I am convinced the American church has an upside-down understanding of a Biblical church. A large part of the American church culture has bought the lie that a healthy Biblical church=big church and a biblically healthy leader=a strong, put together leader. Those are unbiblical definitions of both church health and Biblical leadership. According to Scripture, a healthy church is a faithful church and a healthy leader is a wounded healer who leads from their brokenness just as much as their strengths. A Biblical leader’s chief call should be the words of St. Paul, “Jesus Christ came to save sinners, of whom I am chief.”*
I write the words above because I was at the bastion of big church/strong leader from 2005-2008; Willow Creek Community Church. And, after all the heartbreaking and evil news that has recently been revealed about Willow, I’ve had to internally wrestle with a lot of what I learned from that church. My wrestlings have centered around two questions, “Does a healthy church require a strong charismatic leader?” And, “Does a healthy church have to be a big church?” I’ve always held to the answer of “no” for both questions, but after Willow’s recent hard fall, there is a freshness of evaluation in my heart and mind.
Does a healthy church have to be a big church?
Absolutely not. There was a church growth movement in Acts 2 when “about three thousand were added to their number that day.” But, many of the three thousand ended up in house churches that resembled the American church’s definition of Sunday School class or small group. We’ve got to divorce The Church from the idea that bigger is better. God does not call the church to be bigger. God calls the church to abide in him, love its neighbor, care for the poor, serve the immigrant, and ultimately, share the Good News of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.
Does a healthy church require a strong, charismatic leader?
Absolutely not. What makes a church so beautifully powerful is her people. A pastor can only be successful if they see themselves as a fellow saved-broken-sinner who grasps the mantle of leadership reluctantly and humbly. Leading a church is a holy terrifying task. A reluctant leader sees herself or himself no more important than the church nursery worker, groundskeeper, Sunday School teacher, Sunday morning greeter, or weekly tither. May God crush me as a pastor if I ever see myself differently.
Defending Willow Creek and Feeling Duped
I’ve had to defend Willow often over the years from pastors that judged Willow’s theology as “light” or even unbiblical. Sadly, my guess is that a few pastors are quietly celebrating Willow’s downfall. If you are one of those pastors, please don’t. If you are celebrating the log in Willow’s eye, please also see the log in your own eye. As recent failures within many non-denominational churches and the SBC teach us pastoral brethren, all of our churches are susceptible of the same ugly and evil behavior produced at Willow Creek. Don’t create, through your pride, the same type of no accountability culture that Willow created with Bill Hybels. Allow his downfall to shake you to the core, like it has me. Any structure, especially a leadership structure, that gives too much unchecked power to a single leader or group of leaders is setting itself up for a major fall.
I guess one of the reasons I have had to wrestle with my time at Willow is that part of me feels duped. Was I wrong in defending Willow all those years when I heard pastors criticize her? I’ll respond by saying this: the power of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection is bigger than Bill Hybels’ ability to lead, it’s bigger than his pride, and it’s definitely bigger than his ugly sin. The salvations that happened at Willow for thousands of people were due to God, not Bill Hybels. Those salvation experiences are still true and eternal. God has, and I believe, will continue to work at Willow Creek. But, it won’t be through a charismatic leader that leads Willow to large growth. It will be through reluctant leader-pastors who hold to Biblical teachings on church growth and leadership.
When we are tempted to embrace a pastor or church due to charisma or style, or even worse, when we embrace ourselves as pastors who lead big churches with charisma or style, may we immediately repent and realize that our true shepherd is a slain lion-lamb who led through sacrifice. Let that slain lion-lamb be our symbol for what a healthy church looks like. Allow that slain lion-lamb to set the bar for what type of pastor we desire to follow or be.
*See Dan Allender's, "Leading with a Limp" or Henri Nouwen's "The Wounded Healer" for more insight on being chief sinner and leading as a wounded healer.
Whether I work with pre-marital couples or couples that have been together for thirty years, I often see one constant challenge when it comes to relationship struggles: communication. I once thought that communication was important so that couples could discuss budgets, dreams, parenting, and sex. Yet, the more I provide counseling and coaching, the more I begin to realize that there is a deeper purpose to communication; a purpose that lends itself to better budgets, realized dreams, shared parenting, and healthy sex lives. The purpose of communication is intimacy.
Song of Songs 4:16 provides a powerful picture of sexual intimacy:
Awake, north wind,
and come, south wind!
Blow on my garden,
that its fragrance may spread everywhere.
