This blog post was written by teaching team and women's ministry resident Morgan Duke.
My name is Morgan. I am a part-time resident here at Midtown, a part-time nurse, and a full-time fiancee, engaged to one incredibly handsome, hunk-of-a man. In light of the passage on exile husbands and wives we studied a few weeks ago, 1 Peter 3:1-6, I was asked to write about what it means to be a part of God’s mission through marriage from the perspective of someone who is engaged. So I started thinking about it and quickly realized:
There are so many things vying for my attention in engagement...
The actual wedding planning is always there. Did I mention that’s my third part-time job at this point? We’re talking decor, vendors, food, venue, music, guest lists, invitations etc. etc. etc. So many decisions about things I’ve never in my life had strong preferences about.
Then there’s the family drama that comes with wedding planning.
And there’s premarital counseling. You know, that fun little endeavor where you go in thinking these nice counselors are going to help you fix your very sinful fiance... only to casually realize that you’re the worst of all sinners.
And we’re supposed to have date nights where we don’t talk about wedding stuff and just enjoy each other. Which takes coordination and time when you’re working with weird schedules and two different lifegroups.
And we’re supposed to be having conversations about big things and small things, like parenting and chores and expectations and budgeting. Andrew and I hadn’t explicitly had any of those conversations prior to engagement, so for my type A planning self, I want to have all of them at once. He (wisely) slows me down, but I’m left with all of the thoughts y’all. My mental list of “things we need to talk about stat!” is overwhelming. Nevermind all the time and energy it takes to actually have the conversations.
And--for our own personal health--we’re individually trying to fight for time with Jesus. No snarky comments on this one. Time with Jesus is massively important. Necessary, even. Dare I say “the good portion; the one necessary thing”? (Luke 10:38-42). And still, it requires time, mental energy and emotional investment.
And the list could go on and on. It’s like as soon as that knee is dropped, a hundred different thoughts and demands start piling up. And then a well-meaning friend asks,
“….Oh yeah, and how are you guys going to be missional in marriage?”
To be quite blunt, if being on mission is one more thing to add to the schedule and learn how to do, I have absolutely no idea. We probably won’t. There just isn’t any time and there isn’t any energy and there isn’t space.
We’re already being missional right now. Where we are. If God’s mission can be can be planted and blossom right in the everyday rhythms of life; right where I am, then there’s a chance.
Building with people and speaking the gospel into their lives is not my primary posture toward life. I value efficiency, so investing in relationships requires hard work and energy. It just doesn’t happen apart from that Holy Spirit prompting me to care about the things Jesus cares about.
And He is slowly but surely reminding me of how greatly he cares for people.
He is slowly but surely opening my eyes to see opportunities to join Him.
Even in the midst of this crazy engagement season.
He isn’t letting me fall for the lie that my engagement is all about me.
And by His guidance He is continually reminding me that:
Being on mission is an active part of my walk with Jesus; woven into the everyday rhythms of my life; not some added extra thing to throw on top.
Or here’s another way to put it:
Marriage isn’t the catalyst for mission, Jesus is.
When seen through this lens, mission isn’t some additional thing married couples have to learn or only married people can do. We all get to join God’s mission here.
But I’m only half of the equation in a marriage. My counterpart probably isn’t going to be prompted into loving Jesus and people because of a ring on his finger. Part of the reason I’m so incredibly attracted to Andrew is that he loves people. He loves them well. He naturally opens his life to invite others in, he seeks relationships and being around people.
One of the reasons I want to marry him is that he is already on mission. He is already loving and seeking to share the good news of Jesus with those around him. I trust that. It’s something I get to join in on, that we’ve been doing separately and now get to do together.
When it comes to the person you’re intending to marry: do they love Jesus apart from your prompting or do they act like they love Jesus just to appease you? One of those is going to make loving Jesus and loving people so much easier and more beautiful as you join your lives. The other will create all kinds of tension and strain. Do their eyes glaze over when you talk about Jesus like He’s alive and you love Him? Do they know Christian words but show no evidence of intending to live out those words in humble obedience? If the answer is yes to either of those questions, why are you marrying this person? Why are you ignoring what your soul level discernment knows clearly? If you’re engaged, I’m begging you to reevaluate the lifelong decision you’re about to make.
Talk to Jesus, talk to community you trust. And do what you know you need to do.
Marriage as a Gospel picture
Marriage does, however, create a unique opportunity for putting the gospel on display. Lets look at Ephesians:
"Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body."
Ladies: I know we hate the word “submission”. And some of us for good reason--it has frequently been distorted, abused and used in terribly inappropriate contexts. So wives, to get to see how this is actually a beautiful picture of Jesus, check out Luke 22 specifically verse 42. Jesus lived his life in humble submission to the Father. “Father if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done.” Jesus invites us to look more like him by relinquishing our control. By voicing our thoughts, but in the rare times unanimous accord can’t be reached; letting our husbands lead out and make the call. Jesus invites us to trust Him to love us, care for us, and ultimately to secure our souls, so that we can let our husbands lead--and give them grace to not always lead perfectly.
Gents: Y’all have the task of loving your wives like Christ loved the church. Jesus loves his bride perfectly, yes, but I don’t think that’s what Paul is saying here...no one is that good. The call is to point your wife towards Jesus; towards her source of redemption, sanctification, life. To respect and love her, treating her with the care and compassion Christ shows the church. To lead in a way that sacrifices your preferences for her needs; not to save her but to point her consistently to her Savior. I can’t imagine the weight of that role, guys. For those of you who are faithfully stepping into that, thank you, genuinely. For those of you who aren’t, I’m begging you. I’ve spent enough time with women’s ministry now to see the damage you cause to your lady when you don’t sacrificially love her and point her towards Jesus. For all of you men, if you will step into this, you will find good news for this weighty role: Jesus is gladly waiting to face you and walk with you in this fight. He’s already covered all of our failures and He ultimately is our (and our family’s) security, identity, worth, love. Lead your family deeper into that love and understanding and you’ve nailed it.
Have y’all ever seen a couple that loves like that? The wife trusts her husband; not because he’s perfect, but because she’s so confident in the Lord. And a husband who loves his wife; not because he needs to be fulfilled or satisfied, but out of the overflow of love of Jesus. No couples are perfect, but when I see glimpses of that gospel motivated love, I learn more about the character of God. I want it; I want Him. I am more motivated to love and seek him.
Andrew and I have had conversations about opening up our home and our lives. I’m assuming marriage is going to take a lot of learning and will probably look super messy the first few years. But our prayer is that as we open our--most likely literally and figuratively-- messy home to others, they see more of Jesus as he grows in us. As he chooses to show Himself through us. Not because we’re perfect, but because we’re seeking him.