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About this series
Keeping Love Alive - Volume 1
Four Biblical Practices Great Marriages Have in Common
How do you keep love alive when you see your marriage starting to teeter, or crumble, and everything in you wants to give up and get out? In this series, Chip provides four biblical practices that all great marriages have in common. For each one, he provides key principles, then practical implications, and finally, super practical tools to make those practices a reality in everyday life. This is a no-holds-barred, candid look at the way marriage really works and how to make yours better. If you’ll invest the time, what you’ll find in the end, are love, hope, joy, and peace - for you, and the one you love.More from this series
As we get started, I have on my wall and I haven’t memorized it, but I read it almost every day because left to myself and you left to yourself, we all focus on, “What about me?” right? My needs, my will, my desires, this is what I want to see happen.
And on my wall is this prayer. And it says, “Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. And where there is hatred, let me sow love. Where there is sorrow, let me sow joy. Where there is injury, let me sow pardon. Where there is darkness, let me sow light. Where there is despair, let me sow joy. O Divine Master, grant that I wouldn’t seek so much to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand, as to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive, it’s in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it’s in dying that we are born to eternal life.”
And that’s attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi but just, I need every single moment to get the paradigm shift. This series is about four biblical practices that great marriages have in common. And the first one is about love.
But when Jesus wanted to show His love, what did He do? He took up a towel and He got down on His knees and the King of kings and the Lord of lords and the Son of God who has been worshipped by myriads of angels from eternity past, bent down and He washed the feet of people that were too proud to wash their own or anyone else’s.
And not only of the eleven that He knew that would be faithful, but He washed the feet of someone that He knew was going to betray Him. And all I can tell you is when God tells us to serve, you can’t do it and I can’t do it in my power. That’s like one of those assignments like, “This is what you really need to do,” and unless you come to, “I can’t,” and say, God, but You can do this through me.
And there’s a promise. Jesus said, “Give and it will be given unto you, good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over back into your lap. For whatever measure you give, you’ll receive.” And it’s a process and it’s a journey, but I think one of the most fundamental shifts if you want a great marriage and it starts in your mind and moves to your heart and then has to get into your hands, is that this will only be a great marriage, not if or when my mate changes, but when I begin to serve them as an act of worship of serving Him with the recognition that I don’t have the power to do that.
And as you do that, and you say, “Well, I just can’t. I don’t feel it.” Here’s what happens, it’s that classic picture is you can stand on the edge of the water and say, “There’s no way,” it’s the moment when they stepped into the water, that’s when you get the grace.
But just like you go into training for other things – discipline, God gives grace through discipline, discipline is learning to do, over time, what you can’t directly do currently.
I’ll never forget my assistant of many years ago had never done anything athletic and we were learning this idea of what you can’t do directly you can learn to accomplish over time when you go into training. So, in other words, I can’t love my wife today directly, but I can go into training to build the capacity to be sensitive to meeting needs. But it takes times in training.
So, I’ll never forget, she had a friend who was a marathoner and she goes, “No, no, here’s the plan.” And she, “This is how many hours you sleep,” and she started walking, then she did a little bit of jogging, it was like six months later and she says, “Is there any way I could come in late on Friday?” I said, “Well, why? What’s up?” She goes, “Well, my training, I need to run ten miles Friday morning.” I said, “All at once?” And she hadn’t said anything. I said, “Can you do that?” She goes, “Yeah!” And I said her name, I said, “You couldn’t walk around the block six months ago! How can you run ten miles?” She goes, “Well, this is what we ate and then I jogged, and then it was this, then I got up to one mile, then up to two miles, and I have a ten-mile run and we only have five more weeks.”
She did twenty-six point two miles without stopping, because she went into training. It affected what she ate, how much she slept, how she exercised. Here’s what I want you to understand. There are many things you can’t will and do today, you have to go – the spiritual disciplines: praying, renewing your mind, reading Scripture, having fellowship from the heart – you go into spiritual training and you can actually build a capacity to love in ways that you currently can’t do by willpower.
And that’s how God dispenses. Now, sometimes He gives these flashes of supernatural, amazing, you have new eyes and see everything different. I have a handful of friends who, that’s how they overcame their porn addiction or their drug addiction and they cried out to God and, wow! But the great majority was recognizing they had a problem, getting in a group, putting limitations on their phone, giving their passwords to someone else, having weekly accountability, and they went into training to renew their mind.
