No man is ever called to be another. God has as many plans for men as he has men; and, therefore, he never requires them to measure their life exactly by way of any other life. — Horace Bushnell
What Horace Bushnell said of individuals in the 19th century is just as true of what we could say of married couples in the twenty-first: “No married couple is ever called to be another. God has as many plans for married couples as he has couples; and, therefore, He never requires them to measure their life by any other couple.”
You comprise one-half of a unique couple. No other couple has your gifts, your weaknesses, your history, your dynamics, your children, your calling. There is great freedom in accepting our couple identity as it is: “We might be strong in this area, weak in that, vulnerable here, impenetrable there, excelling in this, often failing in that, but we are a unique couple, called forth by God to fulfill our unique purpose in this world.”
Don’t look to other couples to measure your worth; look to God to fulfill your call. Don’t compare yourself with other couples to measure your happiness; compare your obedience with God’s design on your life to measure your faithfulness.
Lisa and I are not called to be Les and Leslie Parrott, who have two Ph.Ds (Lisa and I have, between the two of us, none), and who write and speak jointly (Lisa often likes to say, “Nobody asks plumbers’ wives if they can fix a toilet, so why does everyone ask me if I will give a talk, just because my husband does?”).
We are not called to be like Dr. Ed and JoBeth Young, or Rick and Kay Warren, two couples who lead two of the largest churches in the country, beloved by their congregations of over thirty years for their rock-solid, stay-in-one-place leadership. We’ve moved around a good bit; our kids don’t really have one place they can call “home.”
We are not called to be like some of our friends who, with their financial resources, can literally choose which ministries to help launch in specific countries that God has laid on their hearts.
We’re just Gary and Lisa. That’s all we’re called to be. We have no other map to follow, no other marriage to live up to, no other couple that should make us feel ashamed, humiliated, envious or proud.
We will never have the financial resources that some other couples have, yet we also do not bear the financial anxieties that many poorer couples face. Neither one of us feel like we are particularly adept at handling money, so we’re glad that God has given us enough but not too much.
We don’t have a startling testimony, something major we’ve had to overcome. There haven’t been any huge medical crises.
We have three wonderful children. In fact, at the end of a seminary course, Lisa joined me for a question and answer session. One student asked, “How did the two of you deal with adolescent rebellion?” Our youngest, at the time, was 20 years old. Lisa and I looked at each other, at a loss for words. “We didn’t,” we finally had to confess.
“Our kids sort of decided to skip that. Of course, they had individual ‘events,’ but no stage of rebellion, no season of a hard heart. It’s not anything we did; it’s likely in spite of us, not because of us, so we can’t give you ‘three steps’ to stop that from happening.” But we’re both grateful for those couples who give much help and wisdom and empathy to others who have raised kids who have broken their hearts.
When I was in seminary, Lisa heard Dr. Gordon Fee rave about how his wife Maudine financially supported their family through his Ph.D. studies, and how her sacrifice made his life possible. That was a sore point; I wanted to pursue my doctorate at the time, but financially, we just couldn’t, and Lisa didn’t feel like she could do what Maudine did.
Looking back, getting a Ph.D. might have led me to reach far fewer people. It could have destroyed me. Who knows? Our story isn’t the Fees’ story; we don’t have to live up to them, and they don’t have to live up to us.
Become comfortable with your story, your identity as a couple. Relish it. Never compare it. Just be faithful to the unique vision that God has given to the unique you. God doesn’t need another couple just like one He has already made. He is so much more creative than that! Rather, He wants to release and bless the unique couple that is you.