Marriage and Motherhood - 5 - Growing Together

Growing Together

Part Five: Practical Ways to Stay Spiritually Connected with Your Spouse

by Leslie Ludy

When my love story with Eric was unfolding, we had an usual way of spending time together: studying Scripture and reading Christian biographies. In the beginning of our relationship, we’d entrusted our emotions to God, and asked Him to unite our hearts spiritually before we became united emotionally. In previous relationships, we’d experienced the downward spiral that comes when emotions take over and lead the way. We wanted our love story to be built on a much stronger foundation: our mutual love for Jesus Christ—not just our feelings of affection towards each other. So instead of spending time together watching movies, gushing about our feelings, or chatting about trivial things, we focused on growing together spiritually. We knew that we were headed toward marriage, and we knew the importance of cultivating like-mindedness and spiritual unity between us.

Eric and I found that exploring God’s Word together was truly exhilarating. We would get excited about the same spiritual truths and talk for hours about how those truths should impact our daily lives and our future decisions. We read biographies of men and women from Christian history who gave their lives radically to Jesus Christ, and discussed the things that inspired us about their stories.

It may sound boring, but it wasn’t. It was incredible to become so likeminded about our convictions, our spiritual passions, and our mutual love for God’s Word. We spent the majority of our time together focused on Jesus Christ, and I felt closer to Eric than I ever could have if we’d centered our relationship around shallow communication and trivial pastimes.

Once we got married, however, staying spiritually connected proved to be a much bigger challenge. Work pressures and the responsibilities of having our own home made it harder to spend time growing together spiritually, reading God’s Word, and studying Christian history. We were often too tired at the end of the day to spend hours examining Scripture or reading biographies, as we’d done during the early days of our love story. We slowly replaced times of prayer and spiritual growth with times of “vegging” in front of movies or doing other relaxing activities that had very little spiritual benefit. While we knew it was healthy to do fun, relaxing activities together, after the first few years of our marriage we began to notice that we were no longer thriving in our relationship with Christ. We still believed all the same things and we were having regular quiet times, but the holy fire and spiritual passion we’d carried in our younger years had faded to a flicker. We had replaced our spiritual growth with entertainment, and our relationship with Christ was suffering because of this.

Several years into our marriage, we made a purposeful decision to replace mindless pastimes and temporal distractions with eternally-focused activities. Instead of vegging in front of movies or mindless channel surfing, we used our “down time” for prayer and studying Scripture. Instead of using our free time to surf the Internet or read suspense novels, we began to read powerful biographies and challenging Christian books. It wasn’t easy to make these changes—especially at the end of a long week when we were tired. Yet we soon found that making time for spiritual growth gave us far more refreshment and energy than vegging in front of a Hollywood blockbuster ever could. We began to have a true passion for Jesus Christ once more. No longer were we just going through the motions of Christianity. Our lives and hearts were focused on eternity, not on the passing pleasures of this life.

One of the most significant things that happened during this “revival season” was that we grew closer as a couple than we’d ever been before. It wasn’t attending marriage retreats or going to marriage counseling that strengthened our marriage. It was purposeful time in the presence of God, sharing His burdens and growing closer to Him…together.

Of course, we must also be purposeful about cultivating our own individual relationships with Christ as well. But there is something extremely powerful about a husband and wife seeking God with the same passion and fervency, and doing it together. Nothing can infuse a marriage and family with strength like a husband and wife who share a common desire to make Jesus Christ the highest priority of their daily lives.

As Christian parents, we want our children to be passionate about the things of God. We want them to study His Word and grow spiritually. But, as parents, we must remember that our spiritual passion directly affects theirs. We can’t expect them to have the holy fire of God burning in their hearts if we don’t first have it burning in ours. As it says in James 4:8, “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.” We can’t expect spiritual growth to “just happen.” Rather, we must proactively seek after God and take purposeful steps to draw near to Him. And the exciting thing is He has promised to draw near to us as we draw near to Him!

We must proactively seek after God and take purposeful steps to draw near to Him.

If you and your spouse are ready to grow together in Christ and infuse your home and marriage with spiritual strength, I’d like to share some practical first steps.

1. Grow Together

In the hustle and bustle of family life, planning time to grow spiritually with your spouse can feel next to impossible. But much like cultivating a thriving prayer life, growing spiritually won’t happen unless we set aside purposeful time for it. Even if you and your spouse can only plan an hour once a week to go through a Bible study, read a Christian biography, or study Scripture together, you will see tremendous spiritual benefits in your home and marriage if you make these times a priority. Eric and I often listen to Christian audio books, especially biographies, at night before bed while we are getting other things done. Hearing or reading the same powerful stories about God’s work in other believers’ lives sparks some amazing conversations between us, and helps our prayers become sharper and more focused. We also like listening to sermons by David Wilkerson, Leonard Ravenhill, Paris Reidhead, Keith Green, and other passionate preachers. (You can find many of these for free on sermonindex.net.)

