded “not to think more highly of [ourselves] than [w]e ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment” (Romans 12:3). What we ignore now can be at times what causes us to crash and burn–painfully–later.
Life overseas can be a bit of a pressure cooker. Imagine loading your issues into an InstaPot. That occasional porn problem? The abuse you haven’t dealt with? Seek out counseling before your stress is multiplied…and your lack of healing is amplified in your family and to those you’re helping. Healing of deeper issues–including (especially) those you haven’t told others about–becomes imperative before you go.
My sister’s husband runs marathons. When she sensed his heart arrhythmia one evening (she’s a cardiac nurse), they got a full heart workup. She explained wisely that there are too many people who complete marathons…and then die of a heart attack immediately after. (See where I’m going here?)
I’m not seeking to be alarmist. But healthy global workers do the healthiest global work! Seek wise counsel from those who know you both well and know your marriage well. This may not be a “no” to going overseas; it may be a “not now”–or simply an area for proactive planning. You might need to limit activities for the introvert or the easily exhausted, or consider a geographical or occupational area with more possibilities for friendship if your spouse has more relational needs.
In short, you may need to set aside the missionary-biography picture in your head for the global worker God has created you and your spouse to be. That’s not necessarily being a sellout. That’s closing the gap between being the stuff of dreams–and the good works God’s created for you to do (Ephesians 2:10). Run the race marked out for you (Hebrews 12:1).
have questions or thoughts about marital differences as you think about going overseas?
Speak up in the comments section!
(If your question is more private but could help all of us, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Like this post? You might like How Ready am I? Self-Assessments for Global Work.