Let my beloved come into his garden
and taste its choice fruits.
Three times in this passage, through the use of the verbs, “come” (twice) and “blow,” the bride indicates that she feels safe and attached enough to her groom to invite him into her most intimate of spaces. Such an invitation only occurred in Song of Songs after the couple had spent time displaying mutual commitment which led to the establishment of trust. A feeling of trust helped the bride know that it was safe enough to be very physically vulnerable and intimate with her groom.
Intimate communication develops in much the same way.
If couples are going to communicate in healthy ways, they must first work to show one another a Biblically covenanted type of commitment. Such commitment can only be developed over time.
Spending time together as a couple helps build trust. Time is the currency that is used by couples to display to each other that they are truly committed. The more a significant other sees that their engaged partner or spouse is committed to getting to know and invest in them, the more likely they are to trust their engaged partner or spouse.
Trust allows a person to feel safe in a relationship. Just like the bride in Song of Songs felt safe enough to invite her groom into sexual intimacy, an engaged or married significant other who feels safe will invite their future husband, future wife, husband, or wife into emotional intimacy. Emotional intimacy occurs when two people feel safe enough to share vulnerable communication with each other.
To summarize, commitment produces trust. Trust testifies to an environment of relational safety. A safe environment encourages vulnerable communication. And, vulnerable communication produces emotional intimacy.
If you are struggling to communicate in your pre-marital or marital relationship, I encourage you to ask:
-At what point of the communication process are we struggling?
-Are we displaying enough commitment to one another?
-Do we trust and feel safe with each other?
-Are we carving out time to communicate?
One More Challenge
A spouse or significant other that grew up in an unsafe home will most likely have a difficult time recognizing and therefore sharing within a safe relational environment. If you find yourself wanting to be more emotionally intimate with your spouse, but feel as if he or she is constantly putting up walls, please know that he or she is probably practicing the same connection style they developed as a child or adolescent. That means your spouse probably needs help learning how to recognize a relationally safe environment and how to communicate within such an environment. How should you engage such a spouse/significant other?
Your role as a partner or spouse is to help your spouse or partner see that he or she might need help by communicating YOUR desires to connect and attach more. Don’t say, “You need help!” Say, “I really wish we could be more emotionally vulnerable with each other. What do you think is keeping this from happening?”
Be patient. If your spouse/significant other did come from a home that was unsafe, it will take some time for them to understand and communicate within a safe environment. Love them with the same patience and grace with which God loves us.
Pray. Pray that the same resurrection power that raised Jesus from the dead can resurrect or develop the ability to communicate intimately within your marriage or soon-to-be marriage.
Keep working on yourself. How can you continue to show your spouse that you are committed to providing a safe environment for them to vulnerably communicate?
I recently sat down to pen this poem in order to reflect and heal after a very challenging season in ministry.
Were you there when I walked the lonely hallway,
Having just helped a family say goodbye?
Were you there when I held a dying woman’s hand,
Hearing “I love you,” a family member cry?
I walk this lonely hallway with a heavy, grieving heart.
The hallway’s emptiness matches my soul,
I’m carrying a weight within so heavy,
My heart is paralyzed, my body feels old.
I know I will have to carry this family,
Through the tears that will honor their mother.
A great celebration of life,
Yet a wonder, "Why Mom and not another?"
Yet, I turn the corner to this hallway,
For tomorrow is another day.
People to see, sermons to write,
Who knows what the next church member might say?
So, keep going I must,
Though my soul feels both empty and full,
Heavy heart, grateful heart, Lord I know you’re good,
But life can feel so cruel.
By: Paul Gibson
Why would anyone want to be a teacher?!
Kids are lazy. They do not have the work ethic kids used to have thirty years ago. They whine. They're hyperactive. Their manners are terrible. They would rather have their nose buried in an electronic device than listen to a lesson. Some of them are willing to curse at you without a second thought. "Why did you give me that grade?! (No, honey. You earned that grade.) And, the kids who do want to learn, have the odds stacked against them.
Why would anyone want to be a teacher?!
Parents project blame all the time. They do not hold their children accountable like parents used to in the past. It is never the student's fault. "What did the teacher do or not do that caused my child to get that bad grade?" Teachers look for allies in parents. Instead, they find enemies.
Why would anyone want to be a teacher?!
The administration is critical. "We must have better test scores." "Better classroom management." "Make sure you attend PD." "Turn in your lesson plans on time." "There will be a teacher's meeting after school." "What must you do to help that student get a better grade?"