So, all I’m saying is your potentiality for not a good marriage, but a great marriage has little or nothing to do today with how your mate is acting or not acting or what you want them to do or not to do.
Because if you turn this one in and get another one, you’re going to have exactly the same problems. And the other thing is is this person you’ll have to live with that is really the biggest problem is you. It’s you!
I have a fairly healthy self-concept but I can look in the mirror and know the core of my life is I’m selfish, I want my own way. Now, I can put verses behind it and I can, believe me, I can make it sound sophisticated and very Christian. But left to myself, apart from the Holy Spirit working powerfully in my life, I am really about my needs, my wants, and I get frustrated and angry or whatever when that isn’t delivered apart from the Spirit of the living God living in me and me allowing Him, progressively, to have more and more control.
And as I give Him control, then the fruit of that relationship begins to come out in my speech and in my behavior and in my thinking. And that fruit is – what? It’s love, it’s joy, it’s peace, it’s patience, it’s goodness, it’s kindness, it’s faithfulness, it’s gentleness, it’s self-control.
As I abide, and then that is who begins to, by God’s power, express through the conduit of my personality to my wife. And guess what, her emotional needs are met and her heart feels safe and secure. And then this weird thing starts happening, then she wants to treat me that way, which makes me want to treat her even more that way, which makes her want to treat me that way.
See, every relationship is either on an upward spiral of growth and kindness and love, or, “He did that, so I do this.” “Well, you know what? She said that to me, so I’m not going to do that.” And then pretty soon, you play this silly game and you both lose.
I mean, I have been in the ditch in my marriage, I have been in the darkness in my marriage, I have been where I didn’t – love my wife? I didn’t even like her at all. Just angry and hurt and wounded. And it was just a choice, because I made a commitment to God. I said, “Till death do us part.”
If there was a plan B or if there was an exit door, I would have taken it. I’m ashamed to admit that, but it’s true. But the good thing what I saw was when you choose not to take it, then the only other option is you’ve got to work this out. And if you can’t change them, there’s only one person left in the room, right?
And so, that was when, that’s when my marriage started to really change. Okay, she makes me nuts, I can’t change her, God, You change me. And she came to the same conclusion.
Love is the foundation of any relationship. But the oxygen, what brings it forward, is hope. And I want to teach you now the second practices great marriages have in common is hope.
And if you’ll open your Bibles to John 14, I want to show you in the midst of a desperate, desperate crisis, how Jesus is going to give hope to His bride. Remember? There’s a great mystery and the great mystery is that there’s this marriage. And this marriage is between Jesus and His bride, the Church. And He is going to model for us exactly how we can love one another.
We are in John chapter 14. And the situation is they have taken the Last Supper, they have sung a hymn, He has told them a lot about: He’s going to leave. And think crisis. Think you’re going to be apart for a long time. Think of military, being deployed. Think of: I wonder if I’ll ever see you again. Think of the worst and most difficult parting. Think someone who has told you some very terrible things are going to happen to them and you don’t know how it’s all going to turn out.
What you need more than anything else is – what? You need hope. One of the great challenges in marriages is if you don’t have hope, if you’re not looking forward to something this week, if you’re not looking forward to something this month, if you don’t have a couple things that you’re thinking about, “Hey, this year, there are some challenges. There are ups, there are downs, there are struggles, there are kids, there’s sickness, there’s lack of money. But, oh, this is coming up.”
As long as you have hope – hope allows you to endure daily struggles because there’s something that you’re looking forward to. And what you’re going to find is that Jesus is going to give His disciples hope and follow along as we discover how He does it.
Peter said to Him, “Why can I not follow You right now? I’ll lay down my life for You.” This is a good reminder of those who make, those of us who make promises to God.
“Jesus answered,” at the end of chapter 13, “Will you lay down your life for Me? Truly, truly, I say to you, a rooster will not crow until you deny Me three times.” Then He shifts gears. “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me.” Well, why? “In My Father’s house there are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that,” notice the focus, “that where I am, there you may be also.” Their greatest fear is abandonment and He is promising, “I am going to prepare a place so that we can be together.”
And then He goes on to say, “‘And you know the way where I am going.’ And Thomas said to Him, ‘Lord, we do not know the way that You are going, how do we know the way?’ And Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way,’” literally that word is road. Hodos. “I am the path,” or, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through Me. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him.’”
