Jeff and I have found that marriage can be lonely, even despite the proximity and the daily intimacies. We have so perfected the skills of delegation and scheduling that we can spend entire weeks in productivity without actually sharing life together.
I read this morning in reference to being a pastor that “Every gospel truth was maintained intact, and all the human energy was wholly admirable, but the rhythms were off.” (The Pastor: A Memoir by Eugene Peterson) That is what we have found in the past year. We strive to be faithful to prayer, we hope that we remain in line with God’s will. Our intentions and endeavors are respectable, maybe even admirable. But the rhythms are off.
When we came to Malawi, we truly believed (and still do) that we were following a call, a chance to use our gifts, experience and education in new ways and in service of the gospel that we had not done before.
But the calling to a new ministry was also a chance to live abroad as we had hoped to do at some point. It was the right time for Jeff to leave the high-stress, crazy hour profession. I jumped at the opportunity to work full-time again and offer Jeff more time with the kids.
Now I realize that my desire for work was not as altruistic as I would have liked to believe. Alongside my abiding conviction that Jeff has amazing gifts for parenting and that our family would benefit from his more regular presence at home, was a lurking tit-for-tat desire to be working and unavailable for PTO meetings and room mom sign-ups. But the move and new careers and swapping of roles did not change our rhythm much and the tempo may have only increased.
This has only become clear to us in recent weeks as we hit a wall of uber-produtivity and corresponding loneliness. We married because we love each other, because we make each other laugh, because we compliment each other, because there is calling to be fulfilled together that we cannot fulfill alone. And in this time and place we have the unique opportunity to work, quite literally, for the same purpose and even same institution.
So we want to take advantage of this time, to create a rhythm of life together that honors all that we love about one another, the family we have, the calling we have heard. Not to divide and conquer, but to embark on tasks together. When he holds me accountable for working too much, I have to let go of the pouty mindset that says, “But you did it for years. It’s my turn.” When I offer to help he should have the freedom to name how I can be helpful.
A march has a rhythm; it’s well-choreographed, precise – and individual. But now we’re looking for a more fluid rhythm, one that requires a partner.
We can sing as we take the kids to school together. Dance in the kitchen while the chicken bakes. Take time for instruments after dinner. The rhythm is ours to create – together.