Part of the process of becoming appointed by the missions agency we will be working for in Italy, and sponsored by our “sending church,” was to go through extensive counseling. This was primarily a requirement for Amy and I, although it was suggested for the children, too. I never knew you could get so much free counseling for just saying you wanted to be a missionary.
This wasn’t easy. There were times I looked forward to the next session because at times Amy and I could barely talk to each other in the times between. It was surreal. During these scheduled moments with our Christian counselor everything made sense. Scripture made sense. Amy made sense. God made sense. I made notes for what to say in times when our counselor wasn’t with us and the arrows started to fly. But usually, this unraveled as we went back to the trenches.
Amy told me once during this period of counseling, “I don’t want to go to Italy with you.” That seemed like a pretty clear message. It hurt, too. In the moment, it felt gut-wrenching and final. And, to be honest, my thought was, What can I do to make her get on that plane?
It didn’t make any sense to me why I would need to convince a girl to go to Italy. But, if I was hearing her correctly, the problem wasn’t as much with Italy as it was with me. She might go with someone else, I was guessing. Not me. My thought then was, What can I change about myself to get her on that plane?
There was no quick fix. And, it wasn’t about doing what it took to get her on the plane. It was about our life together. Admittedly, seeing this took some time because I really wanted to go make disciples in Italy. But, I was blind to how this looked for her. I was insensitive to what she was looking for in me.
She spelled it out for me in these counseling sessions. The thought of uprooting her life for the sake of “the Call” was immobilizing her. Tearing up roots from familiar soil seemed too risky to her. Especially with a bumbling, disorganized, daydreamer like me. Those are not her words. But close. I admit, she is the type I feel God would call to a strategic global work. I’m surprised He approached me about it at all.
So, back to her words, I don’t want to go to Italy with you. What was it about me that wasn’t making her feel safe? It dealt directly with this “root” issue. And, she felt that our relational roots were not strong enough to handle being uprooted from life.
For one, she worried that she wouldn’t be enough for me once we landed in Italy. She saw the look in my eyes. She heard me talk. For twelve years, she listened to me dream. What if she changed everything to go with me across the ocean and lost me to the mistress that is Italy? What if its fatal charm seduced me away from her? What if the adventure became more desirable than her?
It really hurt to hear these painful questions come to the surface even in sanctioned times of counseling. The heart of the problem was TRUST. Had I compromised her trust in me so much over the years that she was worried about going to Italy where many wives would agree to go before finding out it was actually for the purpose of missions?
Part of working through these fears was building a vision for what missions would look like as a couple. The marriage part of missions. The part where we woke up together on the field. What would life be like in our Italian apartment? How would we relate to each other in a foreign land?
Helping Amy see that my primary adventure and ministry in Italy would be navigating as a family I could see she began to breathe again. When we began to talk about figuring out the transit system together and I still had that hunger in my eyes she began to believe me. I showed her that I wasn’t interested in dragging her along so I could live out my purpose in life. And, my primary “ministry” in Italy would be loving her, discipling my kids, and following Jesus.
The truth about tearing up roots is believers are called to do this as a daily part of following Jesus. We are immigrants looking for a home everywhere we go. We are sojourners. As a believing family, the same thing is true. We are called to Go and we go. But, does God intend for it to be painful every time we obey?
What makes it easier is knowing that the roots we refuse to tear up are the ones we are building in our marriage. If those roots are strong, we could go anywhere in the world and still feel at home. We could answer any call and still board a plane. Our roots are in each other. Our roots are in Christ. We are one. Firmly planted in the soil of unity. Growing daily in the enriched vegetation of trust and love.