February 10, 2014
Build Unity Into Your Marriage
" ... Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless." 1 Corinthians 15:58b (NLT)
For years my husband and I have looked for ways to build unity in our marriage. Amazingly, one of the best things we've ever done hasn't been fancy vacations or expensive dinners. It's been serving God together and allowing Him to use our life experiences to reach children.
When my husband, Tony, served as a head coach in the NFL, we often visited classrooms in inner-city schools together. As a former sixth grade teacher, I loved encouraging students to develop a love for reading. Yet we soon noticed there were few motivational, values-driven books with characters and story lines these kids could relate to. That's when Tony and I began writing children's books.
Every Tuesday for the past four years, we have read one of our books to third grade students in schools where there are a high percentage of children from impoverished and single parent homes.
In our years serving together, my husband and I have seen God use our offering of time and storytelling ability to show His love to children. Even though it may seem like a small thing, 1 Corinthians tells us everything we do matters: "Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless" (1 Corinthians 15:58b).
Often our best opportunities to share about God come from the questions we receive. Since many of our characters are based on our nine kids, students often ask, "Is this story true?" We explain that we turn real-life experiences into stories with a message — usually about problem solving with guidance from parents and from God.
Another question students often ask is, "Are you two married? To each other?" We enjoy sharing that we've been married for over 31 years. "Wow, you're kidding me!" is a common response.
Some of these children know very few married couples, and we are pleased to model for them — if only briefly — how a husband and wife interact with each other. We understand, even if these kids don't, that God designed marriage as a reflection of Christ's relationship with His church. In some small way, when we serve others, we are giving them a glimpse of God's lavish love.
Once after we had discussed our story and talked about marriage, children and making wise decisions, a boy eagerly raised his hand. "Are you guys Christians?" he asked. I felt such joy that a third grader recognized our love for God and desire to follow His plan.
When you and your husband use your gifts and resources to benefit others, you will experience that same delight. But in a world filled with desperate people, how do you know where to serve? The chaplain of the Minnesota Vikings once gave Tony some great advice: "Ask yourself: What can I do that no one else can do? What gifts, connections, and resources do I have to help those who might be overlooked by everyone else?"
Volunteering has strengthened our marriage in interesting ways. Tony received many accolades as an NFL coach, but I believe his best moments have been interacting with young boys with no father figures at home. In addition, with six kids still living under our roof, we enjoy these few hours to ourselves every Tuesday.
Our classroom visits often spark discussions as Tony and I explore better ways to answer students' questions and make God's ideas clearer to young people. How blessed we are to be able to impact our community while having fun together!
What about you and your spouse? If you enjoy entertaining, why not invite those new neighbors over for dinner? If you like working together on your home, could you ask your church to refer you to an elderly couple whose home is in urgent need of repair? The opportunities are as rich as the gifts God has given you.
As you and your husband seek God's direction, I don't know whether your prayer will lead you to a classroom like the ones Tony and I visit. But I do know this: the Lord is just waiting to show you something that only the two of you can do.
Heavenly Father, sometimes I forget that marriage is not simply about me and my spouse, but was designed by You as a visible representation of Your endless love. Would You begin to show us how we might extend Your grace to others? In Jesus' Name, Amen.
If you'd like more of Lauren and Tony's insights into building a strong partnership, check out their new book, Uncommon Marriage.
Reflect and Respond:
When it comes to helping others, where do you and your spouse's passions intersect?
Set aside 15 minutes this week to talk with your spouse about the gifts and resources God has given you. Begin brainstorming a few ways you might reach out to someone in your community. If you already serve together, discuss your satisfaction level.
Acts 20:35b, "... remember the words of the Lord Jesus: 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'" (NLT)
Philippians 2:4, "Don't look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too." (NLT)
© 2014 by Lauren Dungy. All rights reserved.
Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks Tyndale House Publishers for their sponsorship of today's devotion.
Proverbs 31 Ministries
630 Team Rd., Suite 100
Matthews, NC 28105
Originally published Monday, 10 February 2014.