These are great questions. Philip goes, Well, you know, maybe I have missed something in this three years, but, “‘Lord, show us the Father, and it will be enough.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you so long that you still have not come to know the Father? How can you say, “Show us the Father”? Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His work. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves,’” speaking of all the miracles they have seen.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I will do,” now, listen to this. There’s going to be hope because there’s a place. There’s going to be hope because, “I’m going to come back for you.” There’s going to be hope because, “You don’t really get it, but I am, I am God. And so, I’m going to keep my promises.”
Then notice He’s going to say there’s hope because, “I’m not only not going to leave you alone, but I have a mission and a purpose for you.”
“I say to you, you will also do greater works than these, because I go to the Father. Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name,” notice, “I will do it. If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper,” speaking of the Holy Spirit, “that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or abide in Him, or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be,” notice it’s all future, “and will be in you.
“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. After a little while the world will no longer see Me, but you will see Me; because I live, you will live also.
“In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved of My Father, and I will love him and My Father and I will come to Him and I will disclose Myself to Him.”
The command is: do not be afraid. In other words, don’t let fear or anxiety – He is speaking to His bride. Men, as we go through this, I want you to be thinking first and foremost about what your role is, because you’re supposed to love your wife – how? The way Christ loves the Church.
So, first, He says to His Church, “You don’t need to be afraid and You don’t need to be anxious, because I am going to take some responsibility for our future.” That’s a man’s role. Second, He says why. “Because I’m not going to abandon you and I’m not going to leave you.”
A woman’s greatest fear is abandonment. One of her greatest needs is security. And so, Jesus says, “You don’t have to be afraid, you don’t have to be anxious,” why? “I am going to secure a place.”
You ever wondered why, I know some of you have had to move around a lot, and for many of us as men, I remember, we have moved from West Virginia to Dallas, from Dallas to the West Coast, from the West Coast to Atlanta, and from Atlanta, back. And each time, these are traumatic things for my wife.
But I remember we were leaving the West Coast to go to the East Coast and most of my kids were grown and still had a daughter at home. And it was a tiny, little house, but it’s where our kids mostly grew up. And my wife actually went through each room and said goodbye to the rooms and touched the wall. If I didn’t know her better, I would think she is really having a little moment here.
Because, see, for me, it’s a house. For her, it was the place, it was the unit, it was the security. It’s what mattered. It was the home that our best memories of the transformation of our marriage and of our children, where it occurred. And for us men, sometimes it’s – we’re utilitarian. It’s got four walls, it’s got a couple bathrooms, it looks good to me! Who cares if the curtains are this color or that color, and the furniture doesn’t really match or this…? It matters to her, because it’s an environment. It’s the nest. It’s the place.
And isn’t it interesting that when Jesus leaves the disciples, there is a place, not some mystical, floating around. There’s an actual place and there’s a place, a dwelling, there’s plenty of them, they are for you. And I am going to go prepare it for you. And I’m going to prepare it for you because only is there a place, there’s a relationship. And I want you to feel secure and know there’s hope for the future, because I promised to come for you and I have prepared a place for you.
And then He tells them, by the way, there is a strategy to get there. We are not just moving. There’s an actual strategy that you can know how to go from where you’re at in your anxiety and fear to where we are going to be. And often, don’t we memorize verses and quote them and sometimes we get them so in our mind. Okay, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except by me.” I got that down. Jesus is the only way. He’s truth. This is where He reveals His deity. “I and the Father are one.” We get all of our theology.
Do you understand the context? There were some very scared young men who He was telling them, “There’s hope.” There’s, it’s on My word. And I want you to know there’s a pathway to this hope that you can trust. There’s a game plan here. It’s not like I’m just coming home and saying, “I got transferred or I’m taking a new job and there’s not a game plan and the timing. He wanted them to know: how are we going to get from point A to point B? And basically He said, “I am the way. I am the path.” And then the thing about hope is – but what’s the purpose? Why are You leaving and why do we have to relocate? And He goes, “You will do greater works.”
And so, He tells them there’s a place. It’s rooted in a promise. He tells them there is a way to get there. And then He tells them, “I have a purpose for you that everything that you have seen Me do, you actually are going to do greater works. And I want you to believe in Me. And if not for all of our time and intimacy and relationship, at least look back on all those miracles and know this is the way.”
