It was 2008 when my husband, Paul, and I went to Uganda for our first mission trip. I was energized in a way that I hadn't experienced in years, loving everything about the rural village that served as our base of operations. As I walked the lush footpaths with the laughing children, I felt God's presence in a profound way. I was so moved by the experience that as we gathered with the villagers on the last day of our trip, I publicly promised that we would be returning the following year — and every year thereafter.
Unfortunately, Paul's experience was vastly different from mine. As a family physician, he had been asked to serve in a one-room roadside "clinic" with no other doctors, no electricity, no running water and no medical supplies other than what he had brought in his suitcase. What he did have in abundance was an endless number of patients — many of whom had walked for miles to seek help — with long lists of symptoms and serious medical problems. Paul would work late into the night using a flashlight and then get up the next day and do it again. He felt like he was confronting a forest fire with a squirt gun.
My husband likes infrastructure, supplies, order and predictability. I am an aging hippie who never met an adventure she didn't like. Let's just say that Paul didn't appreciate that I committed us to returning to Uganda for the next several years. Indeed, he was pretty upset with me (and rightfully so).
When Paul and I got home and were finally able to unpack what had happened on the trip, it became clear that we had both a solvable problem and what felt like an unsolvable problem.
The solvable problem was straightforward because I had clearly violated a basic ground rule in our marriage by making such a major decision without talking it over with him first. I offered my profound apology and was forgiven, and that was that.
The other problem was far more complex. I had fallen head over heels in love with Uganda and couldn't wait to return. Paul had spent two of the most miserable weeks of his life feeling ineffectual and frustrated. He had a less-than-zero desire to return to Uganda. We both had strong feelings about our positions. What on earth were we going to do? For 33 years, we had run our marriage on the conviction that there would always be a win-win solution to a disagreement if we worked hard enough to find it. But here we were in a situation where each of us felt equally passionate about our need to return, or not return, to Uganda.