For the past several years, almost every date night involves one question coming up. Some nights we cozy up around an intimate table tucked in the corner of our favorite tapas restaurant. Conversation ebbs and flows around our routine topics: kids, work, church activities, dreams. As I sit across from my husband, a look of wild abandon begins to fill his eyes as he leans back in the booth and slowly crosses his legs. This is when I know the question is coming.
“Would you ever consider moving to ______?”
The above blank is filled in with some exotic, far off country. A place where suits and ties are traded in for hiking boots and sunscreen. A land where poor farmers need loans to sustain their families, where kids run wild and free in grassy plains, where babies sleep under thatched roofs and mosquito netting at night. His wonder-lust dream began in a quaint apartment in Northern Switzerland six years ago. Collectively we had decided to spend his last semester of graduate school studying abroad. Spending most of my childhood traveling internationally with a peace organization, it didn’t take long to convince me we should take our three tiny children to Europe. Exhausted by the demands of a full-time MBA program, images of grandeur in the Swiss Alps brought us an escape. Though a world traveler myself, Michael had barely left the country, apart from our honeymoon to the British Virgin Islands.
Packing our bags and loading our tiny humans onto a sea-crossing plane, we were excited about the adventure that lay ahead. The first weeks were rough navigating lost luggage, a non-English speaking village, and jet-lagged kids. Learning to ride multiple buses into school left Michael stretched, questioning whether he was cut out for an international lifestyle.
As the days turned into weeks, and the weeks turned into months, I witnessed Michael’s eyes being opened to the broad, colorful world around him. It was like watching him fall in love for the very first time all over again. A long-time prayer of mine was being answered – he was developing a global worldview, a life beyond the borders of the great state of Texas.
After trying to secure a job abroad, we returned to the states with this new passion for the world. Knowing God would take us somewhere, we waited to see which quadrant of the map we would land. That May he was offered a job in Oregon. It was not quite Switzerland, but new territory to us; a place to conquer and make a new life. Jumping at the chance to live back in a picturesque setting full of new people, places, and amazing surroundings, we have settled into life here over the past several years. As routine has set in, the date night question has begun to pop up with renewed frequency.
“Would you ever consider moving to _______”?
Sometimes the blank is filled with Papua New Guinea, Ghana, or Nepal. Occasionally Italy, Romania, or Singapore. In these initial moments, I have trained myself to stay quiet, keep my opinions to myself. To just let him dream. My response is always the same: “It never hurts to apply.” It has become my go-to phrase. My auto-reply laced in love.
Knowing that 99% of the time he won’t get an offer for the job. Not because I don’t think he is worthy. I will be the first to admit I am married to one of the smartest, wisest, and most ridiculously handsome men alive. His resume is impressive, his experience unmatched to many. Landing international jobs is extremely difficult and hard to come by. If he were to apply and receive an offer we would have to discuss, pray, and then mutually decide if this is really the direction God wants us to take.
About eighteen months ago an opportunity presented itself for Michael to do a short-term volunteer trip. Traveling to Egypt he would be providing counsel and recommendations to lending agencies, equipping them to better support local farmers and businesses. He jumped at this opportunity to use his job skills to help improve a global community and the application was filled out.
At that time, as it still is today, Egypt was not the safest place for a fair-skinned American man traveling alone. It only took about two hours, and a CNN internet search, for me to have a long list of reasons why this was dangerous and a mistake. I committed to praying about these worries for a couple of days before squelching his dreams of going. Sitting and spinning, agonizing and over-analyzing I became afraid. Afraid to release my husband to an unknown land. Afraid of terrorists and Ebola. Afraid of being without him for that long. Afraid that he would love it and want to move there.
After my two-day prayer period, I felt a nudge to release him to go. My fears would have to stay at bay (though I did wonder if he could at least pack a gun). He was made for this trip. It was all he had ever wanted to do.
The day came to send him off onto his great short-term adventure. I sat down one night pondering his experience, and this thought permeated my brain…
“What if I became the biggest obstacle to my husband’s dreams?”
If we are honest with ourselves, most of us would admit that we want a spouse who knows how to dream big. We are turned off by a lackluster attitude, discouraged by a zealot turned content. Couples love to dream together about the next adventure, the next chapter. We long to spread our wings, to unify our hopes and dreams. It keeps the spark alive. It casts vision. It communicates a desire to grow and reach our potential. It is fun to sit across the date night dinner table together, casting our net wide for what we want our future to be.
But oftentimes when the dream starts to become a reality…we squelch it. Not intentionally, or out of ill feelings, but because we covet a life of safety and ease. We desire consistency, calm waters, security. We do everything to create a life of routine and order.
Without realizing it, sometimes we can become our spouse’s greatest obstacle to actually realizing their dreams.
This plays out in families of all different dynamics. For me, it is my husband’s dream for adventure. For Michael, it was my calling to work in youth ministry. For others it is a mom wanting to go back to school, requiring her husband to give more of himself at home. It can be a grown child who dreams of being an overseas missionary are contrary to the “live close to home and have grand babies” dream her parents had for her. It could be one partner starting a new job opportunity, learning a new trade, or joining a new community group. In every marriage there are two people with two sets of dreams. The question becomes, “What is our role to play when our dreams look different? How can we best support one another to live out our God-ordained purpose?”
When God created Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden He said that Eve was created to be a helper to Adam. During the first few years of parenthood, I directly related this verse to mean that we were to help share the load of dirty diapers, sleepless nights, and house honey-dos. The longer we are married and the more we dream together, I have come to realize that God’s intention for this verse wasn’t just so that we would split the physical day-to-day duties of life.
We were created to help one another live out the purposes God has planned for us.
We were all created with gifts, talents, inclinations, and dreams. Experiences throughout our life have shaped our loves and preferences. Though married, we are still unique, individual people, predestined to do work God created for us to do. But we are a team. A helper. A journey-mate. Partnering together, God will lead us to seasons of growing and stretching, creating unity and the ability to live out our callings together. Side by side. And through the encouragement and support of one another.
So ask this to one another: “What are some things I feel like God has created me to do?” and “How can I best support you in reaching your potential for God’s kingdom?”
I encourage you to start dreaming together. And as you do, it never hurts to go ahead and apply. You might not get the grand adventure, but you will receive the joy of affirming the heart of your helper. And in turn, they can encourage your passion in whatever you yearn to do.