It was a dusky evening in the spring, and I found myself at my favorite local coffee shop, sipping on a hot beverage with my computer in front of me. I had just finished chatting with a couple of my barista friends and was sitting down to work on a writing project. This had become a regular Wednesday evening occasion; my husband, Judah would stay with the kiddos while I would go out and write for a couple of hours.
I had been finding it hard to squeeze in times during the day to keep up with my writing projects, both personal and ministry, so he decided to scoot me out of the house once a week to have some quiet time to both write and be refreshed by any interaction I might have with others there (yes… we know a lot of people who come into this shop). On this particular evening, someone I know came in and walked over to say hello. “You’re by yourself!” They said, clearly surprised that I was alone. “Yes, Wednesdays are my writing evening. Judah wanted me to have a time set aside where I am able to get some writing done without distraction.” “Wow,” they replied, “that’s really neat that he does that for you.”
The Inseparable Team
After they walked away, I thought about our brief interaction. Yes, I had been incredibly thankful when Judah had made the suggestion, and at first, had wondered if it was fair to him after a long day at work to leave him with the kids. At the same time, though, his thoughtfulness in that regard didn’t take me by surprise.
Over the previous few years of our marriage, the Lord had been growing in both of us a desire to do all that we could do to help the other succeed – to be a team in every area of our lives that God had called us to as individuals and as a couple. But it gave me a deeper appreciation for just how vital my husband’s enabling and encouragement was in helping me to accomplish the tasks that God has given me to do and vice versa.
In our world, it is all too easy for two married people to be living in the same home, but not sharing life together. And in this day and age when it is so common for both the husband and wife to work outside the home, it’s not hard to begin to function as roommates with two entirely separate lives.
But that is not God’s intention for marriage. It is supposed to be the most powerful and beautiful picture of the Gospel – the relationship between Christ and His Bride, the church. He designed a husband and wife to leave their families and become one unit (Mark 10:7-8). In the Greek, this is described as being like glue. You are literally sticking yourself to that person for life. This implies that every part of your life is now joined with that person, and you are now going to function as an inseparable team.
Becoming a Power Couple
Even though this is the spiritual reality, consistently operating in that reality doesn’t usually come naturally or easily. Living like a team with your spouse takes intentionality and sometimes a lot of hard work. I know from experience that when I am exhausted or overwhelmed by all that is on my plate, it’s difficult to make the effort to mentally engage in helping Judah think through a project he’s working on. Or when Judah comes home after an intense workday, it’s not easy for him to help me brainstorm writing content. But what we have discovered is that resolving to invest in our marriage as our highest priority relationship (after Jesus) has begun to reap some incredible fruit.
Do you know what I mean when I say “power couple?” Both strong and capable on their own, but who have “joined forces,” so to speak, and demonstrated to the world the amazing strength that comes from working as a team? A few Christian examples of this are Martin Luther and Katharina von Bora, Oswald and Biddy Chambers, Jonathan and Sarah Edwards, Billy and Ruth Graham, and I could go on.
But these, too, had strength beyond their own teamwork. They had the mission of furthering the Gospel on their hearts and were enabled by the Holy Spirit to do far more than was humanly possible. They lived supernatural lives together, teaming up to see the Kingdom of God furthered on this earth. They took seriously their God-given roles as husband and wife – the husband practicing sacrificial leadership and the wife practicing loving submission – and it not only defied what this world says is the way to success but gloriously proclaimed the beauty of God’s plan for marriage.
This is Judah’s and my deepest desire for our marriage. We don’t just want to accomplish a whole bunch as a couple for the sake of being wealthy or esteemed or powerful. We desire to be used by God for His purposes, and we know that since He put us together, He’ll certainly use us for His glory if we allow Him into each and every aspect of our lives.
Here are five practices we have found to be incredibly helpful in growing together as a team in every aspect of life.
1. Help Each Other Make Jesus the Center
Both Judah and I know that our ultimate purpose in marriage is to help one another stand before Jesus well one day. We know that even if we are ultra successful in the world’s eyes yet don’t live for the glory of God, all our work is nothing. This is the foundation of everything we do and the grid by which we evaluate each opportunity that comes our way.
One of our key verses as a couple is Hebrews 3:13, “But exhort one another daily, while it is called Today; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.” Before we were husband and wife, we were first brother and sister in Christ, and this is a relationship that is eternal. So practicing the “one another” passages like this one is something we take seriously.
We make space for the other to seek the Lord on a daily basis. We pray for each other and confess sin regularly, and ask for and offer forgiveness… sometimes many times a day. We invite the other to lovingly point out sin when necessary for the sake of being more like Jesus. And we seek to offer grace to one another in our particular weaknesses. We know that our effectiveness in the Kingdom of God depends on our obedience to Him and as each other’s closest “neighbor” (Matthew 22:39) we have the greatest opportunity to love one another by pushing each other toward Jesus.
