Thursday, February 7, 2013

6 tips for developing a life in God as a couple

photo by myriah grubbs
couples who pray together, stay together.

sounds so cliche right? seems like two people who both love the Lord would naturally love the Lord together. so, why is it just so hard sometimes?!

before i got married and met my husband i had this list of all the things i hoped to find in the man i was going to marry. one of the things was i wanted a man who prayed; i mean really truly had a prayer life with God.

fast forward a few years and i met just the right guy. he led worship. he had a heart for missions. he had a deep life of prayer with the Lord. he was funny. he was hopelessly in love with me. the only problem was our personal lives with God did not mesh into a "couple's" life with God.

i remember a few tense moments early on in our engagement and newlywed days when we tried to do this stuff together. one was a night when we tried to co-write a song for his brother's wedding. it seemed easy right? we were both musicians, were in love with each other, and had the assignment of writing a love song for a wedding.

it became a huge fight.

we both had different styles when it came to writing music. i remember sitting there on the floor of my bedroom feeling like he was a complete stranger, just because he didn't write songs the way i was used to writing. instead of drawing us together, the experience of sharing a passion and then not connecting in the middle of it drove us apart.

the same dynamic followed us into our time with the Lord. 

before getting married i had these visions, call me idealistic, of spending time pouring over the Bible with my husband. i envisioned prayer together where our hearts connected powerfully with God and with each other. i imagined ministering together (we did meet each other on a missions trip) and sharing this passion of living a life following Jesus and it just blending together so seamlessly.

well, it just didn't go so seamlessly.

we tried to pray together a few times and it was a complete train wreck. i felt he was too quiet. he felt i was pressuring him to relate to God the way i related to God. i felt like he didn't want to include me in his life with the Lord. i think he felt crowded and wished i would just do my time with the Lord by myself.

instead of drawing our hearts closer together, spending time with God together made us feel distant and misunderstood by each other. this was just not the way i had envisioned it going.

since then i have found out that our story is far from unique. just like there are so many different ways of doing life that a man and woman bring to their marriage, there are different ways of doing a personal life with the Lord that they bring as well.

people pray differently. this may not be news to you, but it took years of marriage for me to realize that it was okay that bill and i related to the Lord in our devotional times differently. i did not need to change him, nor did i need to fix my way of doing it to match his... we just needed to push past the awkwardness and the offense of feeling misunderstood or undervalued and still spend time with God together.

now you may be a lucky couple that has always hit it off when you spend time with the Lord together. if you are not, then i want to encourage you that you are not alone nor is your life in God as a couple hopeless.

our connection with each other in the midst of attempting to connecting with God together has greatly improved, but it has taken time! we have successfully co-written songs. we have shared revelations the Lord has given us without ending up in a fight. we even co-lead a prayer ministry now as a full-time occupation. many times God brings together two very different ways of relating to Him to be complementary, not competitive or divisive. i can honestly say i have learned so much about God from being married to this man for 11 years, and he has told me many times the very same thing.

my husband's slightly different perspective, simply because he stands viewing God from a slightly different vantage point, has opened up a wider experience of the Lord that i would have never known if i had stayed single and undisturbed.

marriage can be one of the most exciting dynamic ways of encountering the Lord if we are willing to press through the awkwardness, step over the offense, and be open to the Lord speaking to us and through us in ways that may be new. allowing another person to be a part of a very intimate and personal relationship with God can be intimidating, yet bring so much more growth and depth!

here are six tips for developing a life with God together as a couple:

1. make a point to pray together every day. it may be at the dinner table. it may be lying in bed before going to sleep. it may be a devotional time in the morning. no matter how it looks, how long or how short, make time to pray and talk to the Lord together regularly.

2. if it is awkward, do not quit! i can't tell you how much it would have helped us early on if we had a couple that we respected tell us how hard this part of married life could be. listen, i am here to tell you it can be awkward; it might feel lifeless, it may even cause fights. but it is so worth it to purposefully pray together, spend time in the Word and worship together, and talk about your lives in God together.

3. do not just assume that your spouse has a vibrant life in God - ask. ask him what God is speaking to him. ask how you can be praying for him. (you are praying for your spouse, right?) ask where he has been reading in the Bible lately. share what you feel the Lord speaking to you, both the encouraging stuff and the struggles. in the midst of going through life, stop and pray for your husband. if it seems your spouse is struggling or distant from the Lord - pray for him. i know too many women who were surprised and devastated to find out their husband hadn't been walking actively with the Lord for years, and they had hoped that he was spending time with God on his own when he wasn't. it had somehow become an unspoken topic in the home. do not make the mistake of assuming that someone else is checking in on him or encouraging him in his relationship with Jesus. we can be the greatest encouragement and support to our spouse in both the good times and the hard times of walking with the Lord.

4. pray for your spouse. i know this is mostly about developing a spiritual life together, but if you are not praying for your spouse, you are depriving him of his greatest intercessor besides Jesus Himself. if you feel angry or hurt about something your spouse has done, it is the absolute best time to pray for him. is it strange that i have had to pray for my husband after a failed prayer time together where i felt misunderstood? failed prayer together sent me to pray for him and for us to grow in praying together. who do you desire your husband to be in the Lord? do you believe the Holy Spirit can really transform his heart to become that radical follower of Jesus? prayer is powerful. not only is it drawing a bull's eye on your spouse for the Lord's encounter, but it softens your heart towards him.

5. develop your own personal life in the Lord. we are to come together as married couples to strengthen and sharpen one another in the Lord, but we need time one on one with God in the secret place too. though one on one time with the Lord should not substitute for the life in God in the community aspect of marriage, time with the Lord as a married couple should not substitute for the one of one relationship with Jesus either. we need both. so. very. badly.

6. do not quit coming together to seek the Lord. the author of hebrews encouraged the early church to not stop meeting together to worship and pray, and i encourage you to not stop meeting together with your husband and the Lord. i have already said it so many times, it usually is awkward before it is really good (just like other areas of marriage), but it can get really really good. 

Jesus said that when two or more are gather in His name, He is there... coming together in prayer, worship, and studying the Word is so powerful. it is part of what makes marriage so sweet - sharing the deepest places of your heart that come alive in the presence of God with each other.

any stories you want to share about this area of marriage? how have you navigated, successfully or unsuccessfully, this area of relationship? do you have questions about where you and your spouse are right now in your relationship with God as a couple?

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