This Thursday, Mrs. Raz and I will celebrate 21 years of marriage. We were 19 years old. We got married in the church we were saved at, and immediately began serving the Lord in that church, teaching Sunday School and working a van route. 15 years ago, we started Lighthouse Baptist Church together. We have four wonderful kids, the oldest of which will soon be enrolling at Heartland Baptist Bible College, and the youngest of which just entered our youth group. Our whole adult life has been spend together, serving the Lord, and I can testify that it is a great way to live – and has the best benefits.
So, to celebrate 21 years of marriage and almost 15 years as pastor and wife, here is a list of 21 lessons I’ve learned in this great adventure of marriage (and ministry) in no particular order:
- Have a common goal and purpose in life. Ours is serving the Lord. We BOTH are dedicated and surrendered to doing God’s will. It is amazing how much better two can walk together when they are in agreement on this point – and how quickly things fall apart when only one has a real desire to serve God in the home and church.
- Remember that you were a spouse before you were a parent.
- Remember the principle of “leave and cleave” (Gen. 2:24). Marriage changes your priorities from your extended family to your new, immediate family. In other words, put your spouse before your parents – without excluding them from your lives. They are still parents, and the spouse that interferes with that relationship is doing a disservice to everyone involved.
- Financial problems make marriage miserable – so work hard, have a budget (that includes tithing and giving) and a savings account, avoid debt, and save for your retirement. Someone needs to handle it faithfully and the other person needs to control their spending. Any marriage would be helped if both would read and practice Dave Ramsey’s advice on finances.
- Always remember that it is you and your spouse vs. the kids. Never let them divide you. Present a united front.
- Children are the greatest blessing of marriage – but if you don’t train them up right they will bring great sorrow into your home later on (Prov. 10:1). Be in agreement on child-rearing and discipline.
- Go through the tough times together. They won’t last, but you will – and you’ll be stronger because of them.
- Always have each other’s backs.
- In ministry, one of you needs to stay on topside. If both of you get down or discouraged at the same time, watch out! (Ecc. 4:9-10). Don’t be the spouse that always has something negative to say – you might drag your family out of God’s will!
- Sex is not a dirty word for married couples (Gen. 2:25; Heb. 13:4).
- Own your own home and put down some roots.
- Live by priorities.
- Remember that you didn’t marry your mom (or dad). Don’t expect your spouse to parent you, pick up after you, baby you, etc.
- Practice much forgiveness; pass over transgressions; don’t turn everything into a fight; leave the past in the past.
- Stay in love. One day the kids will be gone, and what will you have left?
- Have fun in the ministry. Laugh a lot. At people or about them, doesn’t matter. It’s better than going crazy.
- Have some good friends you can enjoy talking to and getting together with. Make your spouse your best friend, but not your only friend. Friends are a great source of fun, comfort, strength and encouragement. I am thankful for my wife’s friends and what they mean to her, and I am thankful for my own as well.
- Grow together, and give each other space to grow. I would hope that after 21 years, I am a better husband and Christian than I used to be, and I know that my wife has grown into an absolutely amazing person. I love her more than ever before, and my respect grows with the years. We aren’t what we were when we started out, or even 10 years ago. Both spouses should strive to grow in grace, and not become stagnant as individuals. That leads to a stagnant marriage.
- Take a vacation every year. If you can’t afford much, make it cheap and simple. We are experts at that.
- If you are a pastor, take care of your family first; they are your first ministry. Church members may come and go but you only get one wife and one family.
- Support each other’s individual goals. My wife supported me through three Bible colleges and four graduations; through the planting of a church and all of its ministries, through 12 years of teaching at a college. Now, she is buying her own business, and I plan to support her just as she has supported me. Selfishness ruins marriages. Be your spouse’s biggest cheerleader.
After 21 years, I am thankful for a wonderful wife, and 21 years of busy, active service for the Lord in our family. I am looking forward to the next 21!
Thank you for reading these thoughts. God bless.