Adam and Eve were given a shared mission. Together they were to expand the life and love of God. Together they were to image their Creator in creatively bringing order to all that God had made. Together they were to exercise godly authority under God over creation. Shared ministry is at the heart of God’s design for marriage.
“And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth” Genesis 1:28).
Wendy and I have been married for 24 years and 5 months. We married during my senior year of college and as we headed into married life together, we had no fear, no money and no clue about the challenges that lay ahead. We jumped with both feet into life and ministry together. We taught Sunday school for middle schoolers in our local church, helped start a young adult ministry, served on Young Life staff, led a church planting team and were blessed with our first child. It was both exhilarating and excruciating.
Two sinners learning to live for the good of another doesn’t come naturally. God reshaped our character and forged a more mature commitment to one another. I’m grateful for how God’s grace formed us and taught us these two important lessons.
God’s design for marriage is rooted in shared mission
Before we said our vows, our wedding officiant reminded us about Genesis 1:28 and the mission we would share together. We were ministering to others before we were married, and he reminded us that we shouldn’t stop. We shouldn’t become so preoccupied with one another that we lose sight of God’s larger mission.
Adam and Eve were given a shared mission. Together they were to expand the life and love of God. Together they were to image their Creator in creatively bringing order to all that God had made.
Viewing marriage as a mission partnership was essential. We led groups together, counseled together and involved ourselves in the local community together. When kids came along, this shared mission partnership expanded. We sought to live together as one missional family.
This view of marriage helped us navigate the challenges of ministry and family life with young kids. It is all too easy for spouses to become resentful of each other's separate ministry life when it is viewed as cutting into family life. But when mission partnership is central to marriage and family, the outlook changes.
Marriage is a signpost not a destination
As my extended family sat around the dinner table celebrating my parent’s 40-year wedding anniversary, my brother-in-law asked “So, Dad, can you give us any marriage advice after 40 years?”
My father said, “Low expectations.”
We all nervously chuckled. When we looked over at Mom, she was nodding in agreement. Dad explained that he and Mom didn’t expect each other to be their “everything” as is so often portrayed in movies. Instead, their marriage pointed them to the One who is their “everything.” I’ve never forgotten that lesson.
It’s tempting to put expectations on marriage that it was never meant to hold. Many become disillusioned in the mid-to-later stages of marriage because they expect greater fulfillment from marriage than they have experienced. Christians subtly fall victim to false marriage expectations. In our efforts to hold the value of marriage high in a world that doesn’t, we can oversell its function. Marriage isn’t the goal. Marriage is pointing us toward the goal.
Ephesians 5:31-32 (ESV) instructs us:
“Therefore, a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.”
Marriage tells us that sacrificial, covenantal love is at the heart of the universe. It reminds us that life and love are found in laying our lives down. It calls us to participate in Jesus’ self-giving way of life. As we allow marriage to point us to the love of Christ, we are freed to love an imperfect spouse with whom God has called us to partner in His gospel mission.
Christians subtly fall victim to false marriage expectations. In our efforts to hold the value of marriage high in a world that doesn’t, we can oversell its function.
Different challenges, same mission
After almost 25 years of marriage, our challenges are different. They are more about maintaining togetherness since we are not as naturally together in the ways we used to be. Our kids are all in college (the house is a lot quieter and cleaner). Wendy works as a high school guidance counselor. I travel a fair amount in my work as EFCA district superintendent of the New England District.
Mission partnership is meant to be foundational for marriage in every life stage. It was thrust upon us in the early years. However, in this current life stage with more time and resources, the natural drift is to use our togetherness primarily for our own enjoyment. So, we have to be more intentional. We have to regularly evaluate how God is calling us to invest in the local church, in our district and in our local community, together.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the shared times of enjoyment. This time is a gift! But I also know that left unchecked, our “togetherness” will be built primarily around shared enjoyment rather than shared ministry.
I pray God will continue to give us the grace to lay our lives down for one another and for those God is calling us to serve together.
Send a Response
Share your thoughts with the author.