A Move Toward Egalitarian Decision Making
by Susan Harris Howell
When I was growing up, families came and went from our community based on where the husband found employment. I don’t know of anyone who moved because the wife had a new job or promotion. I always assumed it would be the same for me: I’d marry someone, and we would settle in the place where he would find work. I assumed I might work outside the home, but only in an area where his job had already taken us, and only for the time his job kept us there.
Even after graduating college, marrying, and working while my husband attended seminary, I assumed his job would dictate where we lived and for what length of time. I was hesitant to mention my desire to enter graduate school as soon as he finished his degree. After all we didn’t know where the Lord would take us. Would there even be a graduate school where we would relocate. I felt that first we needed to follow God’s call for his ministry, then if a university was in that area I could further my education.
What I didn’t understand at the time, was that God’s call for us wasn’t synonymous with God’s call for my husband’s ministry. God could very well use my professional aspirations to guide us into the next phase of our lives. Once I came to this realization though, I found that my husband was of the same mind. In fact, once when he was asked by a friend where he would be looking for a church to pastor, I heard him say that his wife had put off school for the past several years, so my education now had priority over our relocating. I was so pleased that he valued my professional growth as much as his own.
Whether rightly or wrongly so, his affirmation helped me to believe my own dreams were legitimate.
Several years later, after we completed our formal education, we were again faced with the question of where to relocate and how to decide whose work should have priority. Should we move where he could find work? Should we move where I could find work? Should we wait until we were both guaranteed employment before moving for either one of us? Should we relocate based on whichever job promised more money? Should we take turns?
The solution, however, has not been as complicated as the question. We decided we would base relocation decisions on what we felt God leading us to do rather than making one job a higher priority than the other. As it turns out, we have moved when I have had a job, but my husband has not; we have also relocated when he had a job, but I did not. Most of those instances have resulted in each of us finding fulfilling work.
Our ministry and occupational decisions have been different than those of preceding generations and in some ways more complicated. Yet, in one way they are very much the same. Now as then, when faced with any decision, work-related or otherwise, the same approach should suffice: to seek God’s direction and be willing to work together out of love for each other and for the Lord.