Why would anyone want to be a teacher?!
The pay is average. The hours are long. Grading papers while watching television gets old. "But you get three months off every summer!" Well, not exactly. There are workshops to attend. Education requirements to pursue. And, before you know it, August catches you off guard. "Is it that time already?"
Why would anyone want to be a teacher?!
And, oh, what about being an administrator?! The parents do not trust you. The teachers do not like you. The kids are leery of you. There are days when you feel like you can please no one.
Why would anyone want to be an administrator?!
You are part of the school support staff. You are not a teacher, so you are often viewed as "not as important." It is disappointing that people do not realize that without you, there would be no bus rides, no trips to the bathroom, no lunches, the phones would constantly be ringing, and there would be no after school care.
Why would anyone want to be on support staff?!
I will tell you why anyone would want to be teacher or administrator or support staffer.
Because they burn with concern and passion for that little boy or girl who wears the same clothes to school three days in a row while looking malnourished or unkept.
Because they see the promise in the junior high student who is often angry and disrespectful. They see that if the student could just get past their pain and anger, they could be the next doctor, college president, pastor, stay at home mom, or teacher.
Because they see that high school student who is gifted beyond their years, yet struggles with self-confidence. If that student could just learn to trust and believe in who they are, their life has no limits.
Because they take the long view on life. They understand that the true work of a teacher is not determined by test scores or marks on a paper. Instead, their work is judged by the women and men, the mothers and fathers, the leaders and workers their students become ten to fifteen years later in life.
Because they were once that elementary student or junior high student or high school student described above and if it were not for the teacher or principal or teacher's assistant or lunch lady who believed in them, they would not be the mother, the father, the husband, the wife, the teacher they are today.
Why would anyone want to be a teacher?
Because they care.
It’s not a matter of asking, ‘What if forgiveness is tough?” because the answer will always be, “Yes.” Yes, forgiveness is tough because true forgiveness required a human a sacrifice, a self-willing human sacrifice, a death so gruesome and torturous that the man willing to die was almost unrecognizable. Scripture teaches us that it was because of this gruesome sacrifice, by those wounds, that we are healed.
I believe we can learn a lot about forgiveness in our marriages by looking at the Cross. Forgiveness in marriage can be extremely difficult at times when we feel deeply betrayed. Yet, if you are a confessing Christian, you follow someone who was despised and rejected by humanity. Isn’t that what betrayal looks like; being ultimately despised and rejected by your spouse? I’m talking deep, deep hurt that causes your soul to cry out in anger and anguish and heartache all the while asking how someone who confessed to loving you so much could hurt you so deeply. Do the words, “My God, my God, why have your forsaken me” come to mind? Christ cried out in anguish while he was hurting, betrayed, and deeply wounded on the Cross.
Yet, Christ Chose to Forgive
Jesus Christ looked at the thief next to him and said, “Today, you will be with me in Paradise.” Jesus was telling the repentant thief, “Today, you will be in my ultimate presence in my garden of peace.” Christ teaches us that his choice to forgive leads us into his very presence. Christ chose forgiveness in the midst of his heartache and that means we too must strive to forgive when we’ve been deeply hurt in our marriages. Why?
Because We Have Been Forgiven
That same forgiveness that Jesus gave the thief he gives to us. 1 John 1:9 says that if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Confession and repentance lead to salvation. What if our marriages, even in their darkest times, model a place where confession and repentance lead to the saving of a marriage. Again, we forgive in our marriages because have been forgiven.
We Must Remember that Forgiveness Is Tough
Jesus had to endure great heartache and pain to achieve salvation for mankind. If we are going to forgive our spouse after being deeply betrayed, we too will go through heartache and pain. I believe the Cross teaches us that there is no true redemptive forgiveness without intense pain. So, please know that if your spouse has deeply hurt you, forgiveness will not occur without much wrestling and crying out to God and even your spouse.
The Other Side of Forgiveness
Forgiving our spouse after a betrayal does not mean our marriages are always saved, especially after abuse has occurred. However, choosing to practice forgiveness the way Christ forgave on the Cross will ultimately stop the cycle of hate that would continue if you chose not to forgive. On the other side of forgiveness, there is freedom; freedom from the captivity of hate and hopelessness, freedom from the anger and disgust that might be eating you up from the inside-out, freedom that results in deep, soulful healing.
