A planter’s wife told me a few months before we started our church, “You’re not a real church planter unless you have a kid within the first year.” She was joking, but my wife Jess and I apparently took her seriously. Four months into planting, we found ourselves preparing for both our first church and our fist child. We’re thrilled, but in the middle of these busiest, most-stressful, “more-late-nights-than-college” months, the life change makes us wonder how we’ll balance it all. Again. Because it feels like we’ve just started figuring out how to balance life, marriage, ministry, jobs, etc. with just two of us!
Here are three things I’ve learned about marriage:
I was amazed how quickly after our wedding, our relationship slipped to the back burner. Without realizing it, the time, thought, and effort that I poured into cherishing my wife decreased exponentially in our first months of marriage. I had been the engaged guy who drove halfway across the country to see Jess; who spared no expense in phoning her regularly while she was in Europe; who left little gifts and notes. Now I was the newlywed guy who took last-minute meetings on already-scheduled date nights; who failed to call when getting home later than expected; and who poured more effort into church and grad school than my bride.
What do we do when folks in our churches go through tough times? When someone new begins getting involved? How quickly do we respond to emails? How much time do we carve into schedules for counseling, sermon prep, or discipleship? We don’t naturally fall into any of these; we intentionally make time for them. But we spend so much time being intentional with our week’s structure, great sermons, and dealing with people; we forget to be intentional with our families. How do you intentionally carve out time for the most important people in your life – every day, every week?
Ask The Right Questions
A new pastor once asked a more experienced one, “How do I lead my wife well?” The older pastor quipped, “Don’t ask me – ask her!” Our wives’ answers will be different, but lest we disqualify ourselves from eldership, we have to pastor our families before our churches. What questions do our families need us to ask that we’re not asking? What questions do we ask the men we disciple that we’ve never asked our wives?
While asking Jess about her Jesus, family, friends, her day, and her dreams, there’s one simple, profound question I’ve learned to ask often: “How am I doing as a husband?” It’s an open opportunity to let me know her every thought, feeling, and desire: anything is fair game. Some days her answers leave me shocked or hurt. But I can only know how to lead better if I know how she needs to be led. Strap on a cup and try it: it’s one of the best questions I’ve ever asked.
Pray for Her
Maybe I’m alone in this, but just as I failed to carve out time with my wife, and failed to ask meaningful questions, I sadly and often forgot to pray for her. Are you a praying husband? Are you a praying daddy? Do you daily present your family to God and beg for grace and mercy to lead well? For protection, blessing, and leadership? It seems too obvious, but we must be praying for and with our families!
Like I said, I’m still learning these things. I fail at all three. But I’ve at least learned to try. And I have men who push me toward them! Maybe by the time our baby is born, I’ll have it figured out – or at least I’ll be ready to start learning all over again how to lead my family well.