Do you have a plan for the spiritual growth of your marriage?
If you’re like me, you might be quick to say that spiritual growth is a top priority between you and your spouse, but I lived for years without a specific plan for growth. I wanted one. I even prayed for one. But my actual plan wasn’t very intentional. We went to church, and we led a small group. What more should we do? What could a spiritual growth plan for your marriage look like?
Growing in love
In my book Bury Your Ordinary, I share about the personal process of discipleship that grew in my life over twenty years of experimentation. To be a disciple of Jesus in its simplest form is to live your life in the pursuit of becoming more like him. But discipleship at its core is not about learning more Bible verses or committing to more church activities. We all know people who can quote the Bible front to back but don’t look anything like Jesus. The essence of discipleship is to grow in love. True spiritual maturity is loving like Jesus.
Imagine the impact on your marriage if your love for God increased each month and each year. That love will always spill over into the relationships of your life, and it will impact your marriage more than anything. But how can we be intentional about growing in love? You can’t just will yourself to be more loving.
If you really want to grow in love, you have to do it indirectly. You have to train your heart to expand in love just like an athlete trains their body. Love grows through the practice of love-stretching habits.
The Habit of Relationship
In Bury Your Ordinary I outline seven habits that will stretch your love and lead to spiritual maturity. The first habit is the Habit of Relationship. This habit will challenge you to prioritize your relationship with God above all else in your schedule. Specifically, Habit 1 challenges you to spend the first hour of your morning seeking God alone.
For most of us, Habit 1 sounds like a nice idea, but it doesn’t sound very realistic. Many Christians today are familiar with the idea of a “quiet time” each morning. But the quiet time often gets crowded out by the many responsibilities of life. We have to get the kids ready for school and get to work by 8:30. We have to walk the dog and get to the gym. With the busy world we live in, quiet time usually ends up being a few minutes of prayer as we drive to work.
My wife and I have four kids and a dog, and we know all about morning interruptions. But we made the decision to reorganize our entire morning routine in order to spend 60 minutes alone with God. We don’t do this in an attempt to earn brownie points with Jesus. We do it because this one habit changes every other moment of our day.
The Law of the First
Some Bible teachers have called this the Law of the First: whatever you prioritize as first in your life carries greater weight to set the direction of your life. By spending an uncomfortably significant amount of time alone with God each morning you are saying through your habits,
“God, you are my source. I don’t look to my spouse to ultimately make me happy. I don’t find my value or worth in my outward success or my career. God, you are more important to me than anything.”
This declaration, lived out through your actions, fundamentally changes your relationship with God. You have drawn a line in the sand, and it’s only a matter of time before something miraculous begins to happen: your heart will grow in love. As you make more time for God, God makes more progress in you, and soon, by loving your spouse “second,” you will actually be able to love them more than if they were first.
What would happen?
What would happen if you and your spouse held each other accountable and you both spent the first hour every morning alone with God? What if you committed to try this for thirty days? Certainly, it would require some reorganizing. It might force you to watch a little less TV at night and get to bed earlier. It would require you to sacrifice some things. But soon, the entire dynamic of your marriage will start to change. You will talk about spiritual things more freely. You will pray together more naturally. And you will find a new intimacy with God and each other.
Maybe you’ve tried having a quiet time in the morning in the past and you felt like a failure. Maybe you’re just not a morning person. I encourage you to start somewhere. Begin with fifteen minutes. Then move to thirty. Do this together with your spouse and talk about what you’re learning. Over time, this one small change will make a big difference.
Have you heard of the The 31-Day Pursuit Challenge?
Every marriage begins with passion, purpose, and pursuit, but few stay that way. That’s why we wrote Husband in Pursuit and Wife in Pursuit Together, they make what we’re calling the 31-Day Pursuit Challenge. Couples are encouraged take the challenge together. We’re already starting to hear stories of transformed marriages! Are you up for the challenge?