When Eric and I are working on a household project or driving long distances in our car, we will often listen to the Word of Promise audio Bible together. Even if we don’t have time to sit down and read something together, just listening to the edifying, life-giving words of Scripture and powerful truths by devoted Christians can make a tremendous impact upon our spiritual lives. When we get together for our date nights, we often talk about the stories and truths that have impacted or challenged us. The fact that we have both been hearing the same stories, sermons, and Scriptures makes it that much easier to share in each other’s spiritual journeys.

Prayerfully consider what simple steps you and your spouse can take to plan time for spiritual growth. Is there a time daily or weekly when you could both listen to an audio book, sermon, or audio Bible? Can you set aside an hour on the weekend to explore Scripture together? Ask God to show you some simple steps to take, and soon you will be amazed at the spiritual likemindedness that begins to flow into your marriage.

Note: for an exhaustive list of my favorite biographies and Christian books, please see the index of my book, The Set Apart Woman

2. Go Together

A local pastor in our community was at a low point in his life and needed a spiritual getaway—a time to recharge his batteries and get perspective on his life. Instead of taking a retreat with his wife and family, he chose to go alone. He flew to another state, checked into a hotel, and attempted to get spiritually refueled on his own, without the “distraction” of his family being there with him. But the trip ended in disaster. Floundering in his spiritual life and feeling disconnected from his wife and children, he ended up getting involved with another woman. What had started out as a much-needed spiritual retreat ended up destroying this man’s marriage, family, and ministry.

There were likely many factors that led to this heartbreaking series of events. But the fact that this man chose to disconnect and “escape” from his wife and family was a big part of the issue.

The enemy loves to see families disconnect from each other. If he can convince us that we deserve a “break” from the demands of family life and the responsibilities of marriage, he sets us up for heartache and even moral failure. Women’s retreats, mommy’s nights out, guy’s camping trips, and men’s conference all certainly have their place. But be sure that you and your spouse are purposeful about going to events, conferences, retreats, and getaways together as well. If you and your spouse are constantly having separate experiences and learning things apart from each other, you won’t be able to share life, make memories, and grow together the way God intended you to.

For every night or weekend you spend away from each other, be sure that you and your spouse have far more nights and weekends spent together. Whenever possible, let time apart be the exception, not the rule. Beware of thoughts such as, “I just need a break from my family. I want time away from my husband for a while. I just need to focus on ME.” These are dangerous notions to cultivate. Our society encourages us to protect our individuality and remain a separate entity from our husband and children. But this is the opposite of God’s pattern. You and your husband are one flesh—he is part of you, and you are part of him. God didn’t intend us to try to “get away” from our own flesh! In fact, when speaking about marriage Christ warned, “What God has joined together, let not man separate” (Matthew 19:6).

This doesn’t mean you can never take time away by yourself. But if your attitude is one of “escaping” from your husband and children, rather than becoming refreshed and strengthened so that you can serve them even better, the enemy will win a victory and your marriage and family will suffer.

If attending a conference or going on a spiritual retreat with your spouse doesn’t work for you practically, I encourage you to look for things that you can do as a couple that will cause you to grow closer together in your relationship and closer to Jesus Christ. Can you meet with other godly couples for an evening of prayer and Bible study? Can you watch a powerful Christian film together and have a discussion about it afterwards? Remember, when you do significant things together instead of always sharing those experiences with your girlfriends, you will discover a tremendous sense of unity, purpose, and spiritual likemindedness in your marriage—and your family will reap the benefits.

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If your spouse is apathetic towards the idea of growing together spiritually, remember that all is not lost. Continue to diligently pray that God will change his heart and give him the passion and motivation to take the lead in your growth as a couple. Meanwhile, instead of nagging or complaining, continue to cheerfully love him, encourage him, and set a beautiful example for him of what a Christ-centered life looks like. The Bible says that even unbelieving husbands can be won to Christ without a word, simply by the honorable conduct of their wives (1 Peter 3:1). What an exciting opportunity!

No matter where you are at in your marriage, remember that God cares more about your spiritual likemindedness as a couple than even you do. If you take steps forward to grow spiritually with your spouse, God will assist you with His guidance, wisdom, and amazing faithfulness.