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13 June

Keeping Your Marriage Strong in Ministry

“Christmas Greetings from Our Home to Yours,” I read on the card. Opening it caused a family picture to fall to the floor. I picked it up and looked at the friend I hadn’t seen in about a decade. Kathryn has more kids than I remember, I thought. As I looked closer I realized I was not looking at Kathryn’s husband, Mark. I thought maybe I was having a moment of faded memories, so I read what she’d inscribed in the card. No, this was not the couple we’d served on church staff with. It had been a few years, but I hadn't realized so much had changed. Kathryn was no longer married to Mark and was now with someone named Stephen. I searched Facebook for Mark and found he was now married to Anna. “And another one bites the dust, played in my mind as I mentally calculated how many ministry couples I knew who had dissolved their marriages and moved on.

I don’t know the details, nor do I need to, but my heart aches. Not only for my friends, but for their children, their families, and the church they served. It seems the older I get the more I see this happen to people I’d once thought solid. People I’d looked up to and aspired to be like.

While I can’t change things for them I can take steps to make sure my marriage lasts, to make sure the vows my husband and I made that cold winter morning twenty-five years ago are stronger each year. My children and my church family deserve leaders who practice what they preach.

There are three important things that will keep the marriage relationship in top form:

1.     God-Care
This is the most important of all. When my relationship with the Lord is my first priority, I am able to thrive in all other relationships. Life gets in the way of so much and we are easily pulled into the busyness of it all. Unless we are taking time to consciously keep God first in our lives, we will stumble. Make sure to consciously spend time with the Lord and not just spend time doing the Lord’s work. We need to dedicate ourselves to pleasing God so he is able to fully use us.

2.     Couple-Care
Our spouse needs to be a top priority in our lives--even above our church and above our children. We need to nurture the relationship that God gives us so we are better parents, better pastors, and better examples to the world. If we don’t take the time to cherish one another and serve one another, then someone else will gladly step in.

I loved it when Vice President Mike Pence refused to have meetings alone with women who were not his wife. My husband and I have done this for years and I am honored that my husband would take these steps to guard our marriage. His actions make me feel treasured. Nothing or no one should come between a man and wife (uh, wasn’t that one of the lines in our wedding ceremony?) Take time with each other. Consider it an investment in your future. Laugh together. Date each other. Be friends. Be lovers. There is always more to learn about your spouse. Just when I think I know everything about my guy,  I’m amazed by something new. Marriage can be a fun adventure if you dedicate time to it.

3.     Self-Care
As women we tend to neglect ourselves and focus on everyone around us. I’ve learned that taking time to take care of myself is as important as taking care of those around me. If I can’t function well, then how can I serve others? I’ve also learned that these things can be costly. I’ve had to find creative ways to take care of myself without putting a strain on our finances. Some simple things I like to do just for me range from an afternoon cup of tea to buying myself a funny tee shirt on etsy. Self-care can be a hobby or outside interest. Don’t feel guilty about it.

          If you’ve found yourself on the other side of marriage and are beginning again, please don’t feel like you’re worth any less. God is still using you. He is the God of second chances. Learn from the past and make decisions that will help this time around to last.
          As anything in life, you get out of it what you put into it. If you invest in your relationship with the Lord, with your spouse, and invest in yourself you will reap benefits in every area of your life. You will be a stronger person, have a stronger marriage, and be closer to the Lord than you can imagine. It’s worth it. You’re worth it.

About the Author:

Suzanne Schaffer has been in full-time ministry with her husband Wayne since 1992, pastoring in Pennsylvania and Illinois. She has two grown children and spends most of her days either writing or reading with a cup of tea close by. She enjoys attending auctions and sometimes brings home more stuff than she knows what to do with. She believes life is too short for mediocre food and insists on having good chocolate in the house at all times. You can connect with Suzanne at her blog, www.notenoughchocolate.blogspot.com

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