Rattlesnake Grade Saves Marriage!

sites_annetteAnnette Sites, Jerusalem Chapel (Churchville, Va.)

There is a curve in a road in the middle of nowhere going toward Paradise–Oregon, that is. That curve and 100 other curves on a winding highway is known to the locals as Rattlesnake Grade. What makes this grade one of memory for me is two-fold.

  1. First, there are no guard rails. If your car veers a bit too far to the right, you’ll just plummet into the valley below.
  2. Secondly, this winding mountain road saved our marriage. Well, actually, my husband was wise enough to use this rattlesnake to get my attention!

Driving toward Paradise early in our married years, we knew we were nearing a place of peace and solace for a day away from the pressures of life and ministry. My husband would be looking forward to some time with the elk, deer, or bear who roamed the nearby mountains, and I was thrilled to have some time with my husband. As a busy pastor, he was often gone long hours while I stayed hom caring for our two daughters, both under the age of two. A day off together brought the promise of family time, connectedness, and adventure!

I’m not quite sure which particular curve on Rattlesnake Grade was the special spot, but one day as I was enjoying sharing my joys and woes, my husband sweetly turned to me and said, “I don’t mean this bad, but that’s all for church talk. I need to clear my mind so I can relax.”

I’d like to tell you that I just as sweetly replied, “Yes, dear!” But, no. I got my feelings hurt and maybe let a single tear escape. While trying to be strong and understand, I buttoned my lip, but soon found myself trying to find something else to talk about. The problem: much of my life revolved around things related to the church. My social life was at the church, my friends were at the church, even some of my co-workers went to the church. It soon became clear to us both that other than our kids, I had a hard time coming up with things to talk about with my husband that weren’t somehow interwoven with ministry.

With my husband’s gracious patience, I have learned when to shut off the “chatter valve” and when to just sit quietly and enjoy his company. It continues to be a challenge, however. For the past 19 years, I’ve been employed in the church office and also serve within the church leadership. Our friends, our church family, ministry issues, and church office items mix and mingle daily.

While not every couple has quite these same dynamics, there are similarities for any couple who work beside each other in ministry. When you live with the one who oversees you–whether in a volunteer position or as an employee–healthy boundaries set together will help to prevent ministry overload. Honest–and kind–dialogue is essential.

The perk to working and living with your boss is the flexibility. Today, my husband and I are traveling up I-81 to visit family for two birthday celebrations. While secluded with each other for hours of travel time, we made prior arrangements to bring along some work. Our car will become the church office, and my husband will become my boss. Decisions will be made and controversies brought to a conclusion.

Even though we’ll not be winding our way down a curvy mountain road, I have no doubt that at some point in our travels I will hear the words, “Okay, I’m done with business now. Alright?” With that, I’ll put my files away, take a deep breath, and by God’s grace switch gears from being an employee and co-laborer in ministry to a wife, mom, and daughter-in-law. What a great day for a birthday celebration and a little “peace of paradise!”

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