Forgiveness is tough because the Cross was tough. Yet, forgiveness is powerfully redemptive because the Cross is redemptive. When you are tempted to not forgive, may the Cross be an ever present reminder that we live as forgiven people. So, no matter how difficult choosing to forgive might be, may you find the same power that raised Jesus from the dead being the same power in you empowering you to forgive.
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. —Galatians 6:9 (NIV)
It was 12:45 a.m. and I was sending my dad an email after my university’s team got hammered by 32 points on a Saturday night. I was a student manager. Our season was looking bleak, everyone was doubting the process, and no one wanted to practice at 8:00 a.m. The email read like this:
Dad, we got crushed tonight. We were overmatched and our execution was awful. We just got back to the arena and our guys are exhausted. Coach has scheduled practice for 8:00 a.m. tomorrow, Dad! What is he thinking?!
My dad’s reply:
I am sure Coach has a reason for what he is doing. He’s teaching them how to win and sometimes that’s a hard thing to do. Teams who have never won before don’t understand that it takes effort, day in and day out, to build a championship team. Coach knows what he’s doing.
During this toughest part of the season that my dad’s words and the team’s experiences taught me some valuable lessons that I apply to my marriage today, lessons that are taken directly from the pages of Scripture.
STAY COMMITTED TO THE PROCESS BECAUSE HEALTHY MARRIAGES REQUIRE DAY-IN-AND-DAY-OUT EFFORT.
Galatians says, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time, we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” When marriages fall upon hard times, couples can be tempted to give up. The first big marital fight, the first holiday visit to the in-laws, the miscarriage, and any other number of life challenges can cause any marriage, but especially a young marriage, to crack. Work to know the triggers of marital stress in your relationship. Yet, it’s during these difficult moments that couples must stay committed, or covenanted, to one another. And often, that commitment doesn’t look sexy or feel wonderful. Practicing at 8:00 a.m. after a game the night before never felt sexy, nor did workouts at 5:00 a.m. Commitment often feels the exact opposite of sexy and wonderful; it is often a practical and devoted decision when you feel nothing.
Commitment often feels the exact opposite of sexy and wonderful; it is often a practical and devoted decision when you feel nothing.
COMMITMENT TO EACH OTHER WILL PRODUCE MARITAL GROWTH.
Galatians also says, “for, at the proper time, we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Commitment during a hopeless moment is often the seed that will produce marital growth. The formula for successful teams is the same for a successful marriage: commitment through difficult times produces resiliency which results in a stronger marriage. I have seen too many couples squander the pain of a difficult season instead of using that pain to grow closer to each other and to God. If you find yourself in a difficult season of marriage, lean into the pain, and allow God to use that pain to grow your marriage. A simple question you can ask God during a difficult marital season is, “God, what are you trying to teach me or teach us during this season?”
The formula for successful teams is the same for a successful marriage, commitment through difficult times produces resiliency which results in a stronger marriage.
SOMETIMES MARRIAGE REQUIRES A 12:45 A.M. CONVERSATION.
Ephesians 4:26 says, “Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.” It does not say to resolve every problem before going to sleep. However, there are times during a difficult season in marriage when you will find yourself up late into the night trying to resolve a conflict or work through a challenge. Couples can choose to see these times as burdens or they can embrace the eccentric nature of such conversations, lean into the conversation, and find themselves connecting on a different level. Please note: if you find yourself growing too exhausted to engage in respectful conversation, pause the conversation and commit to re-engaging in the morning with fresher minds and hearts.
The same team I was concerned about ended up winning three straight NCAA conference championships because they stayed committed to the process of improving and grew as a result of that commitment. I pray the same is true for your marriage. Your marriage will most likely never be given a literal championship trophy for being healthy or for staying committed during the sometimes mundane day-in-and-day-out work of marriage. But holding hands at the age of 80 while celebrating a lifetime of commitment and devotion to one another is greater than any championship any sport can offer. (Article was originally published at startmarriageright.com.)
I always try to emphasize one thing to a bride as her wedding day approaches. “It’s your wedding. It’s your celebration. It’s your day. You and your groom deserve the fairy tale; your fairy tale. So, when it comes to your wedding, don’t be shy about being honest with your dreams and hopes. It’s your day, so make it happen.”
I tell brides this because of a dynamic I’ve witnessed at too many rehearsals: a bride’s mom hijacks her daughter’s wedding and makes the wedding about her desires, her expectations, and her dreams. As this dynamic has played out time and again, I’ve seen many brides torn. They desire to speak up and express their own wishes, but out of respect, due to fear, or from a place of sheer defeat, the bride stays quiet. A little part of her dies inside because she realizes that it’s not her fairy tale day after all. It’s her moms.
