So now, hopefully you have started your list of observations about your spouse's likes and dislikes, hopes and desires, drives and discouragements, weaknesses and strengths. Does she/he like the plates rinsed before being put in the dishwasher? Does she/he want to always be 5 minutes early to an event? What does she/he like to do that maybe doesn't really appeal to you? (I am not saying to go along with sinful behaviors).
We could go on and on giving examples, but you should have come up with at least 30 things and it should be ongoing that you observe and make a study of your spouse. You should be discovering things all the time.
When a person feels that their heart is being drawn to the mission field, there is usually a time of preparation in which you learn about the people, their language, and especially the colloquialisms or idioms of their language (terms or phrases peculiar to that culture). It is important to know what types of things could offend or cause misunderstanding (e.g., not eating the food they sacrificially made for you, or like my wife and I discovered when we lived in a foreign country, not arriving early to a birthday party).
Now why would we work so hard at doing this for the mission field in which two cultures are coming together and not work hard at studying our spouse and understanding his/her "culture"? When one thinks about it, marriage is really two, sometimes very different, cultures of families coming together. We may even be from the same community and have many things in common. Yet each family is different, not to mention each personality within a family.
So then, we should also consider our spouse our mission. I believe that is the charge that Peter gives the husbands to "...live with your wives in an understanding way..." I Peter 3:7, and wives are told to be “a helper suitable for him". Gen. 2:18
Now , how can you live with your wife in an understanding way or be a helper to your husband if you don't consciously study them and know them? It would be like going into a foreign country completely ignorant of their ways and intent on pushing your ways on them (not talking of changing the Gospel here). Believe me, you will end up offending and hurting more than helping them until you learn how best to blend in and become a part of the culture. This takes knowledge, hard work, and persistence (especially learning the language and idioms!).
That is the purpose for which to use your ever increasing list. Again, it would do no good, and maybe do harm, for a missionary to know what the culture expects and yet ignore it and blunder around like a "bull in a fine china shop". I'm sure the bull thinks he is doing a great job, but the owners of the shop are angry and in turmoil.
Many marriages experience the "bull in china shop" moments (sometime way too much of the time) in the marriage. I think the perpetuating problem is that, like the person intent on going to the mission field in a self-centered way, many (maybe most?) marriages start off this way (even before marriage in the dating relationship). When a person is serious about someone being a future spouse, the list should commence. But too often we are more concerned about how we "look" to the other person. We start off "self-focused", even doing things or looking a certain way to get that person to like us (idolatry, really).
So, if you are like me, you are going to need to work hard at what I Cor. 10:24 instructs us to do; "Let no one seek his own good, but that of his neighbor."
Who is your closest neighbor? Your spouse and family.
In addition, there is a mystery that Paul seems to indicate when husbands love their wives selflessly. You are actually loving on Christ's Church Eph. 5:28-30, of which you are a part. So in essence, if you are a Christian, the selfless love you are extending affects you because you are part of the body of Christ.
So in conclusion, if you think highly of missionaries and how they are thoroughly equipped and prepared for the mission field, don't forget the mission God has set right before you!
May God help us to glorify Him in our relationships.
Pastor Robert was born in San Antonio but came back to Northeast MO where his mother's family has roots. He received his B.S. in Education from Asbury University in 1988. He and his wife Kerri have raised three children and have enjoyed starting a U-Pick blueberry farm. Robert has always been passionate about teaching God's Word and it has been a joy for him to lead the saints at Faith Baptist Church since 2015.