While we have individual dreams and goals, couples should also have a mission and purpose for their marriage. For some couples it may be to minister in their local church, or open their home to needy children. Still others may be called to short-term mission trips. No matter what it is, the world will benefit greatly from united, God-loving teams.
“When you reach out as a team, something good happens—an almost mystical bonding of husband wife,” say authors Les and Leslie Parrot. “Reaching out promotes humility, sharing, compassion, and intimacy. Doing good for others helps couples transcend themselves and become part of something larger.”
Over the years, John and I have had dreams that include both of us—and our family as a whole. For example, twelve years ago we moved to Montana—following God’s leading to find a quieter place to raise our kids. We’ve decided to homeschool our children. And while I do the majority of the teaching, John is the superintendent, technical support, financial officer, and cheering squad.
We also have dreams are yet-to-be-fulfilled. Together we felt God calling us to international adoption, which is in process. We also have future dreams of working with children, perhaps in an international orphanage. While this is not something we’ll do next year, we’re already talking, dreaming, planning. We’ve even taken steps such as refinancing our home from a 30-year note, to one that is 15-years to be free for where God would take us. We’re also reading books that deal with the emotional needs of abandoned children. Small steps, but steps just the same.
Do you wonder where to start when it comes to considering God’s plan for your future? Here are a few places to look:
Years ago, I received this advice from my friend, mentor, and fellow writer Robin Jones Gunn. She told me one of the best ways to see where God was working was to consider where He’s already led us.
Two questions she encouraged us to ask were: What purpose has He given me? What is His desire?
The next thing Robin had us do, was to write our personal story, starting from our birth to present day—hitting the high and low points. After that was done, she asked us to highlight certain areas with different colored markers. These points were:
1. Key people.
2. Key events.
3. Key lessons.
This was a life-transforming activity, and these themes could clearly be seen in my life:
Unwed pregnancy (both me and my mom)
Love of books and reading
Intimacy and heartache
Longings for love
Teen in the 80’s (media influences)
God’s liberation and transformation
Raising a godly family
Crisis pregnancy center volunteer
Above is my expanded list—it has grown since 1998—but major themes continue to resurface: family, helping those in crisis, ministry. Looking back at these high points reminds me that where God has been working He’ll most likely continue to work. And where John’s path joins mine, it is clear working with children, and those in need, and sharing the love of God with others are joint passions.
So what about you? What major events have touched your life? Where can you see God at work? I would highly recommend you try this activity. After all, the messages God spoke in your past are often your life messages He later builds on.
It’s good to take time to let your mind wander . . . prayerfully of course.
As you begin to pray about your dreams, consider these questions: What interests are you most afraid to admit to others? What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail? What would you do if financial constraints were not an issue? What stirs your heart and makes you excited to get out of bed in the morning? What would you regret not having done if you knew your life was ending tomorrow?
When we are praying for God to show us the dreams for our lives and merely think on the small scale of what we can accomplish in our own strength, it is like going to the ocean with a teaspoon. We at least need to go with a pitcher! Then when He reveals what we are to do in His strength, we will be able to dip into His vast resources and pour His blessing onto those around us.
God has a plan and is looking for men and women who are willing to put their meager dreams aside and enter into a dream world of His making. “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).[ii]
Okay, so now that your mind is wandering, dreaming big dreams, your heart may be pounding too. It’s not pounding from excitement. (Okay, maybe a little from excitement.) But mostly it’s pounding from fear . . . God I can NEVER do that.
Yes, you’re right. Alone you NEVER can, but 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (NIV) is a Scripture verse I repeat to myself over and over:
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
If we consider God’s communication in the Bible, we see that when He had a plan, He then approached His people, and they heard what He said. They responded. And out of their obedient response they were blessed.
One of the biggest dream-busters is the phrase; “I don’t have time right now.” Many of us believe that when we advance in our careers, when the house is reorganized, when the kids are older, and all our other projects are complete we will make time for these God-given dreams.
“Often, we convince ourselves that our obsession with our ‘to do’ list is only temporary—that once we get through the list, we’ll be calm, relaxed, and happy. But in reality, this rarely happens. As items are checked off, new ones simply replace them,” says Richard Carlson, Ph. D, in his book Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff.
The preacher of Ecclesiastes also knew about busyness—he knew it didn’t work. Ecclesiastes 4:6 says, “Better one handful with tranquility than two handfuls with toil and chasing after the wind.”(NIV)
Chasing after the wind is fruitless. So is scurrying through our days trying to complete a to-do list that will never see an end. Only we can free ourselves from the crazed dance of busyness and allow ourselves time to contemplate God’s gifts and callings, and to make plans to fulfill His purposes.
“See, the Lord doesn’t expect our steps to be perfect. He just expects us to be obedient, to take the first step, and to let Him do the rest,” says Sharon Jaynes.
“Your life is part of God’s grand design. No matter how you came into the world, no matter what your past, God has known about you and has ordained an ever-unfolding plan for your life (Jeremiah 1:5). His ultimate design is for us to be conformed to the image of His Son. He uses the hammer and chisel of circumstances and shattered dreams to remove the unnecessary and superfluous parts to reveal the masterpiece within. Just as Michelangelo removed chunks and bits of marble to unveil the magnificent statue of David, so God removes anything that hinders or hides the beautiful creatures He created us to be.”
Look At Each Other
“In the biblical account of creation, God’s expressed desire is that the two ‘will become one flesh,’” writes Gary Chapman, author of The Four Seasons of Marriage. “At the heart of marriage, therefore, is the idea of unity . . . Thus, marriage is not simply a relationship; it is an intimate relationship that encompasses all aspects of life: intellectual, emotional, social, spiritual and physical. In a marriage relationship, a husband and wife share life with each other in the deepest possible way. They view themselves as a unified team, not as two individuals who happen to be living in close proximity. Because the desire and drive for intimacy are at the very heart of marriage, the individuals involved become troubled about their relationship when such intimacy is not attained.”
Yes, husband and wives share the checkbook, the house, the refrigerator, their kids, their bodies . . . sharing their dreams is an additional layer of intimacy. And unless these God-given dreams are fulfilled together, something will always feel unsettled and just not right.
But once you step out together, you will discover unity and intimacy like you’ve never imagined . . . and the world will be transformed from your joint efforts.
Do you have a mission statement for yourself or your marriage?
© Tricia Goyer author of Generation NeXt Marriage