Two Greedy Institutions

Balancing the Roles of Christian Officer and Christian Spouse

by COL Al Shine, USA, Ret & COL Don Snider, USA, Ret.

It was Thursday of a very intense and exciting week at White Sulphur Springs where we had been focusing on the role of the Christian officer (or officer-Christian) in his or her profession.

Through Paul's letter to the believers at Colossae, God challenges us that "just as we received Christ Jesus as Lord," we are called to "continue to live in him." This means that if we are military officers, we are to continue to live in Christ in the role of military officer.

But we also have other roles and if we are married, none is more important than that of spouse/parent.

Both institutions, the military profession and the family, are greedy; both demand an almost overwhelming commitment of time, thought, and physical and emotional energy. On this morning we divided the officers and the spouses for separate discussions of what each needed from the other and expected of themselves as they functioned in their particular roles as officer or spouse-Christians.

We sensed the definite leading of the Holy Spirit as we reconvened and shared responses from the two groups. The following is a brief summary of the comments. Obviously, the lists below are not all there is to be said on the topic, but we believe they include some important insights which, to some degree, are applicable to all members of the OCF family: 

All officers were male except one woman who was both reserve officer and spouse. She met with the spouses. The spouse group was all female, but one USAFA cadet was not married. All who were married had children.

From the spouses: 

  • We understand that life in the military is a calling from God, and that we are a part of it.
  • We need [especially from our spouse] recognition of the sacrifices we make as spouses of an officer-Christian. Examples:
    1. The cost to us of separations, temporary single parenting, sharing of the officer with his/her soldiers, the stress on the officer and its impact on the home, etc.
    2. The possibility that we might have to limit our career, education, or interests to fill our role as a military spouse.
  • Recognizing that the officer's service is a God-given calling and demands much of him/her, it is critical to the spouse that the officer at the same time show the spouse that she/he and the children are also a top priority. Some ways to do this include:
    1. Focused time, in which both the head and heart are engaged. These times need to be frequent, though not necessarily long.
    2. Including the spouse in decision making.
    3. Being a part of what is going on in the family, and sharing the burden of parenting, not just "That's you're area. You take care of it."
    4. Saying "no" to lesser priorities.
    5. Date nights.
    6. Affirming the spouse's role in their calling together.
    7. Perhaps summed up in the comment, "I need to feel that we are on the same team."

From the officers:

  • Work on making career decisions together with spouses.
    1. We want and need her input.
      a. She is the "helper suitable" that God gave us (Gen 2:18-25).
      b. She has insights we do not (especially regarding the needs of the children).
    2. 2. The process of the decision making is often as important as the outcome, especially including the importance of praying together.
  • How can the officer show his love and the priority he gives his spouse and children when in a very demanding billet?
    1. Communicate, communicate, communicate!
      a. Keep her informed.
      b. Be involved in family decision making.
      c. Make time to do it.
    2. Discipline yourself to change your emotional focus on the way home at the end of the day to give real attention to the family.
    3. Take time with the children. (e.g., playing with them before supper; putting them to bed).
    4. Sometimes come home for supper and spend some time with the family. Then, if necessary, return to the office to finish the day's work.
    5. Pray together.
    6. Practice little expressions of love.
  • Recognize your need for God's grace. Pray for his grace to lead and love your family.
  • Some things the officer wants from his spouse:
    1. Recognition that his role as an officer-Christian is a calling from God that he must do "heartily as unto the Lord" (Col 3:23).
    2. Her input on decision making-real opinions.
    3. When possible, a little wind-down time after returning home from work.
    4. Time and encouragement to pursue things personal.

The similarities in many of the insights from the two groups are not surprising, but also encouraging. Fundamentally, both want to be God's team in the calling he has for them together.

May we seek his grace to live what we believe.

Editors note:  The issues addressed in this article are very real for many, if not all, OCF families.  The approach to the issues outlined in the article was very productive.  OCF small groups might want to consider a similarly structured exchange at some point. 

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