How to open the door for deep partnership in your marriage (includes excerpt from “Marriage on Mission”)
As some of you know, Sandi and I have been writing our first book, “Marriage on Mission” for the past three months. My goal was to have the book written by Labor Day.
Today is Labor Day.
OK, so I didn’t make the self-imposed deadline! But, the good news is I just completed the draft for chapter 6 and the book should be to our publisher by the end of the month!
Today I want to share an excerpt from chapter 6. I would love to hear some comments on this post – so step up and let your voice be heard!
I read this to Sandi yesterday over lunch, and I couldn’t get through it without tears. I am so incredibly grateful for my wife, and for the grace of God in my life! You will see why…
I will never forget the first time I heard it. I was sitting in a Fort Wayne, Indiana boardroom. I recall settling in for a very long meeting (these were usually all day affairs).
Our leader, (then Regional Director Steve Jones who currently serves as the President of the Missionary Church) made the following statement:
There is an old African proverb that says: “If you want to go fast, go alone. But if you want to go far, go together.”
Time slowed down for me as I took this in. In an instant God had my full, undivided attention and I knew in that moment He was sending a message through Steve.
“Tom, in your headlong pursuit to plant more churches and accomplish greater and greater things for me, you have left Sandi behind. Go back for her. I am sending you to a place of blessing and impact, but you can only make this journey with her at your side.”
I don’t recall another word uttered the rest of that day. I was transfixed on the image of leaving my wife behind. I knew it was true, and it grieved me. Rising up beneath the grief was a sense of urgency. “I have to go back for her! I hope it’s not too late!”
The year was 2011. This was one of the catalytic events God used to reshape my life and our marriage. This came during that period of long walks while waiting on God to open doors. And this message became a key that would open many doors. Going far together would bring breakthrough, we just didn’t know how.
But, first things first; why did I leave Sandi behind to begin with?
It was the book, “Covenant and Kingdom” by Mike Breen that helped me understand this better. Mike makes a compelling argument for two strands of DNA that run throughout all scripture: covenant and kingdom. Covenant is all about relationship and two people becoming one, new identity. God’s covenant with Abram illustrates the power of these relational ties. Abram’s name change to Abraham signified the intimacy of covenant as he took on part of God’s name (just like Sandi’s name changed through our covenant of marriage). It is through covenant that we receive our truest identity.
Kingdom, on the other hand, speaks of responsibility, authority, and power. When we engage God’s kingdom the dead rise, the earth splits, and mountains blaze. If covenant is a romance novel, kingdom is a fast paced, action packed thriller.
My problem? I was attempting to earn my identity through kingdom accomplishments. My bigger problem? Since God gives identity by his grace through covenantal relationships, I was searching in the wrong place. Believing I had to somehow earn my identity I always felt compelled to do more. As I moved from one thing to the next in a restless pursuit of identity and affirmation, Sandi grew weary and wounded.
This was our exact situation after I resigned from our first church plant. Sandi was deeply wounded, and my sense of identity and significance were threatened by my apparent lack of success in leading our church to greater heights. I needed another win, and I needed it quickly. So, we planted another church. This time we used a house church model, which meant I also needed to find employment. Hey, another opportunity to earn my identity! Why not start a new business to fund our church plant and pay the bills for our family? Great idea!
Let’s be clear about one thing; I was in no way, shape, or form ready to plant another church. I, too, was deeply wounded, but I didn’t feel like I had the time to address all of that. In fact, I was emotionally, physically, and mentally exhausted. Sandi was reeling from all of the broken and strained relationships that were left in the wake of my resignation. It was the worst possible time to attempt another church plant. Yet, I felt driven to do so.
That’s when I left Sandi behind. That’s when she got out and I drove off. She could not follow me. She tried her best to be supportive, but it just wasn’t in her. Instead of leading her into a season of rest and healing focused upon our covenant with God, one another, and the friends who loved us I pushed her back into an ill-conceived attempt to plant another church.
But, it gets worse. I began viewing Sandi as a liability. She couldn’t keep up with me anymore. Her need to slow down and find healing through relationship and a grace filled community felt like a weakness to me. My attitude became, “Get over it already and help me build this new church. Don’t you know that people are going to hell?”
Once again, failure was not an option. Once again, our marriage paid a heavy price. And, once again, I justified my sinful attitudes toward Sandi and my striving for something God had already given me (identity as a beloved son) through spiritual sounding logic.