Marriage and Ministry
Marriage advice can be a bit overwhelming. But, you need it. Although most of the doomsday stats about pastors are not true (that they all hate the ministry and want to quit), ministry does put stress on a marriage.
In my most stream-of-consciousness column ever, allow my to share a few things that Donna and I have seen after almost thirty years of a ministry marriage.
1. Marriage is worth the investment.
Yes, it is an investment. I know that it is not always easy, but it is always worth it. I'm thankful for a strong marriage.
Ironically, you have to invest in a marriage for it to be worth the investment. It sounds strange, but it's true—it takes continual investment on the investment.
I've seen "perfect" couples—like some we knew in high school and college—get married, drift apart, and end up divorced. We have not. It's not because we are perfect, it's because we work hard.
You have to make investments while serving in ministry to get the return on investment you want.
2. Choosing your marriage partner is the most important human decision you will ever make.
Not to go all Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade on you, but you must choose wisely in marriage. That begins with who you marry, if you in fact get married.
I've seen many miserable ministry marriages. A big part of that misery relates to bad marriage choices. My wife was/is beautiful, but that's a really bad foundation upon which to build a marriage.
Instead, I’m thankful that as a ministry marriage, we are in this together. She, and we, have a joy in what we are doing. You simply can’t have a successful ministry marriage if you have not chosen one another wisely.
3. Most fights are over stupid things that don't matter.
When I was younger I always wanted to prove my point. It's more important to prove your love. You do that by not arguing over stupid things. Note: most arguments are from stupid things, over stupid things, and including saying stupid things.
Most arguments are resolved when both people are more concerned with being in a relationship than with being right. I'm amazed at how many times I thought I was right. I had to be right. I had to show her I was right. And, let me say, that's just wrong. It's dumb. And it does not work.
In all marriages, you don’t sweat the small stuff. And, it’s mostly small stuff.
4. Sex is essential to a marriage relationship.
It's not everything, but when you value and prioritize it, your intimacy impacts your relationship. Sex does not just happen. It, too, is something you work at. It's fun to do the work, though!
5. Practices (like date nights, long conversations, and trips together) make your marriage stronger.
Some of these are essential—you need a regular date night if you are married. If you can't afford dinner, you can walk in a park. You won't have a strong marriage if you don't act like you are married. If you've forgotten how to be married, then act like your dating until it all comes back to you.
6. Kids are awesome, but they stress your marriage.
I'm a pretty obsessive parent. I love my kids. I spend time with them. They are a treasure. But they also make marriage more complicated and stressful. Kids should know that your marriage is your first priority. The most important thing you can pass on to your children might be not be what you give them, but the marriage you show them.
7. Never go to bed angry.
Yes, that's true for everyone according to Ephesians 4:26, but stretching an argument into two days usually leads to stretching it longer. Then bitterness sets in.
You can't really settle most arguments if you are not willing to just say, "We may not agree, but we can forgive and move on." (See number 5.)
8. You need Jesus.
I started dating Donna because of her faith. She had shared her faith with the girls in her neighborhood, came to the Bible study I was leading in high school, and loved the Lord deeply. She still does. When we put Jesus at the center, everything else revolved around Him well.
I really love being married. Without a strong marriage, everything else in my life suffers. And I am well aware that such a marriage is not always so easy for many couples.
However, I learned that—in our marriage—I was the cause of many of the challenges and conflicts. Donna was the cure.
Either way, we have learned a lot. We are still learning. But, maybe you can be encouraged by our experience.