By Joe Vivian
“I’m numb to you right now.”
These weren’t the words I expected to hear on a Monday morning from Kerry, my bride of 25 years.
The words blindsided me. We had celebrated our silver anniversary two months prior, and as part of that celebration, we renewed the vows of our marriage covenant.
What’s more, we saw such success in our marriage ministry that I took it for granted that our marriage was happy and healthy.
She continued calmly, “I do love you, I’m just not feeling anything toward you right now.”
When had our train derailed, and how could we get it back on track?
For the next sixth months, Kerry and I plunged into deeper communication with each other, with God, and with trusted friends as we tried to find answers to those questions.
Nearly five years have passed since that Monday, and I’d like to share with you what we learned that helped to heal our marriage:
Focus on what only you can do.
You might think I’m encouraging you to focus on what “you” can do, as opposed to focusing on your spouse and their shortcomings. Although that’s good advice, that’s not what I mean.
Instead, I’m asking you to use this principle to distinguish between your primary and secondary callings. Your primary calling is the thing only you can do, and this deserves your greatest attention.
Maybe you need to change your perspective on what God’s calling you to. I know I did.
That’s enough theory for now. Allow me to unpack it using my own experience.
I Neglected My First Calling.
Pastors and ministry leaders, please heed my warning: I neglected my first calling. I placed my ministry— children’s, families, and marriage ministry—first.
But God responded, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind;” and “your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27).
Friends, God can call anyone to be a children’s minister. He can also call anyone to lead a church family. Our first and primary calling, however, is to love Him with every fiber of our being.
We’re to have such an intimate relationship with God through His Son, Jesus Christ that everything else pales in comparison.
When we do this, we become immersed in the guidance and direction of His Spirit which dwells in us. That’s our first calling: to love Him with every part of us—our heart, soul, body, and mind.
With Our First Calling Set, Our Second Calling Becomes Clear.
If you’re married, your second calling after the Lord is to your spouse.
Not your children, not your job/ministry, not your hobbies. When you focus on loving Christ first, it then overflows toward your spouse.
So, pastors and ministry leaders, memorize this nugget:
Focus on what only you can do.
What’s your focus in your life, your church, your ministry today?
The answer is so simple, yet many of us miss it at first. Again, we think of our jobs, our ministries, our hobbies, and possibly even our athletic endeavors.
But that’s not it.
The one thing each of us must focus on that only we can do is being obedient servants to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Then, and only then, can we be the spouse God has called us to be.
Praise be to God, I learned how to reignite my intimacy with Christ again. This allowed me to be the husband to Kerry and father to my daughters God called me to be. Those are my primary callings from God.
With that in mind, here are three things I remind myself:
1. I’m to Seek God’s Will First.
I must first and foremost seek His will and His love. When I daily come to Him and bow before His throne, I can feel my troubles and anxiety wither away.
I rest, knowing He’s continually forming me into His image. This is sometimes quite uncomfortable, but it’s extremely necessary.
2. My Marriage Covenant to Kerry is with God.
My marriage covenant to Kerry wasn’t ultimately made in front of family and friends; it was made before God.
I made a covenant to leave, cleave, become one with Kerry, and not be ashamed.
I’m the only one who can be the husband to Kerry. I’m the only one who can love her with unashamed and unconditional love.
3. Our Children Are Gifts from God.
Finally, we must never forget our children are a gift from God and only belong to us as loaners. They’re His, and we’re given the blessing to raise them up in His ways.
We’ll be held accountable by God for what we teach and how we train them up in His Name. I’m the only one who can be the father to my two children. I need to not take them for granted.
So, may our focus be concentrated on that which only we can do. Then, and only then, will everything else fall into place including our ministries, our careers, and our hobbies.
May we all grow intimately with Christ first, then with our spouses, families, and ministries—all in that order.
JOE VIVIAN is a husband and father. Together with Kerry, his wife, they run the Pursuit of Marriage.