As I shared in a recent talk, church planting has been challenging to my marriage, only for me to come to the realization that my wife is the fount of all my ministry, life, and work. SHE is the Fount. Without her, nothing. And so if I am not present as a husband and placing her needs above mine, then I am likely chasing the game again in a manner that is self-glorifying and really not ministry out of my "true self" but rather a projection of a pseudo-self:
You must create out of your essence or you become an imitation of what others are doing and what they are saying.
I had to give up some "big things" in order to care for the biggest, most important things in my life - my wife and kids. The notion that I am a self-made man is an illusion. In fact, one of the harder truths to swallow is that I am quite incapable of advancing my agenda, alone:
Through trial-by-fire I have been learning a few things that have made marriage stronger not just for church planters, but I believe for all. I share a few of these here, and more later:
1. Intentionally PRAY for your spouse:
So obvious, so overlooked.
But what do I say? Here's a great prayer for starters:
"God, please show me how to keep
my spouse’s happiness utmost in my mind today;
As I try, by your grace, to make this relationship right.
Please protect my spouse from all of my wrongs.
Help me to seek to console than to be consoled,
to comfort than to be comforted,
to understand than to be understood,
and to love than to be loved.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.
2. Intentionally DATE your spouse:
Again, so obvious, so overlooked.
When my wife and I were on our honeymoon at Whistler / Blackcomb Mountain in Vancouver, we did a summer kayak + bike tour. Only too late did I realize that she didn't like that stuff. I recall, with some shame, how at one point her body gave out on her in exhaustion on a road side (the last stretch was along the side of a truck highway!) and I drill-sergeanted her to keep going, since we couldn't stop there. True, we couldn't, but what she needed was someone to stay by the side of the road with her, protecting her, rather than goading / yelling at her to "keep moving on!!!" Today I resolve never to do that again. Never to leave her in the dust. Never to yell at her to "come on" and "catch up" - and believe me, we ministers do that all the time - for the sake of ministry. I bet I'm not the only sinner here.
Now we run together.
Every Monday after a date lunch, we go on a date run, about 2 to 3 miles. Sure I never PR, but for me it is a conscious prayer - I will always go at YOUR pace because I love you, and when you stop, I will stop, and stay by there with you. If you are not going anywhere, I am not going anywhere. Because you are more important to me than anything.
3. Intentionally WORK on your marriage:
For me, that means having to get help. I started seeing a spiritual director who would subsequently work with me through my issues of self, issues of anger, issues of ambition gone awry - the pseudo false-self. And slowly I've been discovering who I really am. He taught me mindfulness and prayer. It improved all my relationships. It is still a work in progress.
In the end, I don't claim to be an expert. But like the old "Hair Club for Men" commercial would tout: "I'm not just the president of hair club for men; I'm a client!" (and then he would lift up a hairpiece to disclose a bald dome!) Likewise. I'm no expert on growing healthy marriages; I'm just another client. There are more things I wish to share, but I'm saving those for my talk this Valentine's Sunday at Woven.
Come check us out if you'd like to hear.