There’s a deeper, much more meaningful process taking place in those moments when the bride is wrestling with whether or not she should express her desires to her mother. The process is one of spiritual formation where the bride has to decide, “Do I be honest with how I feel or do I simply bury my feelings?”
Jesus said in Matthew 18:15, “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you.” If a bride’s mother is being selfish, then the bride must do the difficult work of confronting her mother about her selfish behavior; selfish behavior that is hijacking her fairy tale.
Such confrontation is extremely tough to do. But, it is important to point out that Jesus didn’t promote the burying of our feelings nor did he promote the sugar coating of our feelings. In that moment of decision, the bride is making a choice to live a life of honesty and congruence. She is deciding that she is worth speaking up for and that she cares about herself enough to do so. Yes, a bride must respect her mother, but if that bride is going to practice loving others as she loves herself, she must decide that she will advocate for herself or else she will always struggle to advocate for others like her husband and children. If the bride is going to model honesty and speaking the truth, the bride will hopefully decide to speak up. Otherwise, her relationship with her mom will always be one of false honesty where she pretends she is happy with her relationship. In essence, the bride will be living a relational lie with her mom.
In my sixteen years of ministry, I have learned that the earlier a couple can develop the characteristic of honesty with their respective parents, the greater the likelihood each set of parents will respect the marital boundaries of the newlywed couple
What if you’re the groom in moments like these? First, I encourage a groom to also be honest about their desires around the wedding, but to ultimately submit to their wife’s wishes. Allow Cinderella or Tiana to have their fairy tale! Secondly, I encourage the groom to be a voice of encouragement for their conflicted bride, but to not rescue her. The groom needs to empower his bride to be honest about her dreams and desires around the wedding. Son-in-laws-to-be benefit from encouraging daughter-mother dialogue instead of triangulating themselves into such conflict. Finally, pray that your bride will find the strength to be honest and advocate for herself.
Brides, it’s your fairy tale day. Moms, it is not your fairy tale day. Brides, be honest about what you want and may the celebration go well!!! (Article originally published at startmarriageright.com)
What Is Healthy Marriage, Healthy Family?
Healthy Marriage, Healthy Family is a marriage enrichment course that was created for the purpose of helping couples strengthen their marriages in a safe and fun environment. The core belief of the course is that healthy families are built upon healthy marriages.
Who Should Attend?
Any couple, from engagement to 75 years of marriage, will most likely benefit from this course. Couples with healthy marriages can use this course to strengthen their marriages. Couples whose marriages feel “stuck” might find this course to be a positive way to jump start marital growth and connection.
Do I Have to Be a Christian or Part of a Church to Attend?
Not at all. However, anyone taking Healthy Marriage, Healthy Family should understand that the class is built upon Biblical principles. The Christian faith and Biblical principles will be discussed often, but the purpose of this class is to not convert you. It is to help your marriage grow stronger.
I’m Afraid Someone Might Think My Marriage is Bad If I Show Up
The above fear is normal, but please know that this course is a marriage enrichment course. The primary purpose of this course is to improve a marriage, not fix a broken marriage.
Can this Course Heal My Broken Marriage?
A couple whose marriage is struggling will benefit from this course, but will most likely need additional counseling or therapy to address deeper causes of martial discord. If your marriage is in a difficult place, you are encouraged to attend and see this course as a first step towards healing.
Does My Spouse Have to Be Present in Order for Me to Attend?
Spouses are encouraged to attend together, but it is not required. The course has had many attendees before whose spouse could not attend due to work or other personal reasons.
Is the Course Offered Online?
As Healthy Marriage, Healthy Family is slowly developed into a (hopefully) published curriculum, the course will be offered online, at times, through Facebook Live. The next session of the course, mentioned below, will be offered online (technology permitting). Check out Dr. Paul's Facebook page, Rev. Dr. Paul Gibson, to watch live.
How Long is the Course?
The course consists of 7 sessions that will last approximately 90 minutes each. (The current Healthy Marriage, Healthy Family course will start Sunday night, January 14th and will meet each Sunday night until the end of February.)
Is There a Cost?
No cost. Healthy Marriage, Healthy Family is a ministry of Hardinsburg Baptist Church. CHILDCARE WILL BE PROVIDED for those taking the class onsite.
Who Will Teach the Course?
