The baby was crying, our three other young children needed to be put to bed, and I was exhausted.
As I tried to wrap my mind around the impossible task before me, all I could hear in my mind were the last words of my husband (who was currently serving as our bishop) as he walked out the door that evening: “I’ll be at the pool with the priests. Tim is teaching the boys how to scuba dive.”
“Really?” I thought to myself. “I’m here juggling four children, and you’re off learning to scuba dive? How is this fair?”
Later that evening when Bruce walked in the door, he met one tired wife.
“How did your evening go?” he asked.
In tears, I told him how hard it had been to put four children, including a fussy baby, to bed knowing that he was off learning how to scuba dive. I could understand him leaving if someone in the ward was facing a crisis, yes. But scuba diving? Not so much.
Bruce sat down beside me. “I’m sorry it was hard for you. I didn’t go for the scuba diving. I didn’t even know if I would get into the pool. I went for two young men.”
He told me he had felt strongly he should attend this event because two priests who hadn’t attended church or activities for a long time were going to be there. He shared that he had been able to talk to them that evening, strengthening his relationship with them and helping them integrate with the others.
My heart softened, and I was reminded that him being called to serve as a bishop while also being a husband and father required a sacrifice from both of us.
Whether your spouse serves as a Relief Society president, a stake president, or a bishop—or in any busy calling in the Church—there will be hard and lonely times. But there will also be great blessings. It’s good to acknowledge both.
But how can we look for the blessings of callings when the day-to-day challenges in life are real? Here are a few insights that have helped me through the years.
Jacob testified that “the Spirit speaketh the truth and lieth not. Wherefore, it speaketh of things as they really are” (Jacob 4:13).
I’ve often heard men stand at the pulpit and declare, “Through all my years of Church service, my wife has never once complained.”
Whenever I’ve heard this, I have always silently cringed. I feel that a healthy husband-wife relationship requires honesty, ongoing conversations about “things as they really are,” and discussions about what is working and what could be improved while juggling family life and callings.
The “scuba diving event” that I described above became a catalyst for Bruce and me to discuss “things as they really are.” He was able to share how exhausted he was after a long commute and day of work, and the difficulty of seeing his family for only a short time before needing to go support others. And I was able to share my struggles after a long day of taking care of four children and then facing the evening alone when they (and I!) were tired and cranky.
One evening, Bruce came home for a quick dinner so that he could be at the church for an evening of meetings with ward members. He realized that I was not feeling well and needed help. He ended up praying and feeling the Spirit confirm his desire to cancel his meetings and serve at home.
I was grateful for an additional witness that I was seen by my Heavenly Father and loved and supported by Bruce.
Communicating honestly, openly, and respectfully brings more compassion and understanding for each other, and a greater sense of unity in marriage.
It was helpful for me to remember that a calling is a sacred assignment from the Lord to bring others to Him.
The callings of husband and wife, father and mother, are eternal and are of first importance. However, for a certain time we may be asked to sacrifice some time with family to serve others. Spiritual gifts will be key in helping you know how to meet important needs of each other and of your children while serving in the Church.
When your spouse was set apart for their calling, hands were laid on his or her head, giving them spiritual gifts from their Heavenly Father that they needed to magnify their calling. You will also need spiritual gifts to be able to fulfill the extra responsibilities that will be yours. Reach out in humility to your Heavenly Father. Consider asking for a priesthood blessing so that you may also receive the gifts you will need.
Perhaps you might seek gifts of strength, patience, and wisdom. Praying to have your ears opened to hear Him and your eyes opened to notice blessings you are receiving can help you know that Heavenly Father and the Savior are aware of you.
Our third child was born while we were living in Germany and Bruce was serving as branch president. I had three children under the age of three to care for while he served. I often felt isolated and alone. One Sunday after teaching a Relief Society lesson, I received a clear impression: “The Lord loves a plodder.”
That gift of personal revelation let me know that the Lord recognized my struggle. It gave me the hope and strength I needed to keep going, even if I was just plodding along.
How can we support our spouses when they serve in busy callings? Perhaps a more helpful question is, how can husbands and wives support each other as equal partners, no matter who has what calling?
Simple questions such as “How can I support you with the time I have available?” and “What is most important to you?” can make all the difference. For example, I had an exercise class a few nights a week that allowed me to get out of the house, and Bruce tried to schedule meetings so he could be home in time for me to attend those classes.
You can also get help from those outside the home. Our fourth child was born while Bruce served as a bishop, and I needed help at home! Women in the ward offered to take care of our baby for two hours each Sunday while I served as Primary chorister. We also hired a babysitter every Friday night so we could take a break from life’s challenges to relax, laugh, and enjoy each other’s company.
There are always ways to support each other. Even years later while Bruce was serving as a General Authority and coping with health challenges, he still wanted to support me when I served as a Sunday School teacher. He would have discussions with me about upcoming lessons, and every Sunday when he was available, he would help me get needed supplies, set up the classroom, and offer thoughtful comments in class. Although he was limited in his time and energy, he was unlimited in his desire to support me.
Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught that “every calling provides an opportunity to serve and to grow. The Lord organized the Church in a way that offers each member an opportunity for service, which, in turn, leads to personal spiritual growth.”1
And that includes growth for you too! Not just your spouse. You can grow and be refined together as you encounter new opportunities and learn to thrive in the Lord’s work.
Callings require sacrifice, but they are also meant to bless you and your family in numerous ways.2
As Bruce and I looked for opportunities to serve together (and each other), our marriage was strengthened. Our love and appreciation for each other grew as we ministered together. We became sounding boards for each other when we were wrestling with decisions in our callings and needed another perspective. And we came to view ourselves as a team and learned to appreciate and draw upon each other’s unique gifts and growing testimonies. We ultimately became each other’s refuge from the storms of life.
Even now, years later, I still feel so many blessings entering my life because of our experiences with busy callings. One of many is the knowledge I’ve received that God is mindful of us and our circumstances. As I strove to support my spouse in serving in the Savior’s Church, I came to know that Heavenly Father is aware of every sacrifice, every behind-the-scenes effort, and every prayer for help that I’ve offered, and I have experienced His strength and love and guidance throughout my life.