Sacrifice is probably one of the last words I think of when I think about marriage. In reality, however, sacrifice and marriage are fused together; impossible to separate.
My husband and I are a missionary family with FOCUS. As such, our life involves a fair amount of sacrifice. In the four years we've been married, we've lived in three different states. Moving is a sacrifice. Fundraising your salary is a sacrifice. Solo parenting weekends while my husband is on retreat are a cross to bear. Late nights without him home, because a student is in crisis, are a sacrifice. There are many beautiful moments involved in being in ministry together, but there is also much sacrifice.
The thing about sacrifice is that it can go one of two ways: for a purpose, giving it dignity and meaning, or begrudgingly, making one bitter and resentful. In our time in ministry I've experienced both when these trials have been asked of us.
What I've found, time and again, is that life is more beautiful, our marriage grows deeper, and ministry is more fruitful when we understand and remember the meaning of our sacrifices.
No one forced my husband and I into ministry together, just as no one forced us into marriage. Whether your marriage involves active ministry or not, it will certainly involve sacrifice. When the dirty laundry piles up or the kids are acting like animals at the zoo, I remind myself to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Seeing it reminds me that these trials and inconveniences aren't just about me--rather, they are for the Kingdom.
At any given moment, my husband is on campus with a student because that student needs a listening ear or an invitation to know and be loved by Jesus. We move around the country because we trust in the guidance of the Holy Spirit and our superiors to place us on the campus where we--with our own unique gifts and shortcomings--are most needed, where our great passion for what we do will touch the hearts and souls of those we come in contact with.
That isn't to say that it is all hearts and rainbows when I look at the bigger picture. The laundry still piles up; the budget gets out of whack; the kids still act like animals. But instead of being bitter about my own frustrations or unmet desires, I see the purpose, the reason, behind it all. I ask myself hard questions instead of just throwing myself a pity-party about the still-unwashed dishes.
Would I rather have my husband home to help me with bedtime, or on campus sharing Jesus with someone who has literally never heard about him before? Would I rather be caught up on the laundry, or take that time to teach my toddler the alphabet? When I can put my sacrifices in context it helps me "offer it up," as the old saying goes.
Not only does this practice make my days easier; it makes my marriage better, too. Rather than being bitter about when my husband does finally come home, I'm excited for his arrival, eager to hear about the work he's done, the students he's befriended and the friendships he is forming.
In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus asked His Father to let the cup pass from Him, to not have to endure the struggles and sacrifices of the crucifixion. But ultimately He prayed, "still, not my will but yours be done" (Luke 22:42).
Following His example, we can take the hardships of our marriages to the Father and ask Him to remove them from us, but we must also cede control to His will. If He doesn't remove the struggles we can choose to offer them back to Him, to toil for the Kingdom, making a sweet aroma out of married life's trying sacrifices.
About the Author: Amanda Sloan is a missionary spouse serving alongside her husband, Anthony, with the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS). Amanda is also the author of Worthy: See Yourself as God Sees You and the blog Worthy of Agape. In between tea parties and jumping jacks with her two daughters, Amanda enjoys hiking, exploring the outdoors, or stealing away with the computer to write.