Another vital aspect of this is the resolve to live out our roles as husband and wife in a biblical way. When Judah leads well and lives with me in an understanding way, submission isn’t a burden, it’s a joy. And when I respect him as my earthly head and take seriously my role as his helper, he is empowered to be a loving, patient, and gentle leader. Reversely, when we find ourselves not living in this way, it greatly hinders our effectiveness as a team to do what God has given us to do. Thankfully, the Lord is gracious to us as we grow and mature in our understanding of living in obedience to Him in our marriage.
Think of ways that you can encourage your spouse toward Jesus in all areas of life, and invite them to do that for you. Pray and seek the Lord about how this looks for you as a couple.
2. Be Involved In Each Other’s Individual Endeavors
Someone asked me recently, “How do you be a wife, and mother, and pastor’s wife, and write for a ministry, and still have time to work on a book?” It didn’t take long for me to answer. “Judah. Without his help, I’m pretty sure it would be impossible.”
One of the things we have sought to do is be as involved as we can possibly be in one another’s individual endeavors. I can’t physically go to his work and help with his tasks, but I can ask questions and seek to understand the various parts of his job so that I can offer helpful feedback when he asks. And even though I am the one who primarily keeps the home running smoothly, he has helped me figure out systems for laundry and dishes and general daily schedule.
I run every article idea by him, and ask him to read most of them when I’m done. And he has asked me to do the same for his blog posts and bounces ideas off of me before going ahead with them. Because of this, we naturally go to one another first for advice, even if the other is not directly involved in the outcome of whatever the situation might be.
Think of ways you can do this for your spouse. If you don’t know the details of what goes into their work, ask them about it for the sake of understanding them and the triumphs and difficulties they walk through on a daily basis. If you’re stumped in a particular area, seek out their advice first. Even if you don’t think they would have an opinion or would be able to help, you may be surprised (as I have been on several occasions). Their insight might be just what you need in that situation.
3. Practice Regular Communication
One thing Judah and I started making a regular practice shortly after our oldest child, Jude, was born, was checking in with each other every morning about our plans for the day. It had been a rather intense adjustment to parenting, and we found that our marriage was more strained than we had experienced before. We decided to start checking in with one another before we went our separate ways so we could touch base about the day’s activities, as well as make sure we were on the same page.
This gave us the ability to bring up concerns or things we needed to talk through, as well as knowing how to pray for one another throughout the day. Then, to cap it off, we would have a time before going to bed where we would connect again on those points to bring closure and make sure were unified before starting a new day. This proved to be so valuable, that it became a regular habit, and still is to this day.
What it really comes down to is having clear communication lines with one another. Sloppy communication can create huge problems that can be avoided simply by taking the time to connect in a straightforward and loving way. This is also incredibly important in making sure that misunderstandings are worked through as easily and smoothly as possible.
Chances are that your schedule is a bit different than ours (or maybe very different). I know some couples who are leaving for work just as their spouse is getting back, and it takes quite the effort to connect on a daily basis. But being connected in this way is vitally important, and not something to brush off. Pray and ask the Lord to give you wisdom on how best to live in unity throughout the day.
4. Practice Good Coordination
One simple way we do this is by sharing our calendars and reviewing them regularly together, often during our morning briefing. Sharing calendars with your spouse is a very practical, but very helpful way of living as a team on a daily basis. It keeps you practically connected, and cuts down on unnecessary surprises or misunderstandings in your schedules, and gives you insight into each other’s days without needing to constantly be checking in with them.
In this day and age, it’s not all that complicated to share calendars easily. We use iCal (the calendar the comes with Apple products), but there are many others out there that also work well. We have several different calendars, all in different colors (Heather, Judah, family, house, etc.) so that it’s easy to tell who has an engagement at any particular time.
We know some couples who still use classic paper calendars, and their system works well for them. The key in this is simply being sure that you are making it as easy as possible to stay coordinated as a couple throughout the day.
5. Practice Intentional Commonality
(aka Have as Many Things in Common as Possible)
One important aspect of being a team is not just in the serious or “work” parts of life but choosing to intermingle every area of your life. For instance, Judah loves snowboarding, so I decided that I would learn how to snowboard so both of us would have an appreciation for it. I’m certainly not the best snowboarder this world has seen, but it’s given us the opportunity to go on fun outings and spend time together.
That’s not the only thing we love doing together – we both have an affinity for good coffee shops, and often make the effort to go on a date to talk or work on writing projects together. We read a marriage book together once a year (often listening to it together on audiobook), and that gives us a chance to process our marriage and evaluate any changes that need to take place. We watch webinars and have gone through several online courses together. He usually helps me choose meals for the week, and I often help him pick his outfits.
We also try to enable the other to do things on our own (like Judah sending me to a coffee shop once a week) that will be refreshing and encouraging. We also make room for individually cultivating godly friendships (me with other ladies, and him other men). We know that investing in friendships that point us to Jesus is going to strengthen our marriage as well.
We are the first to tell you we’re not by any means “arrived” as a team. It’s going to be a life-long journey of growing, repenting, reevaluating, and choosing to live in obedience to Jesus even when it’s tough. But when all is said and done, He has a plan for our marriage far beyond what we can even imagine, and we want to be in on it every step of the way.