Finding God Again
Before I was married, I didn't have any problems getting up in the morning and spending time reading my Bible and praying. I had a regular time and place where I met with God, and it worked quite well until I wasn't alone anymore.
Suddenly I didn't just have God to wake up to in the morning; I had a spouse -- a wonderful, cute, warm, snuggly spouse. Just his presence made me want to lie in bed for hours and cuddle. Eventually one of us would volunteer to make breakfast for the other, and then, we were planning our day. Groceries to buy. Errands to run. People to see. Before I knew it, my husband and I were sitting down to dinner and I hadn't spent any time with God.
The worst part was that this kind of day wasn't unusual; it was quickly becoming the norm. I'd find myself cracking open my Bible to read a few verses during a few spare moments or turning on the local radio station to catch portions of a sermon while driving to the grocery store. The once-intimate relationship I had with Jesus was becoming stale. I was having a hard time juggling my relationship with God and the relationship with my spouse.
It's something I still struggle to balance. I finally talked about the issue with my husband, and we decided that we would give each other more time and space to grow spiritually. This means that after cuddling time and before breakfast, we give each other time to read our Bibles. Or maybe one person reads while the other scrambles eggs. We have both had to become more deliberate with our free time too. In our infrequent down moments, I need to resist the urge to watch VH1's "I Love The 90's" and spend some time in prayer. Some days it's tough -- especially when I just want brainless activity. Yet the rewards of seeking God are incomparable.
I am slowly learning that if I am going to love my spouse as God calls me to love him, then I have to seek God first. That is the highest priority. As much as I want to love my spouse on my own -- and on a gushy, mushy, ga-ga-in-love day I really feel I can -- I need God to permeate me with His unconditional love if I am ever going to be able to extend it to my husband. It's only through Him that the fullness of God's love can be made known, and that simple truth helps me realize my true priorities.
Kayli, a 22-year-old, says a lot of married couples bring false expectations of what their spiritual lives will look like when they're married. "You have this one-on-one relationship with Jesus, and you try to bring in this third person and it doesn't work like you think it's going to work," she says.
Kayli's husband, Tom, is very disciplined in his approach to knowing God. Every morning, Tom wakes up at 6 a.m. to spend an hour or more studying and praying. "He's very disciplined," Kayli says. "I might try to do it for a week, but I'm not a morning person and eventually I'll stop. Tom's big strength is reading the Bible and studying. Mine is prayer, so it's been neat bringing those things together, but I struggle with feeling guilty for not reading the Bible more. It's been hard for me. When we were just friends and dating, we would have quiet times together, and they were awesome. I had this picture of what it would be like once we were married, and now we're in real lives doing different things and I think, Why isn't it like that?"
Besides struggling with expectations and comparisons, many couples also struggle to connect with God in the same way. Susan, a 28-year-old who has been married for two years, says she and her husband don't relate to God exactly the same: "A lot of it has to do with the way we were raised. I was in an intellectual church, and his has been more Spirit-oriented," she says. "How do you blend those? We try to get together and have a Bible study or time of worship, and one will think it was awesome and the other will think, That was dumb or What's the point? That's the hardest thing -- not being on the same page spiritually. We represent both of those extremes, and yet we think that will be part of our ministry one day."
Susan says she and her husband are learning to appreciate each other's spiritual backgrounds and traditions, and they are learning to develop some of their own traditions together.
It can be challenging when your spouse doesn't relate to God in the same way you do, but it can also be enriching. What can you learn form your spouse's relationship with God? What can you learn from the way your spouse worships, prays, or studies the Bible? What aspects of God does your spouse have a real grasp on -- reverence, awe, relationship -- that you could gain from?
One of the most encouraging things about pursuing God in marriage is that God can begin to lead you as a spouse. Sometimes it's a bit challenging, but it's always good. I remember one night last winter when Leif and I were about to go to bed, and he decided to check email at the last minute. While he said it would just take a moment, he was gone for more than 20 minutes. I lay in bed fuming.
I finally got up and turned all the lights off in the living room and bedroom and pretended to fall asleep. Even in my anger I could hear the still, quiet voice inside my spirit whisper, "Turn the lights back on." I knew that is what I was supposed to do. I knew I was supposed to be patient with my husband, but at the moment I really didn't care. I lay in bed. A little while later I heard a thud as my husband made his way across the dark living room.
Then he came in the bedroom and turned on the light. Not only had he banged his ankle, but also he wanted to know why I had left him in the dark. It took nearly 30 minutes to sort out the issue, but at the core of it all was my own selfishness. I found myself apologizing and regretting that I hadn't listened to the quiet nudge of the Holy Spirit.
The fact is that God will lead and direct our marriages if we'll let Him and listen to Him. He desires to lead us -- not only as individuals but also as a couple -- beside still waters and restore our souls (Psalm 23). Yet it takes a listening ear and obedience to respond to His loving invitation.
Questions for Reflection
1. How has your relationship with God changed now that you're married?
2. What spiritual disciplines have been easy to maintain since you got married? Which have been challenging to maintain?
3. In what areas are you and your spouse able to grow together spiritually?
4. How do your different backgrounds enhance your ability to serve and worship God together?
Growing Together Spiritually
Here are a few activities to try to jump-start your spiritual lives together. If one doesn't work, don't beat yourself up about it. Simply try another:
• Read a devotional such as Daily Bread together.
• Pray in the mornings or before bed together.
• Try memorizing Scripture together.
• Read a Christian book together.
• Create a place -- whether it's a particular chair or couch -- that is conducive to quiet times.
• Make time to pray together, even if it's over the phone.
• Read the Bible together and discuss.
• Look for spiritual themes in films, books, and music.
• Carve time out of your schedule for both of you to focus on spending that time with God.
• Go on a retreat.
• Choose a day to fast together.
• Pray together about a particular issue every day for a week.
• Play worship music in your home.
• Download sermons from some of your favorite Bible teachers.
Taken from Just Married: What Might Suprise You About the First Few Years by Margaret Feinberg; Copyright 2005 by Margaret Feinberg; Published by Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, OR; Used by Permission.
Margaret Feinberg is an award-winning journalist, speaker, and writer. She is the author of The Organic God, Simple Acts of Faith, Simple Acts of Friendship, Twentysomething: Surviving and Thriving in the Real World, and God Whispers: Learning to Hear His Voice. She has also published countless articles in national magazines including Christianity Today, New Man, BookPage, and Christian Single. Margaret and her husband Leif, life in Alaska.