Monday was our 7th wedding anniversary for Lisa and I. Apparently the 7th year can be the most challenging year of marriage. With kids, financial pressures and ministry, I can see why so many couples struggle. It has not been plain sailing for us at times. However, in the last year I feel Lisa and I have taken some good steps as we look in the mirror of our marriage and we have realized what we need to do to be healthier as a couple and what we need to protect.
I wish I could say we have figured it all out, but we haven’t! There are some things we have been learning and some good things that I believe will keep my marriage and (ultimately) my ministry, healthy. Bottom line, we can’t expect our ministry to be healthy if our families and marriages are not…
Things I do (and should do more often) to keep my marriage fresh.
ABC Dates – This is an idea that Lisa came up with a while back that I blogged about about (link). Every two weeks we go on a date that begins with the current letter of the alphabet we are on. It involves either an activity that begins with that letter or going to a restaurant beginning with that letter. We have played arcade games, bowled, been to corn mazes, watched hockey games and eaten at all kinds or weird places… Bottom line: Our marriage is more interesting and fullfilling when we do stuff outside the norm. ABC dates force us to do things outside the norm.
Family Night – This works in two ways. Every Monday is my day off and our ‘planning night’. We sit down to dinner with our planners and look at our meal plan, Lisa’s schedule, my schedule, and plan one or two times to do fun stuff as a family that week. Later that week we go a ‘Family Night’ together: Bike rides, ice cream, the park etc…
Communicate My Schedule – Not rocket science but is something I hear way too often from my ministry friends as a stumbling block for ministry marriages. Today I just printed off my whole summer schedule for my wife. However, none of it was planned until she gave her approval. (Do you shudder at that thought of your spouse giving approval? If so, ask yourself why? Jim Burns from Homeword.com once told me that he gives his wife veto power over his whole schedule)…
Planning Quality Getaways: Ministry is crazy enough for all us and we know that our spouses can often get shorted for time on a regular basis. Therefore, I make it a priority to plan in advance our vacations and daytrips away. Right now we have planned daytrips this summer, (we are expecting a baby soon and this does not allow for vacations so much :o). We also have a late Fall getaway and late winter getaway already on the calendar. Might sound like ‘over-planning’, but my experience tells me that if my getaways and vacations don’t make it on the calendar, other stuff will.
Here’s what I do to protect my marriage and family:
Healthy Hours: Not working more than 50 hours a week – I actually schedule for 40 and with all the ministry ‘add ons’ I usually end up at 50. My mentor told me that every hour over 50 is not likely to be very effective anyway.
Turn my phone Off… We don’t need to be talking, texting, or emailing when we are at home and with our families etc. Is it neccesary to take calls or send texts at mealtimes? When we do these things we are ‘not all there’ with our families. Lisa once commented to me that she wished I would ‘be all here’ when I am at home. This was hard to take, but was true. Do you need to be ‘all there’ by turning your phone off?
Leave Frustrations at Church: This is a tough one, but one I am learning is imperative. I must learn to filter my frustrations and learn to channel them through trustworthy friends outside of my church. When I bring frustrations home to Lisa, it is hard for her not to be hurt by people and circumstances. It is imperative that she is excited to be worshipping at church without a negative feeling toward people or circumstances.
Take a Day Off – If I murdered someone, or stole, or committed adultery, no one would disagree that I had sinned. Why then is it that we often find it hard to keep a Sabbath? You and I must take a day to reflect, refresh and refocus. Even if your boss does not take a day off, that’s not your fault. Doug Fields once told of a pastor who told a young youthworker that he didn’t take a day off because, “the devil does not”. The reply, “I’m sorry pastor, the devil is not my role model”… Who are our role models? What are we modelling for our families and students?
Well, there are some things I do. What about you? What are you doing to keep your marriage healthy and protect it in the process?