Why we need good friends to build and sustain a healthy marriage on mission

Hagley Breakfast 2015_1
Sandi and I finished writing Marriage on Mission about a month ago. Since then we have done our best to get the word out, asked several friends to read the manuscript and give input, and worked on a hundred details related to the publishing process.
However, those weren’t the most important things. Let me tell you about the real progress we’ve made over the past thirty days.

First, I reached out to a few men I know from church and asked them to meet me for breakfast. Between bites of bacon and toast loaded with strawberry jam (the most important part of any breakfast) I asked them a question:

“Will you join me on a journey to live a life worth imitating and pursue a marriage on mission?”

I asked three men this question, and they have all initially agreed. In fact, I meet with two of them tomorrow morning to actually engage the process. What will the process look like? That remains to be seen, but I am confident it will include the following elements:

1. We will agree upon a day and time to meet every week and make every effort to show up.

2. We will agree upon a Bible reading plan and discuss how God is speaking to us through his word.

3. We will ask one another certain accountability questions every week, answer them honestly, confess our sin to one another, and celebrate the victories.  These questions will touch areas of our lives like sexual purity, our pursuit of God and our spouse, and our witness to a lost world. We will pray for one another.

That’s pretty much it.  Our group will get no larger than four men and our meetings will last no longer than 60 – 90 minutes.  If God brings a fifth guy into our group, we will become two groups.

You may be wondering why I am writing about a men’s discipleship idea in a book about marriage.  Here’s the deal: If I intend to serve, lead, and engage Sandi in a growing marriage on mission I will need a support system outside of our relationship.

Remember, only two whole people can become one.  Sandi’s job is not to complete me, her job is to help and partner with me in discovering and living out God’s will. If I look only to her for all of my emotional, friendship, and personal needs to be met I am setting both of us up for failure.

God meets all of my needs, and he does so through relationships.  It just so happens he chooses to meet some of those needs through friendships with other guys – and it’s my responsibility to cultivate those relationships and bring that health into my marriage.

Sandi is seeking out healthy relationships with a few other women as well.  Yesterday she walked with Michelle and today she had lunch with Joyce.  I am striving to grow into a good husband, but I will never make a wonderful girlfriend.  She needs both, and so do I.

The principle: Build a support system outside of your marriage with safe, same sex friends who know you and love you.  Instead of pressuring your mate to become all things for you, bring the strength you glean from those friendships into your marriage to better serve and bless your spouse.

There is grace and challenge I receive from my brothers in Christ that I can get nowhere else.  This is why we must ultimately look beyond marriage on mission to family on mission – our marriages must be nourished from the rich soil of Christian community.

Second, we had a big fight a few weeks ago.  In fact, it was on the same day we completed the first draft of this book.  It wasn’t a long argument, but what it lacked in duration it more than compensated for with intensity.
Come to think of it, we tussled again this morning.

Why am I telling you this?

We are sold out for all God wants to do in and through our marriage – this is real life for us.  However, we are also committed to wrestling through every disappointment and setback.  We have been reminded in the past three weeks that progress for us looks like two steps forward, and one step back.

The reason for some of the struggles of late has been my lack of engagement (I blame my travel schedule, but that’s not entirely true) and not enough walking together.  Our walks function like a pressure release valve, and if we miss that communication it’s only a matter of time before something explodes.

So, this afternoon we are taking a long walk and I will intentionally engage in the things she needs to talk about.  I have a few stresses weighing on my heart that need to be ventilated as well.  (These anxieties have taken up so much emotional bandwidth for me I have withdrawn into myself – the very impulse I need to resist.)

The principle: Insist upon consistent communication patterns that make room for venting, dreaming, and processing loss.  (When you blow-up, give grace, seek forgiveness, and get back into healthy communication rhythms.)

And last, don’t lose sight of the mission!  I have struggled with my OUT relationships this month.  So many other things have gotten in the way (again, several excuses come to mind – there is a never ending stream).  Our last Saturday brunch was over six weeks ago, and prayer walking has been pretty anemic since then.  I knew in my heart today that we needed to pray and look for opportunity.

We made three decisions this afternoon.

Our date night tonight (both kids are gone) will be baking chocolate chip cookies and preparing gift bags for ten neighbors with Christmas cookies and an invitation to brunch this Saturday.  (Sandi made me promise I would stay in the kitchen at her side until the job was done – I agreed as long as she promised I could eat as many cookies as I want.)

I will cancel my duck-hunting trip for Saturday and we will hold a neighborhood brunch.  (Don’t be too impressed by my spiritual fervor, getting up at 4 a.m. sounds less and less appealing as I get older.)

We are going to visit a neighbor who is holding church services in her home.  We saw the yard signs over a month ago – and we both believe God wants us to get to know this family and see if there may be some ways we can partner together to make the good news of Jesus tangible to our neighbors.

So, there it is!  Not very glamorous, is it?  Like I said, this is real life – and real life gets messy.  One minute you are writing a book about ministry partnership, and the next you are yelling at one another.  Not sure we will ever fully outgrow the back and forth nature of this.  Not sure we are supposed to this side of heaven…

We leave you with this encouragement:

“…surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
~ Jesus, Matthew 28:20

You may have huge obstacles to overcome, but you are not alone.  And, where there is Jesus there is hope.

3 Responses to Why we need good friends to build and sustain a healthy marriage on mission

  1. Your welcome Jim! Yes, so many people have been so over-sold for so long that transparency has become in demand big time. The tension comes between airing our dirty laundry and giving accessibility to God's redemptive work in the mess of life.

  2. Hey Tom
    You've been my coach for the past year and you still coach me through your blog. I am going to start something like what you're doing with a few key men and probably get them reading your book.

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