See, He is building a very clear pathway so they can know: you know what? What is He going to tell them later? “In the world you are going to have tribulation. But I have overcome the world.” “My peace,” at the very end of this chapter, “I give to you.”
And all of it is rooted around hope. Someone has rightly said, “Hope is the oxygen of the soul.”
Whether you’re discouraged in your marriage or whether there are seasons, I just call it a grind. Anybody have that? It’s just like you get up, she gets up, you do this, if you have kids you take them here, you’ve got this, there are these evenings you’re supposed to do this, involved in church, you do this over here. Okay, every so many weeks.
And you just, you’re living in the present completely. And then when you have some challenges, right? You’re human. You have some challenges, she says a little something, he said he was going to this but he didn’t do it. One of the kids, you’ve got a problem with and one of you thinks you ought to do this and the other thinks you ought to do that and you have a little argument about it.
If you live only in the now, the grind will eat your relationship up. But hope is a picture of the future that says that what we are doing today is going to produce a better tomorrow. And enduring the grind of the todays and the struggles and the challenges and the little hurt feelings and the downtimes and the illnesses and the hurt and the kids who are going astray and the people that are treating you unfairly – the anchor of your soul is there is this hope.
And ultimately, yes, it’s heaven. Ultimately, it’s Jesus coming back. Ultimately, it’s – no one has the power to make you happy but if you’re a follower of Christ, He has told you, “I am your living hope. I am your security. I am the deep well of your life. My Spirit dwelling inside of You. He will be with you and will be,” here’s the promise, again, future, “in you.”
Did you notice how many times He said, “I will listen to you. I will come again.” It is all based on this promise of the future. In your marriage, you have to build in hope. And are you ready for this? This sounds so unspiritual.
Look at the title of this session. Planning. Do you realize this is what Jesus is doing? He’s sitting down with His bride and saying: I’m leaving, but I want you to know the plan. Here’s the plan. The plan is there is a future date and a future time that you don’t know about and I’ve got an amazing house. And that’s where we’re going to live. And here’s the plan. There’s an actual pathway, it’s not I-40, it’s not I-75, it’s Me. All you’ve got to do, I’m the path, I’m the truth, I’m the way. All you do, you follow Me and you’re going to land at the ultimate hopeful place where we are going to be together, no sin, no pain, no problems. Everything you have seen; all the miracles are normal. And, by the way, I have a purpose for you. You’re going to start doing what I have been doing.
In fact, later on, these disciples don’t know it, we are going to call this “the body of Christ.” We use, that sounds like a religious phrase. Think of, how did God express His miracles and His power when Jesus was walking on the earth? This is not a trick question.
Jesus walks in and He speaks, “Little girl, arise!” He touches a person and the leprosy is healed. He teaches a multitude. He is in Capernaum; how did He get from Capernaum over to Tiberias? He walked. You guys are looking at me. I’m making this way too hard.
Jesus was fully God, but He had a physical body, didn’t He? And when He did His miracles, the Spirit of God, Jesus, God the Son and God the Father are working together and in His physical body, He spoke, He touched, He walked, and He moved. And He accomplished the will of God through His body.
When He was resurrected and the Holy Spirit came and Pentecost and the Church was born, the Spirit of the living God came into whosoever would believe and turn from their sin and repent and receive Christ. And so, the Holy Spirit, the fullness of the Godhead, came to dwell inside of you as a follower and now He says, “The body of Christ is not just one singular, physical body, it’s whoever the Spirit of God lives in,” so now, how does He touch people? How does He speak to people? How does He love people? It’s through us, right?
So, He is saying: not only is there hope about the end, not only do you know the path, but I have given you a purpose because each and every time where the Spirit of God comes through the conduit – I kind of see myself like a piece of PVC pipe. There’s all this grace in heaven that’s available. And the power of the Holy Spirit lives in me, and then I have to open the tap and surrender my life so the Spirit can flow through me.
But when the Spirit flows through me like it flows through any Christian that is open, and when something out of my mouth brings healing, or when I take something out of my pocket and give some money to someone who is hungry, or when I sit across the table and counsel a couple, or when I get to share the gospel, then the Spirit of God uses that and there is life and there’s healing and there’s restoration.
