I never imagined I would look upon the first two years of our marriage with such fondness. We were two broke college kids living over 800 miles from home. My husband had been there for college for a couple of years already, but I had no one there but him. We were both strong and stubborn, and learning to compromise while navigating our new roles as husband and wife was sometimes quite ugly.
We lived in a beautiful town-Joplin, Missouri-but I couldn’t see the positives at the time. I called it “Misery” because all I wanted was to be home in Michigan. To me it was a burdensome detour on the way to the rest of my life. In hindsight I know I was bitter toward my husband because I had to move there so he could finish his degree. It hadn’t been my plan. I had a university in Michigan picked out. I was already accepted and had scholarships waiting for me.
I knew before I married him that moving to Missouri for a time with him would be necessary, but as I said, I was stubborn and I would have preferred to have things my way-a trait that I unfortunately still haven’t grown out of. My life growing up was out of control and chaotic with no stability. This left me wanting to control everything, which has caused me more problems and stress in life than if I had just relinquished control to someone as capable, or more capable.
In Missouri I could only see what I was being kept from-my family, my college, my state, my plan. I looked to the future and what I would do when I got back to Michigan. Then my life could really start. It is good to plan for the future and have goals, but not at the expense of the present. This was a toxic looking ahead.
This push in me led, not surprisingly, to some hasty decisions that had very negative results. As soon as my husband graduated Bible College, we left for Michigan. We had been offered a position at a small church with someone my husband had known for a very long time, and I thought it was the perfect, safe opportunity to ease into ministry, as I was still nervous about being a pastor’s wife. My husband was hesitant. He wanted to stay a little longer to be mentored by our pastor in Joplin, who, incidentally, told us that he didn’t feel we should go yet. I am embarrassed to admit that I pushed for it against all of this, and my husband, wanting me to be happy, took me back “home.”
As is so often the case when we make decisions based on emotion, and ignore wise counsel, things did not turn out well. We left the position with hurt and hard feelings, and it set us back in ministry for years. Instead of feeling better about being in ministry with my husband, I felt even more unsure of it. It did something in him too. He had been passionate about becoming a minister and the light in him faded some. He had had such high hopes for stepping into a role as pastor, and it was nothing like he had imagined.
Through the years we have healed. We are involved in ministry again, as youth pastors, and my husband takes every opportunity he can to preach. God is like that. In His infinite Grace, he restores the things we ruin. The question I have asked myself often though, and that I find myself for some reason dwelling on recently is-if not for that one bad decision-how would our lives have been different? I visualize in my mind a starting point with many different paths. There is one that staying in Joplin a few more years would have taken us on, and one that moving back to Michigan when we did took us on. In my mind they veer off into completely different directions. Would they actually have?
The point I started with is this-Joplin was great. I just couldn’t see it. In hindsight, my mind’s eye sees it differently than when I was living it. We were all young and all had the whole future ahead of us. Every one of our couple friends seemed happy and full of hope. It was a special time. The blessings outweighed the negatives, but I refused to see it. I found a great college in the city that I ended up loving. I did attend that state university in Michigan and missed my Missouri Southern.
My ungratefulness and inability to count my blessings early in life cost me. Just how much, I’ll never know, but definitely the joy and excitement I could have had the first couple years of my marriage. Would I change a lot? No. I would still want the most important things to be the same-the same husband and the four best kids who were ever created, and with whom I have had the privilege of staying home as to not miss a moment.
What Joplin taught me though, unfortunately in a big way, was to be grateful and to be content where I am placed, and to not move onto the next thing until I am directed by Someone much wiser than I. I’m not going to lie, 16 years later I am still working on it. I gain more and more tools along the way to help me count my blessings instead of my disappointments, and I try to let God make my decisions. Things go smoother that way.