Chad and I walked the sweet couple to the door, and we all chattered over each other as we said our goodbyes and hugged and laughed. It was the end of a marriage counseling session. The four of us had been sitting in our living room, huddled together on couches that had been used as gymnastics equipment by our seven year old daughter earlier that afternoon. We talked about important things, about Jesus things, about the joys and hardships that come with marriage and life, and about how through it all the Lord sustains and He gives grace and He offers truth that runs counter to all the world’s advice.
We shut the door and got our children in bed, and then Chad and I settled down for an evening together, both of us still thinking about the joy that comes with mentoring young couples in their very first days as husband and wife. Still, I was surprised when he turned to me and said, simply, “I never feel more called to ministry than when we’re sitting in our living room with someone on our couch like that.” Here is a man who stands behind a pulpit and preaches God’s word every Sunday, who leads prayer meetings and ministers in hospitals, nursing homes, and funeral homes. A man who sits across from people who need financial help almost every day, who listens and counsels and carries people’s secrets around with him like Jacob Marley’s ponderous chains. This is a man whose entire life is given for Christ and for serving others. Yet, in this moment he revealed something precious to me: he feels most secure in his calling when we are serving together.
We were newlyweds ourselves when we first figured out that serving side by side is one of the greatest blessings of marriage. We dove directly into a local church where we were loved and mentored and allowed to use our gifts to glorify God. We would talk for hours about the best ways to do church, about who God is and what He might have in store for us, all of this years before He ever called us to take on a full-time ministry position. We were just a young couple with jobs and bills and worries and marriage struggles who happened to love our church and enjoy serving with our church family. We soon realized that this life of shared ministry would be a foundation that our marriage could stand on. It was fun. It was challenging. And it forced us to depend on the Lord. So, through several career changes and moves and births and miscarriages and all of the regular heartaches and hilarities of life, two constants were a reliance on Jesus and a vision for being a couple who served Him together.
Turns out that twenty years later, we still feel most at home in ministry when we’re working side by side. There is a spiritual intimacy that comes with viewing your relationship itself as a vehicle for blessing the church. Through the many phases and stages of life, our shared understanding that we are meant to serve together has kept us from getting too bogged down in that marriage and family self-obsession that is so easy to fall into. We have never served perfectly. We have never perfected marriage or ministry or juggling life in all of its craziness. But one thing I can say with assurance: our marriage has made life so much more interesting and fun and spiritually fulfilling not because we are madly in love (although we are) and not because we have it all together (because we don’t), but because we have simply had a great time serving the Lord together. And over and over and over again, He has blessed the whole imperfect ball of wax.
Someday soon we will have another young couple sitting expectantly on our worn couch, and we may or may not have much wisdom to offer them. But as I sit next to the man who has helped me love the Lord more today than I did on the day we married, I will be able to advise those newlyweds with confidence: view your marriage as a ministry. And just wait and see what God will do.