All I can tell you, it’s unbelievable. You have experienced it. You have sat across from someone and you heard them bow their head and pray to receive Christ. You have talked with them for hours and they decided not to leave their husband. You saw someone that was really hurting and was in a terrible situation, was clinically depressed and you came around them and now they are healthy. And what you realized, God used me. And what does it do? It gives you hope. It reminds you He is real. There’s power. It’s a reality.
Where is your hope in your marriage? See, is your hope that someday, someway everything is going to be perfect? Is your hope someday she is going to be more affectionate? Is your hope someday we can really have a nice house and when all that happens everything is going to be wonderful? Is your hope is that when we can finally move closer to my parents so my immediate family will make me feel better? Is your hope that someone will no longer ever have to be deployed and then somehow life will really be wonderful? Is your hope that when we can have children, then life is really going to happen? Is your hope somehow if I make some career moves then we will make more money and then everything is going to be okay? Is my hope…
Do you understand? Every single one of those is circumstantial. And every single one of those can happen tomorrow. And here’s what I can tell you about you and me and our fallen nature. Give you thirty days and your hope will be on something else. Just a little bit bigger house and wishing you didn’t have so many kids.
And what Jesus is telling us is there are going to be challenges. It’s part of living in a fallen world. First, it’s this attitude of serving your mate that makes no sense and you keep doing it when it works, you keep doing it when it doesn’t work, and you do it as an act of worship to God.
And over time, a transformation happens in you. You become more and more like Jesus. And all I can tell you, is that when someone becomes more and more like Jesus, she is more and more attractive or he is more and more attractive. My wife is really attractive. She’s very kind, she is very loving, she is very others-centered. That was not how she always used to be. And I spent most of my energy picking apart what I didn’t like about her instead of the ninety percent that I did like about her.
And God wants you to know that serving is the first step, but you have to have hope. And the way you have hope is you have to have a plan. So, can I just give you some, a couple principles and then I want to get real practical.
Here’s the principle. This is from Jesus. Long-term planning provides hope and perspective to overcome short-term pain and challenges. Now, just tell me, am I just reading too much into that? Does He give them a long-term plan or what? Hey, here’s the long-term plan: you’re going to be with me forever! I got your back! I’m coming back! No matter what happens, how bad, how hard, I am coming back and there’s a place for you. Long-term plan gives you perspective and hope to overcome short-term pain and challenges.
Second, great plans provide a specific path and create hope for tomorrow and forever. Great plans don’t just say, hey, someday, some way He could have said, “Okay, guys, I’m going to go to the cross a little bit later, I’m going to go prepare a place for you. Ready? Break. See you someday, some way, somehow.”
No, no, a great plan has: yeah, that’s the long-term plan, but here’s where you are today. There’s a specific path. There are specific things we are going to do. Literally, there are mile markers that we are going to look at that are going to move us forward so we can see we are making progress.
Third principle is hope rises and falls with how we keep our promises. The most devastating thing we do to one another and we all do it, is when we tell our mate something and then we don’t follow through. It breaks trust. What do we know about Jesus?
I would encourage you, read John chapter 14 and you can even read 15 and 16 and every time the word I will, I will, I will, I will, I will – underline it. And you know what He’s saying? “I will. I keep My promises. I’m preparing a place.”
And did you get the “why”? See, I meet a lot of Christians that believe God loves them. I don’t think they really believe He likes them. And, “Oh, yeah, He loves me, but I need to do this and I need to do this and I need to do this and I know I don’t measure up.”
Do you realize that just you sitting wherever you’re at, whatever level of maturity, with all your issues that if Jesus walked through those doors in His resurrected body and sat down with you and said, “You want coffee or do you want tea?” And He would sit across from you and He would just be delighted to hang out.
And so, then the application is practical. Number one, if you, this is from my Marine father, so don’t look for this in the Bible. But I heard it so much, it’s up there in the Bible with me. “Chip, if you fail to plan, you…does every person know that one? It’s true. And you plan for career, you plan hopefully for finances, you plan for so much.
Here’s my question. What is your plan for your marriage? What’s your plan for your marriage? If I said, “Okay, hey, hey, you’re the husband, right? Bridegroom, there’s a bride. Okay, guys, over here, all you ladies over there. Alright. One by one, line up, tell me your plan. What’s the game plan? Intimacy plan? Future plan? Kids plan? Intellectual growth plan? Spiritual growth plan? Future of your kids? Do you want them to go to college? You think they need to go to college? Do you need to plan for that? What’s your financial plan?”