The course was created and will be taught by Rev. Dr. Paul Gibson. Paul holds a Doctorate in Marriage and Family Counseling, is a regular contributor to Start Marriage Right at http://www.startmarriageright.com/author/paul-gibson/, and is currently working on publishing the course as a marriage curriculum.
Do I Have to Register to Attend? How Do I Register?
No registration is required, but it is encouraged. Go to www.paulbgibson.com (desktop) to register.
I am excited to announce that I'll be leading a second Healthy Marriage/Healthy Family Course starting Sunday night, January 14th at 5:00 p.m. until 6:30 p.m. The course is completely open to anyone in the Breckinridge County community. The course will meet every Sunday night through the end of February at Hardinsburg Baptist Church. There is also a possibility that this course will be offered online through Facebook Live and ITunes.
Healthy Marriage/Healthy Family is for any couple engaged to their 75th wedding anniversary who desires a healthier, happier, and holier marriage. You will laugh much, cry a little, and grow a lot.
If you want to know more information, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can sign-up for the class by using the form located on the right of this page (Desktop).
I was 23 years old, married for a year, and just received an offer to coach high school basketball. I was already attending seminary part-time and had started a career as a pastor. My wife, Tara, was scheduled to start traveling for medical internships within the month. Over the next four months, she would be gone throughout the week and return home over the weekends. I was entertaining the coaching offer because I was hoping to use coaching as an extension of a career in ministry.
I met with our senior pastor to seek his approval and wisdom regarding the offer. His words still haunt me to this day. With my pastor sitting right across from me, he gently looked up, and with concern on his face, said “Paul, I’m afraid you’re going to be doing too much.”
I’m afraid you’re going to be doing too much…
If only I would have listened. I accepted the coaching offer. Six months later, our marriage was showing fractures. I had grown distant from Tara. What had happened?
COMPLICATING THE HARD WORK OF MARRIAGE
Marriage is hard work. A lot harder than I expected. Basketball started to dominate my focus and Tara started her internships. I found myself too physically and emotionally exhausted to talk with Tara every night on the phone. Our conversations became short and I grew snippy. When she would return home for the weekend, I often had practice to attend. When we were together, I was a zombie whether we were sitting on the coach or watching movies. We were not connecting. The physical distance of internships and the emotional distance caused by my commitment to basketball and my career made the hard work of marriage even harder.
The physical distance of internships and the emotional distance caused by my commitment to basketball and my career made the hard work of marriage even harder.
Lack of time together and the result of not connecting led to an unhealthy marriage. It took two years of counseling to recover. I wish I could go back to that office and sit in the on the meeting between my younger self and my pastor. The more mature, wounded me would refuse to allow my younger self to leave until he had made the decision to not accept the coaching offer. I still cringe when I think of the heartache we experienced as a couple.
LAYING ASIDE YOUR ARMOR
The words of Deuteronomy 24:5 contain great wisdom. “If a man has recently married, he must not be sent to war or have any other duty laid on him. For one year he is to be free to stay at home and bring happiness to the wife he has married” (NIV). Focusing on marriage and not battle was an Old Testament warriors’ sole responsibility for a whole year!
Currently, if a young pastor or any young professional asks me about accepting an additional employment role in the early years of marriage, I try to put the fear of the Lord in them. I strongly tell them “You’re going to be doing too much and you’re going to hurt your marriage. Lay aside your metaphorical armor and focus on your marriage first.” Such focus is especially important when marriages start off with additional challenges like school internships, graduate school processes, young children, and medical or mental illness. Challenges like these require an even greater focus and commitment to help an early marriage stay healthy and holy.
If you find yourself at the beginning stages of marriage and facing an additional job offer, wrestling with going back to school, or accepting a position that requires even more time away from your spouse, please think long and hard. Do whatever is necessary to lay aside, or not pick up, your metaphorical armor. Work on “bringing happiness” to your spouse by focusing on them as much as possible. A young marriage that focuses on time together and connection lays the foundation for an even healthier marriage in the years to follow. There will be plenty of time later to pick up “your armor.” (This article was first published at startmarriageright.com)
Paul is the husband to Tara, father to Natalie and Isaac, has an average jump shot, and enjoys running. His secret wish is to one day become a Jedi Knight. Paul holds a doctorate in marriage and family counseling from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and currently serves as senior pastor of Hardinsburg Baptist Church. Paul desires to help young couples navigate the early crucibles of marriage, especially when one or both of the spouses are engaged in vocational ministry.