Pam and I have always had a bit of an unusual relationship. Although we had a few things in common – both our fathers were orphans, for example; both of us are extremely driven individuals – there are wide differences in our backgrounds. Pam was raised in a large, raucous family with a myriad of social connections in the boonies of south-western Ontario; I was raised in a small nuclear family with almost no social connection in the heart of Canada’s largest city. She gave her heart wholly to Christ when she was six, and has always lived a life of quiet devotion to Him, I accepted Christ when I was 27 and only after I had exhausted all other options.
We both shared a conviction that having children would be the most important thing we would ever undertake, and devoted ourselves to the task. Pam gave up her profession for five years to bear and raise them when we were young. We gave up our first house in the inflation crisis of the early 80s rather than have her go back to work. We read widely on childraising, and read constantly with our own children; exposing them to everything we could to expand their knowledge base at an early age.
We insisted on a proper bedtime each night, often giving up our social activities in the evening to do so. We refused to let them go to daycare, even after Pam went back to work, though it meant sometimes she would work all night and then take care of the children all day until I got home. When they were older and went to school, Pam would work evenings and nights when I could be home with them and slept days when they were at school.
It was an exhausting and sometimes alienating schedule. Because of our insistence on tithing, because we self-financed two years of overseas missionary work, because we opted to send our children to a Christian school, because we put aside a monthly amount for our children’s post secondary education, we were a lot poorer than many of our peers. To compensate we bought older houses that I would then spend years renovating. The renovations allowed me to be near to my children and be productive in the long hours that I would be looking after them while Pam was at work. Selling these renovated houses allowed us to provide a lifestyle for our children that was in no way inferior to that of their friends.
The egalitarian nature of our relationship did not go unnoticed by others. Pam came under scrutiny and criticism from her female peers for maintaining a profession instead of retiring to raise children. I was under constant pressure to ‘go out with the boys,’ something that my modified working/househusband role would not allow. The renovations, missionary service years and childraising responsibilities also meant that I had no opportunity to pursue any positions of added responsibility in my own profession. I remain what I was when I began this career 35 years ago, a simple classroom teacher.
As our eldest son pointed out in a recent blog (http://www.jonandnic.com/topics/faith-ministry/et-ducit-mundum-per-luce), the Lord’s purpose for our lives needs no special direction to maintain. Pam and I have simply done the things that lay before us to do, asking the Lord only to bless and correct us. This is what has led us, at our age, to Malaysia. This week Pam flies to Thailand for a conference on community health evangelism. She has just completed another level of training in that field, and just finished writing a 10,000 word proposal to the Dutch government for community health funding for Cambodia. I continue to be virtually her only financial support for all of this good work. Ours is an unusual commitment to Christ, and one that many do not understand, not even in our own church.
But we remain convinced that this is the path the Lord would have us walk. We are not especially strong Christians. We fight and complain, argue and grow frustrated. We question the Lord’s compassion and doubt our own decisions. But we remain committed to each other and to the Lord, and are doing all that we can with our limited resources to serve Him where he has called us, in the way that He appears to direct. If that makes us a little bit strange, then that must be what He intended.