I’ve been married for 21 years but my marriage was turned upside down by another man. It’s not what you might think though. My husband and I married at an incredibly young age and hadn’t even really figured out who we were, let alone how to be a married couple. In addition, I had a daughter before we were married and my husband took on the role of her father, something for which I am forever grateful. The first several years were bumpy as we navigated learning the wants, needs and expectations of the other. Both of us had different visions of what we wanted and how we wanted to get there.
In the early years, we juggled finishing college, moving twice and having our daughter start school. We were in our early 20’s, living a life that most people don’t live until they are well into their 30’s. It was difficult, and to compound this difficulty, we were only playing around at Christianity. We attended the church my husband grew up in with enough consistency to be considered “regulars” but we weren’t committed. Worse still, we were “Sunday Only Christians”, going to service on the weekend and then not walking out a life of faith the rest of the week. No praying, no bible study, no spiritual pursuits were happening. Bitterness, selfishness, self-sufficiency and a lack of a substantive relationship with Jesus were the symptoms of a sickly form of Christianity, without ever realizing it wasn’t God’s best for us. This took a toll on us as a couple as well as individuals.
Part of our issue was that we were a very young couple at a church where most of the congregation was markedly older than we were and there were no programs or groups that we could connect with to help our growth. As a result, through a process that took about a year, we settled into a new church with a more a culturally and age-diverse congregation that provided solid biblical teaching as well as a selection of small groups that promoted growth and fellowship. I am convinced that small groups (Sunday School, bible study, home groups, etc.) are critical to development in the faith. Sunday service is wonderful, but it is in fellowship with other believers that the pieces come together and we can truly embrace the Christian life. Proverbs 27:17 states “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Having other more mature believers to discuss the bible with and view as role models was a transformational experience for our marriage.
Upon joining that church almost 15 years ago, my husband and I experienced a positive change in our marriage because we began to focus more earnestly on our faith and positioned ourselves to receive encouragement in the form of a married couples bible study group at our new church. We attended the marriage class for quite a long time. Over time, a number of different leaders conducted a variety of incarnations of the group. As a result of that group’s influence, we eventually became leaders ourselves. The long road of commitment, along with growth and fellowship with like-minded people have really caused our marriage to flourish.
I lured you in by mentioning that “other man”, so I suppose I have to make good on that part of the story. In late Fall, 2015, having experienced such a positive change in our own marriage, we wanted to share the opportunity for growth with others. We spoke to one of our pastors about becoming leaders of a marriage class. It was agreed that we would kick off our first class as leaders in January 2016, using a book by Francis Chan called You and Me Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternity. Thinking we were merely leading a class, I was unprepared for what would happen next. Chan’s ideas in this book turned my marriage upside down. His insight and relentless truth-telling in light of the Gospel really challenged us to take our marriage to the next level.
Although my husband and I had experienced a great change and had grown closer together in our marriage over time, we had not fully grasped the role of our union in God’s eternal plan. We are in love, more so than ever, having just celebrated our 21st wedding anniversary. We have three beautiful, healthy children. We are invested members and servants at our church. But…something was missing in the equation. We had grown too comfortable in our happiness.
Chan’s book is centered around the notion that your marriage, the union you share with your spouse, is NOT primarily about the two of you. It has eternal importance and consequences. Still being on a high from floating around with my sweetie on an anniversary cruise to Bermuda in the summer of 2015, this idea sucker-punched me between the eyes. Chan asserts that marriage should be “missional”, meaning that you work primarily as a couple to further the kingdom of God, not to just improve your own marriage and family. It encourages an outward-looking mindset, rather than inward-looking.
Comfort zones are not the venue for winning souls and influencing people for Jesus.
Week after week, Chan’s heart-challenging truths were shared in the chapters of his book. Having finally reached a sweet spot in our marriage and family, I was perfectly happy to live in wedded bliss, enjoy my family, serve a bit at church and call it a day. But now that we have read the book and led the class on the topic of missional marriage, we realize the awesome responsibility of using our marriage to bless others and do the Lord’s work. We have to move outside our little home life bubble. Comfort zones are not the venue for winning souls and influencing people for Jesus.
I could go on and on, but I’ll share a quote that captures the kind of challenges Chan offers in the book:
“Stare at the unseen. The eternal. Don’t become blinded by the transient. We spend far too much time looking at temporary things.”
How easily we are blinded by the transient. Your husband didn’t pick up his socks off the floor. Maybe he forgot an important date on the calendar for the kids. Guess what? These are trifles. Kingdom work needs doing. Souls are at stake. Don’t fuss over things that aren’t worth a fuss. For far too long we did and what a waste of our precious life together it was. I urge you to make a game plan with your spouse to seek the Lord to help you grow your marriage into the spiritual powerhouse God wants it to be.
Here’s the introductory video to the book – it is SO good!
NOTE: You can download the You and Me Forever app and get the book for FREE that way. You can also order at www.youandmeforever.org and purchase the book. If you order at the website, 100% of the money will go to help end human trafficking.
I plan to read the book again with my hubs because it is that good and I am sure there are things I would see with new eyes if I read it a second time. We have just started leading a parenting class at church this fall and have signed up to take our middle child on a missions trip to Antigua this summer. The excitement of working together to serve God is a great privilege and I am utterly blessed to be doing it with Mr. Earl Grey. He’s a wonderful dad, loving husband and godly man. I don’t take that for granted and realize how blessed I am to walk through life with him. However, we had to get on the same page to make that happen. Marriage-building is grueling work and we’ve put in the effort and trusted God to guide us. Our new goal is to use our marriage to glorify God and bless others.
I urge you to make a game plan with your spouse to seek the Lord to help you grow your marriage into the spiritual powerhouse God wants it to be.
If you are looking to take your happy marriage to the next level or improve a struggling marriage, start looking outward and think of ways you can help others. Read this book together. Find a supportive church. Do things for other people. By serving together, you will find a common goal that transcends your own union and fulfills you more deeply than you can imagine.
YOU MAY ALSO LIKE: Sorry Kids! You’re in Third Place.