Married couples are often asked:
“Are you praying together?’
“Are you having sex frequently enough?”
“Are you going on date nights?
I don’t have a problem with any of these points of advice; it’s just that what is often most lacking in such lists is one of the most crucial elements of all: mission. The richest marriages I know excel in mission.
If you’ve tried everything else to revive your marriage and found it all wanting, discovering your spiritual mission is a new place to start.
Since Christ calls us to “seek first the Kingdom of God” (Matthew 6:33), how can a successful God-honoring marriage not be marked by mission? We’re not told to seek first an intimate marriage, a happy life, obedient children, or anything else. Jesus tells us to seek first one thing, and one thing only: His Kingdom and His righteousness (the two words define and build on each other, creating one common pursuit).
Seeking first God’s kingdom means turning from a self-absorbed life where your happiness is defined primarily by your comfort and pleasure, to a life of surrender to Christ’s mission on earth, receiving the Holy Spirit’s empowerment so that God uses you as an instrument to advance His reign, His influence, and to release His healing power.
This is what gives meaning to marriage, and purpose. It gives you a reason to talk to each other, to pray together, and it builds admiration and respect for each other.
I tell men all the time that the easiest way to gain respect in the eyes of your wife is to surrender to God, who will equip you and use you—based not on your own strengths, but the ability of His Holy Spirit to gift you—and in the process maybe even impress your wife.
Because God’s reign is so vast, every couple will have a different expression of this mission. Many couples practice and promote adoption. They have a difficult time talking about anything else. Others build businesses that employ families, support Kingdom work, and serve in creative ways. Some couples are particularly active in the local church, or the arts community, or they reach out to sports minded enthusiasts. The common link that you see in these couples is that their mission is what keeps their marriage vibrant on many levels. It’s always all about the Kingdom.
How can you and your spouse discover your mission? Think forward to the end of your days and ask yourself, if you knew you were about to see God face to face, what would you most want to lay at His feet? What do you think He uniquely created you to do? And then ask, are you doing anything about that now?
It might be a vision that you work on together. It might be a vision that you play a supporting role in (I know a husband who has been his wife’s business administrator, book table coordinator, and support extraordinaire as God has used his spouse to bless so many people). But it’s something you are committed to.
Almost five hundred years ago, William Tyndale was burned at the stake solely for translating Scripture into an accessible language. One of his fiercest enemies wasn’t some pagan chieftain but rather the King of England. During the tumultuous days of opposition that ultimately led to his imprisonment and death, Tyndale boldly told a clergyman, “If God spare my life, I will cause the boy that drives the plough to know more of the Scripture than you do.”
Though his life was cut short, the fire that Tyndale kindled took hold and his mission was accomplished; easily accessible versions of Scripture soon covered the European continent and laid the groundwork for the English Reformation.
It all began with a mission. Tyndale could see it, taste it, and picture it: By getting the Scriptures into an accessible language, a common boy could know the Scriptures as well as any clergyman. It was a mission he laid down his life to achieve.
Here’s a good date night idea: discuss how you and your spouse would finish Tyndale’s statement: “If God spare our lives…” What’s your dot-dot-dot? What would you most like to see happen?
That’s a good indicator of what your mission might be.
If you can join your hearts around a common aim, begin taking steps to move toward it. Embrace it together as a couple. One of you might be the headliner, but as long as you’re both aligned and committed, that’s all it takes to join yourselves into a common task. Such a connection bolsters intimacy, meaning, and purpose.
For over a decade, the dairy industry has kept asking us, “Got milk?” It’s time that the church start asking married couples, “Got mission?
Gary Thomas, GaryThomas.com