3 Secrets to Marriage and Ministry

“You don’t need lots of money, or even tons of time, to laugh and find the lighter side of marriage.”

In June, Patti and I celebrated 35 years of marriage. We’ve come a long way from newlyweds in seminary, followed by full-time ministry in San Diego, California.

Ministry life can be tough on a married couple, but it can also be an incredible experience. We have been through difficult seasons and learned much from our less-mature days. But without a doubt, we’d do it all over again in a heartbeat. We are still in love after all these years.

Patti and I were blessed to have great mentors in John and Margaret Maxwell. We could always ask questions them if we needed to, but the bigger benefit was getting to watch how they treat each other. John always treats Margaret like a queen, and in his words, he “loves to spoil her.” His generosity toward her always inspires me. Margaret always supports John in every way. Her loving devotion to John, and the wisdom she adds to anything that comes their way is amazing.

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If you are a young couple, you don’t have to find a couple who mentors you formally: Just pick a couple who models a loving and healthy relationship and pay attention!

Marriage experts often talk about things like communication, money and parenting. So I’ll leave those big topics to the experts, and I’ll take you down a different route. I want to offer a few thoughts not mentioned so often, but just might be some of the things that help you enjoy a deeply meaningful relationship in the midst of ministry.

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1. Let it go.

I’m embarrassed that we so often fought and argued about small and stupid things. They were dumb. They were little, inconsequential and didn’t matter. But you don’t know that then. They seem huge in the heat of the moment.

Let it go! Submit to God and bow to your spouse. Don’t fuss about the little stuff. Nine out of 10 arguments are a waste of time. James 4:1-2 says we quarrel and fight because we don’t get our way. That’s it! Let it go! Save your energy for stuff that matters, and stuff that’s way more fun. If you really get stuck, see a counselor. Don’t try to solve everything alone.

2. Find your way.

Couples spend too much time trying to remake their spouse into something they prefer, rather than encouraging their spouse to become the person God wants them to be. If each of you concentrates on your own personal journey with God, your relationship together will gain so much more depth and dimension.

In Romans 12:1-2, Paul teaches us to live a life pleasing to God, and not to conform to the pattern of this world. Finding your way is not easy. Becoming the full and complete “you” is challenging with all of life’s pressures, but the journey is worth it. Don’t conform to what the world wants. Figure out who God wants you to be and go for it. You’ll avoid many regrets and you’ll experience so much more joy in your marriage relationship.

3. Keep on dancing.

I’m a type-A, driven person. Patti once said: “Dan, you care more about everything than I care about anything!” That pretty much sums it up! God was gracious and kind to give me Patti. Everybody loves Patti. She is fun, laughs quickly and brings joy. Patti makes holidays great and serves the family well with her gifts of service and hospitality.

You don’t need lots of money, or even tons of time, to laugh and find the lighter side of marriage. It’s more a way of life than what you do once a week on date night. Heck, Patti and I laugh about the silly things our little Havanese dog “Nacho” does on a daily basis. Joy is a choice.

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We danced at our wedding 35 years ago, and we’re still dancing together today. You can do it too!

Dan Reiland is the executive pastor at 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Georgia. This article was originally published on Reiland’s blog, Developing Church Leaders.