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What is your ministry?
Helping with children's programs?
Planning Vacation Bible School?
Leading women's Bible study?
Feeding the homeless?
Helping immigrants adjust to life in the U.S.?
Serving on the church board?
Collecting clothing for those who are less fortunate?
Evangelizing to a specific segment of society?
A common resentment I hear from husbands whose Christian wives are rarely interested in sex is that their wife is full throttle committed to "ministry" … regardless of the damage such commitment is doing to the marriage.
This easily happens in Christian circles, doesn't it?
For one, our Americanized way of doing ministry is often focused on more, more, more.
A program for this. A program for that.
A bulletin filled with opportunities to serve. There are blankets to make, meals to prepare, music programs to arrange, outings to plan.
To be fair to the church -- the body of believers -- I'm not at all discounting the tremendous good that is done to carry out God's commands of feeding the poor, reaching the lost and bringing hope to an otherwise decrepit world.
Christians are selflessly some of the first to respond to natural disasters, reach out to the downtrodden, build orphanages, and come alongside the brokenhearted.
We do need ministry. Faith without deeds is dead.
BUT -- and this is an important BUT -- we possibly have along the way sent the message that ministry at all costs is more righteous, even if those costs include the relationship a believer has with their spouse.
Few church leaders would come right out and say it that way.
And honestly, whose responsibility is it, anyway, to establish healthy boundaries where such boundaries are desperately needed?
That is not the responsibility of your priest or pastor or ministry leader.
I remember working in a ministry where a foundational philosophy that permeated throughout it was that we could not disappoint a visitor.
That visitor, after all, is seeing Christ through us, so we had to make sure we had available every comfort and numerous points of interaction, even if it meant over-taxing already stressed-out volunteers.
I get the heart behind such a philosophy. But even our hearts can blind us to what is healthy -- for us and for the ministry.
I know there are countless Christian marriages that have paid an unfathomable price because service in ministry always -- or nearly always -- superseded devotion in the marriage.
Or concern wasn't raised until the damage was pushing the marriage to the breaking point.
Are you married to your ministry?
Read that question again.
Humbly look at it.
The Lord, in his gratefulness, has equipped us to serve, but I don't find anywhere in the Bible where He says to do it in a way that will regularly and perpetually injure the covenant relationship you have with your spouse.
Ironically, in an effort to "reach the lost" and "serve the poor" and "be the body," many people have diminished or destroyed their Christian witness to their spouse.
If serving in ministry has consistently left you too exhausted or too uninterested in intimacy (sexual, emotional and spiritual) with the person you married, you can't help but wonder if you as a couple have paid too big of a price, right?
If ministry has destroyed intimacy with your spouse and you want to change that, here are five things you need to be okay with...
It's okay to sometimes say "no" when asked to serve.
It's okay to stop serving in a ministry that you have served in for years or possibly even started. (Find a good breaking point and transition out of it).
It's okay to sometimes skip church activities to spend alone time with your spouse.
It's okay to embrace your limits. (You are not as indispensable as you possibly have believed.)
It's okay to grieve letting go of ministries you dearly love.
This isn't about never serving or never stepping up to the plate to respond to needs. It's about making a courageous and bold choice to not sacrifice your marriage on the altar of good deeds.
Amazingly, when we offer ourselves first to nurturing and building intimacy with our spouse, we are much better equipped to serve. We have better discernment on how we can best use our gifts at the right time and in a way that honors God's truths about service and about marriage.
I'll even go so far as to say that I believe one of the best things for a fallen world is married couples having tender, passionate and amazing sex often.
If the marriage is strong and God-honoring, then that is going to be a positive Christian influence to their children, neighbors and community.
Being a better lover makes you a better servant. No doubt about it.
So, are you married to your ministry?
I hope your answer is yes. And that you know what I mean by ministry.
Copyright 2014, Julie Sibert. Intimacy in Marriage Blog.