How to transform your marriage with missionWritten by Amy Van Veen
What's inside this article
When someone talks about "being on mission," what’s the first thing you think about?
For a lot of people, missions might be limited to the trips people take with their churches to go and build a well or orphanage in a foreign country. And while that’s a great way to serve God’s kingdom, for many it’s not a reality.
And it’s not the only way to be on mission.
Maybe your life doesn’t have room for a missions trip. Maybe the idea of adding yet another thing to your weekly calendar seems like too much to ask. Maybe you and your spouse are barely finding time to connect as a couple, never mind turning your marriage into a mission field. However, having a mission-minded marriage doesn’t need to be as daunting as it seems.
But a bigger question – before addressing the how – would be the why. Why should mission be a central focus in your marriage?
Why is mission in marriage important?
Gary Thomas, in his book Sacred Marriage, writes, "When marriage becomes our primary pursuit, our delight in the relationship will be crippled by fear, possessiveness, and self-centredness. We were made to admire, respect, and love someone who has a purpose bigger than ourselves, a purpose centred on God’s untiring work of calling His people home to His heart of love."
"Without this involvement in and commitment to service," he continues, "marriage gets lonely very fast. A selfish marriage is a hollow marriage. We were made to serve God, and no human affection can appease that hunger for very long."
But, again, having a marriage centred on mission doesn’t mean moving across the globe – it means being open to understanding the call God has placed on you, on your spouse and on your marriage.
How to live out mission every day
"If we are going to learn how to live out our mission in our marriage relationship," Thomas writes, "we must learn to be more selfless, and we have to become more connected with each other. We have to remember that our spouse is called, just as we are, and we have to be interested enough in their call to know what it is that moves them and gives them energy."
In A Lifelong Love, Thomas explains how mission looks different for different couples: "Though every Christian marriage should ultimately aspire to seek God’s kingdom as the primary mission, each couple will have a different expression of that mission."
How can you and your spouse turn your marriage into a mission-minded marriage? Three couples share how God has led them to reach outside of their marriage and serve those around them.
Mission: Being there for family
For David* and Rose*, they discovered their mission while being there for family.
"We found that God gave us both a passion to visit the elderly, which started when we visited my grandfather," David explains. "There was a widow who struggled with faith and rejection from her family." Joining with people from their church, they cleaned her apartment, even though it wasn’t always easy. "By the power of Christ, we could encourage her in her faith, correct false beliefs and lies from the enemy, do practical things to show Christ’s love, pray for her and keep visiting her when her mental health declined."
Mission: Holding up your marriage
For Daniel* and Clara*, their marriage’s mission simply means a heightened awareness of their own relationship.
"I think that one of the most significant ways our marriage can be mission is if we’re doing marriage well, by the standards set forth by Scripture," Daniel says. "People pay attention to the relationships of others. Do we fail to live up to that standard? Oh yeah. All the time. I do it at least once a day. But I know, and Clara knows, that we're going to work through whatever life throws our way. And I think that shows. My marriage with Clara will never be perfect. But maybe, just maybe, the way we go about living life together will be a signpost to Christ. I'm praying that will be true. I think the key to that would be being honest with others about our marriage; not trying to hide the faults, but acknowledging them, and showing a willingness to work towards a better relationship."
Mission: Being an involved neighbour
For Matt* and Mel*, their mission field has been to be intentional about stepping outside their own home.
"Our everyday lives are so sheltered from other people. We wake up, go to work, run errands, and then go to bed," Matt observes. "With the invention of the garage door, most people don't need to ever even get outside of their vehicles and are therefore never seen. There are no opportunities to interact with them. One way to get around this is to actually invite people into our home. Something seems to happen differently when you share food with people. The other way is to get outside our home and be visible. Mel and I like to go for walks in our neighbourhood and play tennis at our local courts. When we do bump into people that we have seen around, we try to make a point of smiling and saying hello. I think that not being shy to ask your neighbours for help can also go a long way to building relationships."
In A Lifelong Love, Thomas outlines a number of additional ways couples have found mission in their marriage: adoption, getting involved in their local church, using their business to show God’s love, or becoming an active member in their local arts or sports communities.
"The common link that you see in these couples," he writes, "is that their mission is what keeps their marriage vibrant on many levels. It’s always about the kingdom."
How to discover your mission as a couple
"How can you and your spouse discover your mission?" he asks. "Here’s one exercise: Think forward to the end of your days and ask yourself, if you knew you were about to see God face-to-face, what would you most want to lay at His feet? What do you think He uniquely created you to do? And then ask, are you doing anything about that now?"
Don’t let the idea of mission become one that intimidates you – remember why we’re called to mission and how that can transform your marriage.
"We allow marriage to point beyond itself when we accept two central missions: becoming the people God created us to be, and doing the work God has given us to do," Thomas explains in Sacred Marriage. "If we embrace – not just accept, but actively embrace – these two missions, we will have a full life, a rich life, a meaningful life, and a successful life. The irony is, we will probably also have a happy marriage, but that will come as a blessed by-product of putting everything else in order."
*Names changed to protect privacy
Reference to the individuals and organizations quoted does not constitute a blanket endorsement of either the individuals’ external work or their respective organizations.
Amy Van Veen is editorial manager at Focus on the Family Canada.
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