My husband and I have a long history of full-time Christian service. We met through a campus missionary organization and independently joined the staff of that group. A year later, we both recognized that not only was our calling similar, but our attraction to each other was too! And so began an adventure of listening to God together.
When my husband felt that God was calling him to seminary, however, I balked. It meant another move and certain poverty for three years, so I was less than excited. But as we prayed about it for almost a year after he first mentioned it, I became as enthusiastic as he was. And although I couldn't take classes because someone had to care for our two little ones and earn some money, I felt that the call to seminary was a joint calling—mine as much as his. To this day, we refer to that time as "When we were in seminary…"
Following seminary, we took on a church plant. Again I say "we." For although my husband was the pastor who got the paycheck, I contributed as much emotional energy—and close to as much physical energy—to establish this church, which is now healthy and thriving.
Nice story, right? Good, happy ending. Uh, not quite—because it isn't the end.
Fast-forward 27 years to the present. About two years ago, my husband felt the same kind of pull that he'd felt when God called him to seminary. Through numerous trips overseas, he began to feel compelled to help the pastors he met there. He realized that his pastoral training and experience were abundant beyond imagination to pastors in poorer parts of the world who were lucky to own a Bible. So he wanted to go with a missionary organization that trains pastors internationally. This time, it took me no time to jump on the bandwagon. This ministry seemed a perfect fit for his abilities and passions, and although he had to raise support, I could provide much-needed stability until the funds were raised because I had a good, secure job. So, we saved money like crazy and he resigned as pastor of the church and joined the missionary organization.
All was going as planned until I suddenly lost my position when he had only 35 percent of his funds raised. We went from two paychecks to none since he can't start drawing a paycheck until he has 50 percent of it raised.
My first reaction was not panic but sorrow (the panic came later). I loved my job and felt it to be more than a job—a calling. It was exactly suited to my abilities and was not just a paycheck but a ministry. I was immediately offered another job to take the place of the one I'd lost, but I felt no peace or passion as I prayed about it—and I turned it down, which showed me how strongly I feel about calling. I had experienced what it meant to be called and didn't want to just go through the motions of obtaining employment merely for the paycheck.