About two years ago, Vicki and I decided to do the Alpha Marriage course with a couple in the church because, frankly, we thought they needed the help. The evening arrived, we cooked some great food, we put on the DVD and watched a very well spoken couple pontificate on marriage.
Obviously, having been married for over twelve years there was very little that we could learn from these posh types, and so I sat smugly and daydreamed about my own sense of marital bliss.
Once the DVD had finished, we went and sat in the kitchen while the other couple sat in the front room. I thought it would be best if we were in the kitchen so that the other couple didn’t have access to sharp knives and frying pans.
We looked at the questions and I made a sweeping statement about how easy our first three years in Manchester had been. Vicki broke down in tears.
So it turns out that moving city, church, and job with an 8 week old baby, a two year old toddler and a husband who’s very focussed on a church plant may not be quite as simple as I thought. It’s also worth noting that after 18 months in Manchester, we bought a house that required a lot of DIY (DIY for me involves shouting swear words at wall paper as it peels back off the wall). I was out most evenings, and when I was home I wasn’t exactly present.
As we talked, I realised that Vicki had got her head down and battled through, but there were some war wounds. We actually hadn’t spent a great deal of time together, and when we did have some time alone we were usually both exhausted. Vicki had gone back to work as a nurse a year after we moved, and so we both worked part time and juggled the kids between us. Vicki had to learn a whole new ward and make friends on a large team with a high staff turnover. The fact that both of us were part-time also led to some financial pressure. It was easily manageable, and every parent of small children wonders where the money goes too, but added to all the other small pressures…..well let’s just say it was uncomfortable, although I appear not to have noticed!
We grew CCM:City on our hospitality. That’s probably our biggest gift. Vicki cooks awesome food and I keep the wine flowing. Consequently, we had people over all the time. Some of them are now good friends, but a number of them we never saw again. This didn’t bother me at all ,but I discovered that every time we had someone over that Vicki liked, her hopes would go up that she had found someone she connected with. Every time that person or couple didn’t join the church, it was another tiny disappointment on top of other disappointments.
What followed that evening of crying was a long conversation over a few months, where we made adjustments to how we ran our lives. Both of the kids went full time at school and we had some time to breathe. Life now is a great deal simpler because we decided our marriage and family need to come first. This doesn’t mean we stopped working hard on the church, if anything we work harder now than we did two years ago, it just means that we put as much effort into each other and the kids. That sounds like I am trying to save face as I tell this story, but actually as we organised ourselves better, as the kids went full time at school and I tried not to be an ignorant schmuck we found more time and energy.
As I look back I wonder would I change anything?
I clearly needed to be more attentive, ask better questions and talk about my own internal thought processes. I would certainly counsel caution to anyone who wanted to move a young family so that they could church plant. I would tell them to work as hard at their marriage as they do on the church, and I’d warn them that in the early days a rejection of your church feels like a rejection of yourself. I made peace with that by having a strong sense of calling and a monstrous ego, but it was much tougher for Vicki.
Having said all that, we did the best we could and made the best decisions we could at the time. We are still here and we are doing well.