As a pastor, it could be said that your job boils down to one simple word: relationships.
First and foremost, the personal relationships that those in your church and community have with Jesus.
The relationships built between the individual members of your church body—how they live life together and work together for the unified purpose of building God’s kingdom here on earth.
There is also the marriage relationships that walk through your doors that will often look to you, sometimes quietly and occasionally by way of individual counseling, for your guidance and wisdom.
Also parents’ relationships with their children, believers’ relationships with nonbelievers, your staff’s relationships with you and each other, and the list continues . . .
There is no shortage of relationships that you as a pastor have some type of role or responsibility in nurturing and guiding. And more times than not, I bet you are doing an outstanding job with this, or at the very least are very aware of the importance of seeking God’s wisdom in counseling all these many relationships.
But are you looking out for the most important relationship in your life save for that which you have with your Creator—your relationship with your wife?
Everyone else in your church community has at least you looking out for their relationships and marriage; who is looking out for your marriage? (Hint: It starts with you.)
No Marriages Should Be on Backburners, Certainly Not Yours
Your staff gets the best of you. Your congregation gets the best of you. Your sick and dying get the best of you. The unchurched community around you gets the best of you. Your kids get the best of you. And yet one day, every single one of those people will not be a part of your daily life.
But your wife will be. Is she getting the best of you still?
No marriages should ever be placed on a simmering backburner, keeping barely warm, while you are busy stirring four other boiling pots in order to keep them from burning. Is this your mindset at times? Certainly, we should find comfort in knowing our spouses will love us unconditionally, but does that mean we take them for granted? Absolutely not.
Ask your wife today if she has ever felt placed on the backburner while you have tended so passionately and personally to every other relationship in your life save for her. Give her freedom and grace to speak honestly and openly and do not get defensive in any way. Just because the truth can hurt doesn’t mean it isn’t the truth.
Actions, Not Only Words
Your staff members know you care when you work side-by-side with them in their specific ministries. The sick in your church know you care when you visit them in the hospital and bring them a Frappuccino. How do you show how much you care about your most important earthly relationship? With only words?
I’m not talking about bringing home flowers, ordering take-out, or buying tickets to Hamilton, though there is always a time and place for those types of things that you should capitalize on. But what is your wife seeing you intentionally do every day for the sake of your marriage? Maybe it’s a never-miss breakfast or lunch date. Is it a daily couples’ devotion? Perhaps just side-by-side time on the couch watching a little TV together after the kids go to bed is what makes her feel important to you.
On this topic, if you have not already, establish into your permanent weekly calendar a date night with your wife. Make it the same night every week, and make sure the kids, staff, and other church leaders know that, say, Tuesday night is your night with your wife, so no you will not be attending budget meetings or inviting others over for dinner. And date night can be as simple as putting the kids to bed and enjoying popcorn and a movie. The important thing is setting it aside as a permanent night in your weekly schedule, just as you do staff meetings, kids’ gymnastics practice, and the men’s Bible study.
But the Answer Isn’t Always “You”
Yes, you need to be purposeful about showing your wife how important your relationship is. Absolutely, you need to put action to words and make sure she sees with her own eyes how much you value nurturing your marriage. You also need to be praying together, honoring her in front of your children, seeking her partnership and opinion in many things concerning your work. In the end, your marriage needs you looking out for your marriage. But you need some help from time to time also.
Wherever you are in your marriage, however old you are or how many anniversaries you’ve celebrated, there is knowledge and experience beyond you that you need in your life. Do you have a mentor couple investing in your relationship with your wife just as you invest in so many other relationships of which we mentioned above?
I would suggest having an older couple to seek counsel from and a couple of any age whom you trust to stay close with you and hold you accountable, who will not be afraid to ask you the tough questions or get involved in your marriage. The point is, you need others (whom you have asked, not who are simply being nosy) looking out for you and your wife. Even when you are doing a solid job of intentionally looking out for your own marriage in the ways already discussed, as well as many others, sometimes you will be too close to the situation to see everything around you. That’s where having the right people looking out for you can bless your marriage tremendously.
Do not neglect for a second the most important relationship you have here on earth. What do you need to do today to make sure the right people (yourself included) are looking to strengthen your marriage?
Kevin Harvey is the author of two books, which can both be found here at Amazon. You can also read about his family’s ongoing journey of adoption through foster care at www.OrphanToOrphan.com. Find him on Twitter at @PopCultureKevin.