If you’re looking at me like, “Duh,” we’ve got a problem. Because if you don’t have a plan, then you don’t have a lot of hope. Because planning, you know what the word “planning” is about? Planning is the presumption that there will be a future and that you’re doing some things today and you’re looking into the future and saying, “These are the important things that we are going to do,” and they are things that you look forward to.
Planning is sort of a thread that takes hope and the hope pulls you, but it pulls you because there’s a plan.
I cannot tell you, I mean, my wife and I argued, struggled, we did the roll in bed, face the other wall. And we made a plan. The plan was we would have a date every single week. It would be on Friday, it would be for breakfast, we would eat and we would spend about three hours together, we would take a walk, we would do whatever. But during that three or four block, she knew she had me, no phone, no interruptions, and anything and everything that was building up in her heart, she knew I’m only six days away from unloading.
And what it gave me was six days of her not unloading a little every day, causing conflict. And it wasn’t like it was just conflict resolution. We had a plan. What we knew was we were terrible communicators, we didn’t know how to resolve anger, we didn’t even know when we were angry. We had to have a counselor teach us, “When you’re like this, okay, she is passive-aggressive and she buries her anger and you verbalize your anger.” “Oh.” “So that’s why you do this, she does…” “Oh, okay.” So, we had to learn when we were angry.
So right after supper, just fifteen minutes. We did it three times a week. “Okay, honey, this sounds so artificial. How did your day go?” Superficial. Okay, great. “How did your day go?” Great. “What are you concerned about?” “Well, this, this, this.” And I shut up. You can’t fix it. Just shut up.
“What do you wish?” “Oh, I wish one of our sons would not be so much this way. And I’m concerned about our other son is dating a girl. I wish I felt better.
I’ve got this really, situation. And “What are you willing to do?”
And in fifteen minutes or twenty minutes, we learned to not just bury stuff but get all the things that are weighing us down out on the table.
And then you, a question that you didn’t have to do anything. “What are you willing to do?” And what happened is in fifteen minutes, every other night at least, I found out: these are the burdens, and she heard mine. She would ask me, “How did your day go?” “It’s fine.” And she wants to talk and. “Well, how did it really go?” “It’s fine. It was church. Had a lot of meetings. A couple people came to Christ. It was great. So, what’s up?”
And I can’t understand why she thinks we don’t communicate, right? I told her! It was fine! That’s not what she wanted to hear. “How did you feel about it? What was going on inside?” Right?
So we came up with a plan, weekly. We came up with a plan, daily. And then for us, when there’s friction, guess what goes out the door: romance. And now if you have kids, especially small ones, it’s hard to even find romance. And so, we plan. We scheduled, got other couples to watch our kids, we were super poor. We are going to get away for a couple nights at least once, try twice a year.
And sometimes you were just holding on by a thread. We’ve only got sixty-two more days until we can get away! But two days away would refresh, are you starting to get it? Hope!
So what is your career and family and ministry and future plan for the next five, ten, or fifteen years? Now, I know when I say something like that you go, Oh my gosh. That’s sort of a long, big deal. Okay, here’s a tool for transformation I want to get you started. I’m going to give you two tools.
Here’s tool number one. This changed the course of my life.
I was thirty-four or thirty-five, three kids – four. Annie had just been born. She was maybe eighteen months old. I’ve got two thirteen, fourteen-year-olds, about a seven-year-old, and about a one-year-old.
And where I went to seminary, they had a thing called LEAD: Leadership Evaluation and Development. And they looked at your whole life and you went away with your wife for a week and they had a psychologist talk to you and someone look at your preaching and people filled out all these forms about your life, your character, and they literally had your life.
And the goal was to take you through this four or five days and give you an evaluation of where you’re at and help you see blind spots so that maybe they could help you skip ten years of pain, because they thought maybe you have some potential to make a difference.
Two big things happened. The man who did our interview was one of my mentors. And he looked at Theresa and said, “You haven’t told anybody about your past life, have you?” “No, I hide it.” But she said, “I have a problem.” “What’s that.” Well, my little boy is six or seven years old and we have a picture of Chip and I in our marriage, and Eric and Jason are in the picture.” They were four-and-a-half, five years old, dressed up little boys, carrying the rings and things.
