By Jamaal Williams
The weight of pastoring can sometimes feel like bench pressing 1,000 pounds! Even though we’re told to “cast our cares on Christ,” we often struggle to do it. As a result, we can find ourselves bringing work home. If we aren’t careful, our marriage will be affected and begin to feel more like a business arrangement than a friendship. This experience can last for years, for months, or for a day. However long it lasts, this isn’t what God desires for us. While He extends grace to us during these times, His desire is that our heart be intimately connected to our spouse’s.
God has joined two together as one not to be business partners but covenant friends to the end. God said, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh (Gen. 2:24).” It’s in this “holding fast” that friendships are cultivated, but it most certainly requires purposeful effort! In fact, if you’re like me, cultivating a growing friendship with your spouse takes prayer and intentionality. Here are some simple suggestions to keep your friendship with your spouse a top priority:
Work on your marriage at home and work at work!
Nothing can steal a day off like not really having the day off. Returning an email here or there, answering a couple of phone calls, and consulting various commentaries about a passage you’re not supposed to work through until tomorrow, silently draws you away from your family. Drawing boundaries for work and rest is critical.
After a long day at the office or a challenging counseling conversation, before you go home, read verses like Ephesians 5:22-32, Philippians 2:3-11, or 1 Peter 3:7 to help you unplug and redirect your heart toward serving and loving your wife. This will only take a couple of minutes and will remind you of how God can empower you to love your wife! Also, it may be helpful to turn off distracting noises and alerts from your devices while conversing with your wife.
Spend time building spiritual intimacy.
It’s important that we connect with our wives in every area. Perhaps none is more important than spiritual intimacy in a pastor’s marriage. In Ephesians 5, Paul exhorts men to wash their wives with the water of the word. This is a calling for all Christian men. If we’re honest, as pastors we can easily neglect this area. While sharing our sermons with our spouse or even listening to her critique us after we preach may help cultivate spiritual intimacy, it’s probably not the best way. For my wife and I, sharing a similar Bible reading plan together helps us have easy flowing conversations about the Word, whether over dinner or while we do chores.
Another way to cultivate spiritual intimacy is to pray together. Perhaps, nothing unveils the heart like honest prayer requests. Take a few minutes when you get home to pray for the difficulties and blessings of the day. You will be surprised how this can help you both to relax.
My final suggestion for cultivating spiritual intimacy with your wife is to watch a spiritually-enriching Bible study series together. Focus on the Family has a great one, The Family Project, which can get you started.
Have fun together.
Every pastoral search committee should ask potential pastors this question: What do you and your wife like to do for fun?
Pastors, it’s hard to serve the Lord joyfully when you’re exhausted and your wife is frustrated. Resting well and dating our wives takes faith. When we’re too busy to have fun and laugh together, it will show in the way we preach and minister to others. Instead of being lighthearted and hope-filled we come off “zapped.” Most importantly, the person we once viewed as the woman sent from God drifts farther away from us.
We owe it to our committed and beautiful wives to give them an enjoyable marriage and to show them that we love them more than the church that we pastor. We can do this by planning picnics, walking in scenic places, having game nights, entertaining couples we enjoy being around, sharing funny experiences throughout our day, or doing whatever makes her smile.
Have stimulating conversations.
Part of what makes a friendship enjoyable is great conversation. Friends can talk for hours, and it only feels like minutes. Our goal in marriage should be to have our spouse as our favorite conversation partner. This takes hard work because once you’ve been married for a while you begin to think that you know what a person will say or feel about a situation. However, thoughts such as these hinder us from communicating with our spouse and growing with them. Even if we do know where they stand in regard to a subject, there’s nothing like hearing them say it in their own unique way! Bookmark articles, talk radio conversations, and trending news topics, and talk about them with your spouse.
Get away alone.
Throughout the year we must leave daily distractions and cleave to our wives in solitude! As I shared this list with my wife, this point stood out to her the most. She said our two-day and week-long getaways without the kids grew our friendship the most, and I agree. Time away from the kids, commentaries, and the everyday grind of ministry can breathe life back into your marriage. If our ministry will collapse because we took a week off to spend it with our wives, then we should re-evaluate the ministry because it’s probably taking precedence over our marriage.
There is an old saying, “Love is friendship set on fire.” I couldn’t agree more. As we seek to encourage and pursue our wives, may the Lord give us grace to love her like Christ loves the church and set an example for the flock.
Copyright © 2015 by Jamaal Williams. Used by permission.
Jamaal Williams is Pastor of Forest Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky. He is a native of Chicago, IL. Jamaal received his bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University where he served as president of Intervarsity Christian Fellowship’s black chapter. He has the M.A in Church Ministries and is currently pursuing a D.Ed. Min in Black Church Leadership from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Jamaal serves on the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission Leadership Council. He is married to Amber, and they are the parents of Nia, Kayla, and Josiah.