Since the majority of marriages happen in the Spring and early Summer, many of you will soon be celebrating an anniversary. Allow me to make a suggestion for the best year-long gift you can give to each other.
Most married couples spend time on their anniversary reflecting on how they can grow closer to each other. Sometimes, we need to step back and ask a more fundamental question: “How can we encourage each other to get closer to God?” Doing that will help you get closer to each other.
Devotion to God isn’t the paint on the car (something we just “decorate” our relationship with as an add-on) but rather the engine that makes the car go. Drawing nearer to God is one of the most fail-safe ways to increase intimacy in your marriage. It’s sort of like professional athletes doing cross-training—they work on a skill that builds them up to do better with their actual competition.
We love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). When we’re in tune with God, we’re more likely to be sensitive to His conviction if we’re not making our marriage a priority or if we’re engaging in behavior that could threaten our marriage. Plus, I’ve found that spending time with the God who is passionate about my wife is the best way for me to remain passionate about my wife because God’s passion is contagious.
So, what if the two of you decided that this will be a year of increased personal worship? What if you decided that for this year you’re going to talk about ways that, individually you can draw nearer to God on a daily basis so that there is more substance to your shared experience of life in Christ?
Some will object: “we don’t have to draw nearer to God, He’s always there.” Of course He is. But our conscious experience of that can and does change and we are the richer or the poorer for it.
I’d like to suggest a couple tools. If Bible reading has been your weakness, check out D.A. Carson’s For the Love of God, vols. 1 and 2. Each day has several scriptural readings and then a short meditation on one of those passages. It’s solid stuff day in and day out, and the format makes it easy to stay focused.
If spending time regularly with God is difficult for you, the answer might be that you’re working with the wrong “pathway.” My book Sacred Pathways suggests nine different temperaments to help believers develop a custom-made daily time of devotion that people actually look forward to, and will miss if they skip it. If you’ve failed trying to rely on the power of discipline, give the power of delight a try.
Third, if you’re just looking to walk more consciously in the daily presence of God, consider the classic works of Frank Laubach and Brother Lawrence (one publishing house brilliantly combined both authors in a joint work entitled Practicing His Presence).
Finally, if you’re not praying together, start to do so, at least once a week. If you’re already praying together once a week, double it to twice. That’s not so difficult, is it?
Here’s the goal: make a conscientious and intentional effort that one year from now, the two of you will feel more grounded spiritually, both as individuals and as a couple.
Some couples will say, “We want this to be the year where we had the most fun” or “we want this to be the year when we take a big step forward in our retirement savings” or “we want this to be the year we finally get out of debt” or even “we want this to be the year when we get back into shape.” Those are all understandable goals. But shouldn’t every Christian couple, at least one year out of their lives, decide to make one year a year of particular focus on drawing nearer to God?
Why not give this a try this year, and see how it goes?
Gary Thomas, GaryThomas.com