The discouraged husband

Today we got really good news: soon and very soon, Pete will be getting a job. In fact, he has department heads fighting over him pretty much as we speak. We’re just waiting to see who wins, and then Pete’ll sign the paperwork.

The backstory is a bit long, especially for those of you who know it already. But here’s the smallest nutshell I can fit it into: Pete worked as an engineer for 18 years. In the midst of those years, he spent 7 years going to seminary to earn his Masters in Divinity, all while continuing to work full time. We both felt that we would one day be a ministry couple–a pastor and his wife, a chaplain and his wife, something along those lines. But even though there were lots of opportunities along the way, nothing ever came of any of it.

Last year, it looked like “it” had finally arrived. Pete quit his engineering job and we packed up and moved away–over a thousand miles away–from the church and friends we’d loved for 18 years. It was a risk we were ready to take. Pete was going to be teaching junior high and high school kids, something he adored. In fact, I was able to teach as well, which, though I didn’t expect to, I adored.

Things didn’t turn out the way we thought. After about four months, we had to leave the school (a topic for another day). So, for the past three months, we have not had steady paychecks. I have done okay with freelance editing and a bit of writing. Pete entered chaplaincy training (in case you’re wondering, no. They don’t pay you for that.). And we’ve been struggling. Which brings me, finally to my point. (Okay, that wasn’t a nutshell. It was more of a pie shell. Sorry.)

For the past few months, I have been living with an extremely discouraged man. I don’t know if there is anything more heart breaking. I have known all along that my job/duty/calling/honor as his wife is to encourage him, particularly when he is down. I have known that any criticism or whining I might indulge in would only sink him deeper into his discouragement and not do either one of us a bit of good. Unfortunately, that hasn’t made things any easier. I have been afraid as I’ve seen our savings account shrinking. I have been embarrassed as I’ve watched my daughters go to school in torn tights and beatup shoes, with no other option available in their closets and drawers. I have tried to hide these feelings from Pete, but most of the time that means being unusually silent, and that doesn’t help him in his discouragement either. He knows that when I am silent, something is seriously wrong. I have wanted to say the right things, but being in the pit along with him has made it extremely difficult to know what those things are.

When he told me that he was going to apply for an engineering job nearby, I honestly did not know how to react. I have spent the past 12 years encouraging him to follow his dream of ministry. I have spent the past year assuring him that turning our lives upside down was worth it, because we were on a grand adventure together, pursuing full-time service to God. Was this engineering thing a test of my veracity? If I supported the engineering thing, would I actually be turning my back on Pete’s dreams, his calling? Or, if I rejected his move back toward engineering, away from ministry, would that just be flat out stupid?

A wise friend of mine (C.B.) advised me: “Why don’t you ask him?”

Oh.

So I did. And when I did, I could see where his heart was. He was feeling like a failure and he didn’t want to anymore. He wanted to provide for his family. This is something that, I think, is hard-wired into a man. He has to know that he is the protector, the provider. That is his first call from the Lord. People have been telling me all along, and I have heard them, I promise, that Pete can minister anywhere. Not only do I know that to be true, we have seen it for ourselves. Pete had an incredible ministry at his engineering job. Some guys that didn’t know the Lord before they knew Pete are now seminary graduates, looking for ministry work just like him.

I don’t know what will happen next. I hate that. All I know is that Pete needs me to be excited for what he’s doing now, even though neither of us understands it. If that’s my mission, I choose to accept it.

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6 thoughts on “The discouraged husband

  1. I’m so glad God is giving you peace about this path. It sounds like it’s exactly where you are supposed to be. I can “hear” the spark back in your voice as a resulting of seeing the spark in his. Know that you’re in our prayers!!!

  2. Three months out of work, children in tattered tights and beaten shoes…maybe a bit of an over exaggeration? Having no money can be a choice. Based on your blog, you are articulate and you and your husband appear to be well educated and accomplished. It is difficult to be empathetic towards those who are capable of generating income and choose not to and then complain about it.

    Applause and accolations to your husband for getting back to work and providing for his family. Applying trainign and talents to support the economy and one’s family are important gestures, not to be overlooked.

    Let’s all remember what true poverty is in the base sense of the definition. Having no money is far from the suffering others around the globe experience.

    The poverty threshold, or poverty line, is the minimum level of income deemed necessary to achieve an adequate standard of living. The standard of living refers to the quality and quantity of goods and services available to people and the way these services and goods are distributed within a population. It is generally measured by standards such as income inequality, poverty rate, real (i.e. inflation adjusted) income per person. Other measures such as access and quality of health care, educational standards and social rights are often used too. “Relative poverty” can be defined as having significantly less access to income and wealth than other members of society.

    “True poverty” is a condition in which a person or community is deprived of, or lacks the essentials for a minimum standard of well-being and life. Since poverty is understood in many senses, these essentials may be material resources such as food, safe drinking water, and shelter, or they may be social resources such as access to information, education, health care, social status, political power, or the opportunity to develop meaningful connections with other people in society.

  3. Greetings, Anon –

    Thanks for your comments. I agree whole heartedly that those who are capable of earning an income should do so. It’s our duty to our family and to society. That’s why we didn’t let our situation drag on longer than we did. We were attempting to find new careers–my husband as a chaplain, and myself as a freelance writer. Things weren’t snapping along as quickly as we’d hoped, so we’ve moved on to Plan B. (Incidentally, our income when working at the school met less than half of our barest minimum expenses–food, health care, utilities, insurance–so we have been living on far less than we needed since last June. I hope that does not sound like I am complaining, I truly do not intend to. I am exceedingly grateful for the savings that we were able to use to make up the difference, and I absolutely never considered us to be poor.)

    Actually, I’m not exaggerating about the tattered tights and shoes, though I can see why it would seem so. My girls play hard, so they tend to go through things rather quickly. I did not mean to imply that we deserved anyone’s sympathy, nor did I mean to complain–my intention was actually to reveal the pettiness of my own heart that I cared about something so trivial. I’m sorry that I didn’t get that across very well. Perhaps I’m not as articulate as I’d like to be.

    This post was not about poverty–I don’t believe I ever used that word, in this post, or in any conversations outside of this blog to describe our situation. I wrote this post about the discouragement of my husband and my struggle to know how to react to it when I was coming from a place of discouragement myself.

    Again, thank you for your comments. I don’t think we disagree at all.

  4. Pingback: Dignified? Don’t Think So. « for better, for worse, for life

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