I walked through the church doors and squinted in the sunlight at the people filling the foyer.
I recognized him immediately. I think it was his hair.
He wasn’t just an old friend, a well-known musician or an amazing storyteller. He was the man invited me and led my Compassion trip to Kenya over 7 years ago. The trip that wrecked me and resulted in us starting Mercy House Global.
I hugged Shaun Groves, who had a day off on his tour and used it to visit my church because he and my pastor are old friends. I pointed at the glassed-in area at the front of the church and said, “It’s weird seeing you today of all days. After church we’re turning that empty space into a retail store. I blame you.”
After church, we reminisced over queso at the best Mexican food in Texas (yes, Pappasitos) and then we returned to the church and Shaun helped us set up the next Mercy House Global Market. Several times, I had to blink back tears. Because I cry a lot (obviously) and because the day was the perfect gift from a God who likes to surprise us.
My pastor came back to the church to visit with Shaun while we started filling displays. “Kristen, can we pray for this space and dedicate it to God?” I nodded my head yes because I couldn’t quite get the word out. I motioned for my kids and the few volunteers to gather around and Terrell grabbed my hand. Then my pastor asked Shaun to pray over our family, this new store and the ministry since he’d been a part of this story and our yes to God since the beginning.
Shaun prayed beautiful words over Mercy House, our family, the women we empower, the product we sell on their behalf, the future shoppers and then he said these words that I have thought about a thousand times since, “God, we pray for the marriage at the center of all of this. We ask you to protect and strengthen the marriage at the center of this ministry.”
I don’t know why I can’t stop thinking about that prayer. It’s probably because I hadn’t thought about what might happen if our marriage didn’t survive. It’s probably because the marriage at the center of our ministry, our home, our parenting, our work, has felt the strain of a very heavy burden. It’s probably because it’s the prayer we needed to hear the most.
The last two years of working full time together at a growing ministry we are in charge of –on half the income we had grown accustomed too –is enough to rock the boat. Throw in parenting teens and a tween and life’s normal challenges and yeah, the marriage at the center has changed. I think it’s stronger in some areas and weaker in others.
And one of the greatest deceptions is believing our marriage isn’t in danger at all. This lie can destroy more than a ministry; it can divide a home. And although nothing has changed, everything has. Because I know my marriage cannot survive unless Christ is the center of it. When we have in the right place, He carries the heavy burden instead of us.
A Prayer for the Marriage at the Center
Jesus, thank you for my marriage. You and I both know it’s not perfect and some days it’s just plain hard, but I thank you anyway because you created this holy union, even on our most unholy days. My marriage is only as strong as the weakest point and I know that if the enemy can get a foothold in a soft place, he will try to destroy my marriage. He may already be at work. God, I ask that you protect the marriage at the center of my family, home (work or ministry). Help me to guard the weak areas and show me how to love my spouse. Amen.
It’s been nearly a month since we opened our second store. It’s been a hectic season of hard work, tears, victory and defeat. But one thing has gotten some much needed attention.
The marriage at the center.