Ephesians 5:31 therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.
I get it. Leave and cleave. Once I married, I did just that. I left my home of 20 years behind and became Mrs. Daniel Gaines. My home was where he was. We have never lived closer than an hour and a half from either of our parents. I have always missed them. I have always wished we were closer in proximity. I have many times coveted the close mileage that other extended families enjoy. Oh how I would love to have Sunday dinner at Mama’s house each week! So many are blessed to have this opportunity, but our blessings come in other forms.
Leave and cleave was never an issue for me. It was simply a factor in marriage. I never really thought too much about it until the question of moving to Africa came into play. Let me explain. It would be fairly easy to leave and cleave if that only entailed moving from my parent’s house to my own house in the same town. It would be more difficult to leave my parent’s house and town several hours behind. However, I have been able to do it successfully and see them as often as possible. We were together on holidays, birthdays, special occasions, etc. I guess I thought I was pretty good at the whole leave and cleave thing. I mean, I never complained. Surely this meant I was one with my husband and his wishes.
When Africa did come into play, a roller coaster of emotions came into play as well. I had known for awhile that Daniel wanted to do mission work in Africa. I did not. I also never thought we would actually go. I knew I was marrying a preacher, but a missionary? I don’t remember saying yes to that! I began praying in earnest that God would help me to make the best decision for His Kingdom, for Daniel, and my family. I spent a LOT of time angry with Daniel for “making” me have this emotional dilemma. Of course, in reality he wasn’t making me do anything. He never pushed or tried to influence my decisions with force of words. He was kind and understanding when I voiced my concerns of family, healthcare, and safety. I know that he, too, was praying. He knew that his abilities would serve well in the mission field and his heart wanted so badly to give soul saving opportunities to the open hearts here. This attitude made me struggle so much. How could I say no? How could I say, “I can’t go because I want to be home for Christmas. Or, I don’t want to be that far from my mama.” Both of those things were very true.
I began weighing my priorities. We always say, when asked, that of course Christ is our first priority. But, can we stand by those words when put to the test? God was giving me an opportunity to leave and cleave. Not just to Daniel, but to Him. He wants us to leave a life of sin and cleave to Him. He wants us to leave an “easy” life and choose a life of actively serving Him. I knew I was comfortable at our home congregation. I had found my church “home.” I love the people there so very much. I didn’t want to move. I didn’t want to lose them. It was easy and fun to go to worship there, in English, with people I know and love. It was easy and fun to go to meetings, youth rallies, and lectures. Why did God have to present me with such a stressful opportunity? There are people in need of the gospel in America. Why did I have to go? I wanted God to be my first priority. I did. But when it came to choosing between doing God’s work and my family could I measure up? In Mark 16:15 He tells us to go into all the world to preach the gospel. Did that have to mean me?
Previously my family had undergone a very stressful time in our lives. I had suffered a difficult pregnancy, we had been fired from another congregation and left homeless until we were offered a job at Lehman Avenue Church of Christ in KY. I firmly believe that God sent us there. We don’t always get to choose our paths and it isn’t always easy or pleasant, but I am so thankful today that God sent us to such a Gospel minded, soul saving group of the Lord’s church. After another difficult pregnancy we approached them with the idea of us doing missions in Africa and them being our sponsoring congregation. They were shocked but supportive from the very beginning. They were concerned for our well being and for the children, but were with us on saving souls 100%. From there, the process began.
I had kept “tally” for an entire year about whether or not I could move to Africa and not resent Daniel. I wanted so much to be supportive of his dream to save souls here. I wanted to be the Christian that says, “Let’s go!” But I wasn’t. It was hard. Really, really, hard. In the end, the tally said that I couldn’t live with myself if I took his dream. My heart wasn’t in it 100% for the reasons his was, but I felt that honoring him as my husband was a good reason to go even if it wasn’t a “great” one. I suffered many bouts of anger, sadness, resentment, and fear. I wasn’t scared to move to Africa for reasons that many fear a third world country. I was scared that it would ruin our relationship. I was scared that my babies wouldn’t know their grandparents, aunts, and uncles. However, once I told him I would go, things moved in fast motion.
We began fundraising. We began selling our things and packing other things. Abby had to say goodbye to her school friends. Throughout all this, I wish I could say that I lovingly said to Daniel, “I’m so glad we are doing this!” But, I didn’t. I was scared. I didn’t want to leave my family, and I let him know it on several occasions. I didn’t want Abby to leave her school and friends. I let him know that as well. I wanted to be home for Christmas, Easter, the 4th of July. I wanted to be able to buy things for the kids that I couldn’t get in Africa. I wanted them to have pretty rooms and clothes. I didn’t want to learn a new language. I didn’t want to spend all day cleaning vegetables, boiling water for use, and cooking. I didn’t know how I would homeschool Abby while caring for 2 babies in Africa. I, I, I….. Then it hit me. I was being entirely selfish. I was a first world brat. Besides missing family and friends everything on my angst list was superficial and selfish. How could I teach my children to be selfless and God serving if I couldn’t let go of the finer things myself? Throughout all this, I prayed. Daniel prayed. I knew I had made a commitment and I would honor it, but what attitude would I have? Would God be pleased if I went but had a bad attitude?
I spent months going from crying to excitement over adventure. I knew this would be wonderful in so many ways, but at the same time I just wanted to scream, “I WANT MY MOMMY!” When travel day came I was very calm. We had gone through so much packing, moving, packing, packing, more packing, that I think I was numb. I rode to the airport with my Mama. She talked to me the entire time. She told me she would miss me and the children and Daniel so very much. She said she was proud of my willingness to serve the Lord and His church in such a difficult way. She was the picture of strength. She was everything I needed in that moment. I held it together. I was leaving, but she was being left behind. The choice was mine as it was when I married Daniel. I chose to leave and cleave to him. I was choosing again to leave and cleave to Daniel and more importantly to God, His word, and His unfailing love and protection. My mother had instilled these values in me long, long ago. She had raised me to put God first. I didn’t participate in team sports or go to events during a time of worship or Bible study. Why? Because she was showing me that even when something is important, there is always the most important, God. I knew that she understood that family is so very important to me, but that God is the most important and if this is the path He has set for me then I would follow with the best attitude I could.
I wish I had spent that year of transition in joy. I allowed Satan to place fear and anger into my heart through the form of something so precious and innocent. My family. He used them to try preventing me from God’s work. I wanted so badly to fold to that pressure. I was unkind to Daniel so many times when I should have been respectful and loving. Afterall, he was leaving many friends, family members, and Alabama football games behind too! Satan is ever present. He wants us to stay and play instead of leave and cleave. He wants you to put your family in front of God.
“And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. ‘And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled’. But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;” 1 Peter 3:13-15
After 3 months in Africa I know God has blessed me. He took me from a place of ease in Christianity to a great challenge in my faith. I can see good coming from His hand every single day. There are many challenges. Somedays I just want to go home. My hope in writing this article is that others will see how God is working in their own lives and realize that just because you don’t have a desire to serve God in a particular way doesn’t mean that you wouldn’t be good at it or that He doesn’t want you to. Put God first, not only in word, but in what you do. Put your husband as a close second. God planned it that way and His plans are always perfect. When you allow yourself to be led by Him fully you will reap the blessings. I miss my mama and daddy so very much, but I am ever so thankful that God softened my heart so that many people here will not have to miss Heaven. Because if you miss Heaven…you miss everything!