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In this three-part series devoted to family life, we’re looking at what it means to be a family man or woman by asking the question: “When it comes to my time and dedication, what does my life look like?”
In part one, we covered what our responsibility to God is as we lead our families. This time, we’ll dive into our responsibility to our spouse as we seek to build a kingdom-minded family. So, let’s take a look!
“From the top, down.”
The major takeaway from part one of this series was that “when we put God first, everything else, including how we use our time, flows outward.” It is uniquely spiritual that we follow our Holy Spirit-guided responsibilities to our heavenly Father. And because we are of the family of God, we are first responsible for spending time in devotion to Him. The development of a strong relationship with God is the foundation for strong relationships with others. This “top-down” approach is key. Our relationship roots must go deep (vertically) in God; deep in the soil of His being for us to be healthy and strong enough for us to have healthy and strong relationships that spread wide and far (horizontally).
Achieving a healthy balance of life’s obligations as a spouse requires total participation, total intentionality, and full commitment from both individuals. But before we do that, we must learn what our obligations are!
First, is our obligation that we both acknowledge and celebrate the fact that each one of us is different; made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26), for God (Ephesians 2:10), and for each other (Ephesians 5:31). By accepting and embracing those differences, you affirm your spouse as important, needed, valued, and equal. This affirmation creates unlimited possibilities for growth and fruitfulness.
One of the early and ongoing lessons of my marriage included me seeming to always be on the slow side of affirming and acknowledging my wife, Tonya. I was a ‘know it all!’ My attitude wasn’t intentional, but I wasn’t being intentional enough in my goal to affirm her. I loved her, but I had to learn a lot more about acknowledging everything.
But mere acknowledgment, just like confession isn’t enough. It’s only the first step of building trust; of building and firming the foundation.
Second, a healthy life balance requires a firm foundation to build upon and from which to grow. On a personal note: Before Tonya and I were married, I remember telling her that I loved her, but I loved God more. In turn, Tonya would then share the same sentiment that she loved God more than me too! As a result, we both agreed that we could then continue in our relationship with one another, so long as God remained first in both our lives.
As a pastor’s kid, I was raised going to church every Sunday and attending regular Bible study and prayer meetings. Tonya wasn’t. But this didn’t deter us from one another. And early in our marriage, Tonya – although tough at times – was willing to adapt and adopt those same practices. We were intentional and committed with our time to the obligation of establishing a firm foundation. This, of course, was for our spiritual health both individually and collectively.
Third, a healthy life balance of obligations requires a balanced diet of not only spiritual food but also natural food. Early on, Tonya and I knew that we needed to incorporate prayer and devotions with each other and our children. So we did that. And we continue to do that today! But we realized we weren’t spending enough time with each other. This is why it is important to know and remember that we have physical, mental, emotional, and earthly gifts and responsibilities that God has graciously given us to manage and enjoy as well.
In his letter to the Corinthian church, Paul said:
I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided. And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband. I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord.
1 Corinthians 7:32-35 (ESV)
Some of the biggest mistakes for married Christians come from a bad notion that we shouldn’t have fun; have a date night and see a movie – do something memorable! Paul plainly encouraged us not to forget about the fact that we need to balance pleasing the Lord with pleasing our spouses (so to speak). This is food for the body and the soul. From physical intimacy (1 Corinthians 7:5) to relational intimacy and more, spending quality time with our spouse is crucial to a firm foundation and synonymous with spending quality time with our Lord.
All of these examples, whether spiritual or natural, are paramount to a successful marriage and important for our growth as we learn to balance life’s obligations. And when it comes to understanding God, life, and responsibility, God has given us His Word as well as natural examples so that we are "without excuse” (Romans 1:20).
Let’s take some facts about the apple tree to heart as they provide a memorable picture of what a healthy, God-centered marriage needs to thrive. An apple tree cannot produce the proper yield of healthy fruit unless it has three things:
- Another compatible but differing apple tree with which to pollinate
- A firm foundation in good soil
- Water and sunlight to produce food
In marriage, we are obligated to loving, acknowledging, and partnering with the one whom God has given us – someone who is different than us and most often our opposite.
We are commanded and obligated to spend our time firming up our spiritual foundation both individualistically and collectively. And finally, we are not to neglect God’s gift of humanity and enjoy the food for the body and soul which He has provided.
If you have questions about marriage or would like to talk with someone about the resources we have available, email .