Like the saying goes, the grass is not greener on the other side of the fence; the grass is greener where you water it. We must make sure our marriage is growing and developing, or we’ll be susceptible to moral failure. If you want a happy marriage, you’re going to have to work at it.
Song of Solomon 1:6 (NASB) says. “They made me caretaker of the vineyards, but I have not taken care of my own vineyard.” There’s a danger in ministry of spending your time repairing other people’s marriages and neglecting your own. I’ve worked very hard at my own marriage. Kay and I have learned that you can’t develop separate lives if you’re in ministry. Separate lives can lead to moral failure if you’re not careful.
Here are seven tips to keep you from developing separate lives:
1. Involve your mate in your ministry. You need to keep your spouse informed about what’s going on in your ministry. At one point I took home all the personal mail I got at Saddleback and shared it with Kay. I wanted her to know what was going on at the church. Secrets lead to separate lives. You’ve got to ruthlessly eliminate secrets in your marriage. Make your spouse a part of what your ministry is about.
2. Surround yourself with reminders of your family. I keep a drawer filled with reminders of my family. Whatever reminds you of your family (a picture, keepsake, etc.), use it. Do this and you’ll keep in mind all you have to lose with a moral failure.
3. Keep lines of communication open. I read a Christianity Today survey once that said 49 percent of ministers rarely or never talk to their spouse about sexual temptation. That’s asking for trouble. Keep the lines of communication open. Most affairs begin with shared feelings and shared frustrations that should have been shared with a mate. They say, “I can’t talk to my husband or wife, but this person understands me.” Baloney! Affairs begin by emotional bonding, and they continue through secrecy and dishonesty.
4. Direct attraction toward your mate. You’re going to be attracted to other people – even if it’s fleeting. But you need to redirect that attraction to your mate.
5. Date your mate. You and your spouse need a regular date night. Put it on the calendar. Don’t let anything get in its way. It doesn’t have to be expensive. If the weather is nice where you live, have a picnic somewhere. There may be someone in your church willing to babysit your kids as a ministry to your family. Regardless of how you make it happen, you need to do it.
6. Make much of your marriage in public. There shouldn’t be any doubt in the minds of the people you’re serving that you’re happily married. I’ve said many times to our congregation that I am hopelessly in love with Kay. I want people to know that. I try to speak positively of her to the church family. I’ve presented her with flowers in front of people at the church. Public expressions of affection are important.
7. Never discuss your marriage problems with anyone of the opposite sex. If you do, you’re asking for trouble. Discuss them with people of your own sex. At Saddleback, we only let our ministers counsel someone from the opposite sex once. After that, they’ve got to refer them to someone else. I think that’s wise counsel. When your marriage is hurting, it’s too easy for you to see someone who is listening to you as the answer.
Your marriage matters. It matters enough for you to protect it. The best way to protect your marriage is to keep working at it. Never stop growing closer to God and your spouse. The moment you’re not growing closer, you’re growing farther apart.
Never let your marriage take a backseat to your ministry.