Dear Renita,
I have been called to minister the Word of God. However, in my prayer time, I have been told it is not my season to go forward. I know the Lord is transforming my character and integrity, and also developing strength within me. Also, my husband does not accept my calling. He does not feel that the Lord would call me to do something without letting him know in his spirit, if we are one. He also believes that when a person is called, they should be near-perfect and not make many mistakes. I received this calling in 1998 and to this day, I have been told, "not yet, be patient." I would like to know if you know any other women who have encountered this situation, and how they handled it. I feel as though I am walking around on pins and needles because anything I do wrong is judged harshly because I have told him about the calling.
--Not Yet, Be Patient

Dear "Be Patient,"
Yours is as much a question about how to discern the voice of God as it is one about how to make sense of a relationship, which is the usual topic of this column. Come to think about it, both of these dilemmas, listening for God and negotiating romance, require the same set of interior skills. You have to be patient enough to allow God and time to work those things out that are beyond your control, and you have to be prepared to defy convention and trust the prompting of your heart even when you can't explain fully to others where things will end up. It's a process, and you are wise to recognize that.

Sometimes it's difficult to discern the voice of God above the din of opinions coming at you from those you love and trust. Your husband feels that because he's your husband God would (perhaps should?) reveal to him what God is saying to you. I can only suppose that your husband bases his argument on some rather narrow readings of scripture about a husband's authority over his wife. But there are examples in the Bible where messengers of God revealed things to wives (Hannah and Mary, for example) without consulting their husbands. An angel did later appear to Mary's betrothed husband, Joseph, to reassure him that what God was doing in Mary was authentic. But you can bet that it was as much his love for Mary as it was the reassurance of the angel that quieted Joseph's doubts and convinced him to walk with Mary through this special time in her life.

Here is where you will have to trust that God will speak to your husband's heart and calm what no doubt are his fears about what it means to be married to a woman in ministry, to a woman different from other women, to a woman like Mary, whose destiny brings joy and pain to the family. The story of Mary tells us that when God calls one partner, God calls both partners. Like Joseph, your husband is about to learn that God's call to one spouse to follow the call of ministry is in many respects a call to both spouses to grow and to mature in the faith.

Your journey into ministry is similar to that of many women over the centuries, who have had to struggle for the right to be used by God despite the voice of convention, tradition, customs, and those in power. Many of them succeeded, but not without a struggle. But they did not all go on to become pastors of major pulpits or evangelists with international reputations. These women understood that sometimes God's call is to be as much a ministering presence wherever you are as it is a call to an office or position in the church as a "minister."

Of course, seven years feel like a long time between the first time you heard God speaking to your heart about ministry and now. But in your own prayer time, you say, you've heard God say that it's not your season to go forward. And ultimately that voice is the only voice you must obey and trust. God knows best and God knows when. You can be sure that these seven years have not been a waste.

While it may feel like you're in a holding pattern, you're actually making great strides toward your destiny. The work you're doing in your marriage and the things you're discovering in your study and prayer time will only make you a better and more effective minister when you finally take that big step. You will be able to speak more effectively about waiting and trusting God through the dark and uncertain times while working through marriage and family issues. If your husband refuses to accept ministry as your destiny, you will have some tough decisions to make. Who will it be: God or your husband? If, however, your husband does as Joseph did and acquiesces to God's call upon his wife's life, you will find yourself entering ministry with a marriage strong enough to endure the mountains and valleys of ministry. Whatever happens, remember: Waiting on God is never a waste of time.

Finally, you may want to consider reading my book about my journey as a woman in ministry: Listening for God: A Minister's Journey Through Silence and Doubt (Simon & Schuster).

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