Dashed Expectations

By: Jill Briscoe

If I hear one thing above all else from ministry wives it’s this phrase:  “I never expected this!”  I can’t count the numerous times I’ve heard such things as, “When I signed up for missions I did not have this in mind.”  Many ministry wives get where they’re going, and then look around and say, “You mean this is what we left the business world for?”  Or “This is what all those years in seminary have led to?”

When men enter the ministry after having had secular careers, they bring a lot of positives to their work.  They can bring their educational expertise or vocational experience with them.  But I am often faced with the wives of these men who say something like, “Hey, I married a CPA.  I didn’t marry a Christian education director.”  A pastor’s wife said to me not long ago, “I’m married to a man I didn’t marry.  I did not marry a pastor, and if I’d known this is what he was going to do, I wouldn’t have married him at all,” and she meant it!  So in some cases there are deep, deep conflicts that are not easily resolved, exacerbated by unfulfilled expectations, the other side of the move into ministry.

Add to this the frustrations of a spouse who has been working with lots of resources he doesn’t have available to him anymore.  I know Stuart struggled with adapting to a very different world from that of a top bank executive when he tried to reorganize the mission offices and finances.  He badly wanted to use his knowledge gained from the working world, but he discovered that many mission organizations don’t have access to needed resources.  The money is not there to hire more staff and update the equipment – or even to possess the equipment necessary to do the job!  Somehow we can enter the world of ministry in rose-colored spectacles, never expecting the standard of operation to be as low as we find it.  Then we have to work at a level well below our training or capacity.

We need to pull together at this point, giving each other a sympathetic hearing but encouraging each other with love and Scripture and, above all, cheerfulness.  What Stuart and I learned during that time was that people are God’s most precious resources.  In the middle of my dashed expectations I needed people to fill the lonely hours when my husband was away, while Stuart had to remind himself that we were in the right place, even if the equipment was lacking.  God wasn’t limited by the absence of a computer.

Jill Briscoe is the Founder and Executive Editor of Just Between Us magazine.