“And so, our six or seven-year-old says, ‘Mommy, how come Eric and Jason got to be in the wedding picture and I didn’t?’” Well, a little moment truth; that’s a real tricky one. Right? She was ashamed. She was ashamed that she was told where we went to school that, “God will never use your life.” She was told she was a second-class citizen. She lived with guilt; she lived with shame. She married a guy, she wasn’t a Christian, he runs off with another woman. She told me, “I would have committed suicide if I didn’t have those babies. My whole life was in that man. I felt worthless.”
And he said, “You don’t understand. You are a trophy of God’s grace. Look at how God has restored you and redeemed you. Are you ready for this? You know what you do with trophies? You take trophies and you put them up on the mantel and you put them on the mantel so people can see: this is what God did.”
And we came home from that and she shared with my seven-year-old boy why he wasn’t in the wedding picture. Shortly afterwards, we were called to a church in Santa Cruz and my wife is a, you would not know it now, but was not just an introvert but super shy and getting in front of people was not her thing.
And we are flying on the plane, she said, “I want to share my testimony with the church.” I said, “What?” And we went from a fairly small church, and for us it was a pretty good-sized church – eight or nine hundred people. And they had a Sunday morning and Sunday night.
And I said, “Well, my first message is Sunday morning. You want to do Sunday night?” She goes, “Yeah.” And she got up and, phoo! told her story. Fifty women lined up. If you know anything about Santa Cruz, it’s drugs, New Age, wacky world, broken people. Just…
And God just put us in the perfect place in the world because two very deeply broken people went to a place filled with broken people. And when she shared her story, they finally said, “Maybe there’s hope for me.” And so there’s hope! There’s not just hope when everything is okay. There’s hope when you share your brokenness.
The second thing that happened at that, that was critical, is I was given an assignment. And I was told to do this: “I want you to go home and I want you to write out, I want you to add ten years to everyone’s age.” So, okay, I’ll be forty-four. My, oh wow, Eric and Jason will be twenty-two. Ryan will be seventeen. Annie will be eleven. And then he says, “Now, I want you to think about, this is where you’re at. I want you to visualize, you now have two kids that,” I thought, If they are going to go to college, I’m putting fifty dollars a month away…
They are doing really well, but they’ve got some issues in their life I need to address. My little boy, he’s going to be seventeen, that’s going to make him a junior or a senior. And, wow, ten years from now, I will be, Theresa and I…
And we literally, it was, it just grabbed me and I realized, I am living so much in every single day, I’m not living in a way that is realizing: where do I want to be in ten years? Where does God want me to be in ten years? Where do I want my marriage to be in ten years?
It was one of the biggest “ah-ha” moments of my whole life. I literally, are you, you know what I did? I made a plan. I made a plan for my older boys. What am I going to do between twelve and twenty-two? What is it I want them to know? What kind of time, what kind of experiences? What am I going to do with my son who is eleven or seven and is going to be seventeen? And what are the things I learned from my older boys? And where should we be? This is where we are at in our marriage. This was a season where we actually got along, the church was growing, it was a good season.
Wow, what have we done? Where do I want our marriage to be in ten years? I would tell you, it’ll change the course of your life if you would write down: add ten years to everyone in your family and start asking yourself those questions.
I will tell you, because left to yourself, and here’s the thing, you think you don’t have enough time.
The number one addiction in America is technology. You have time to read, you have time to think, you have time to exercise, you have time to build relationships, or you can stick your face in this phone and you can escape and you can watch movies and you can play video games. And for some of you, secretly log on to porn. And you can waste your life.
Or you can come up with a plan and you can ask for help. And you can start being a servant. And I will tell you, your life will be so different than everybody else’s. And here’s the thing that this thing and all that media does, it just keeps telling you: you don’t measure up, you don’t look right, you don’t have the right stuff. And if only you had, or if only you could, or if only you were…
And so, it’s all negative messages and here’s the thing: some of you are type A, highly focused, wired like me and some of us have gone after some of those things, and here’s the thing, if you get them in your hand, you’re going to look at it, it’s like, remember the rainbow into the pot of gold? And you’ll look at it and you’ll go…
As one guy told me recently, he said, “This is it? This…? I built a company, did sixty-seven million dollars last year, a found a beautiful wife, I have three kids – this is it? This is as empty – they promised! I’m in shape,” he was a Marine, “I am! I’ve got what everyone in the world says will make you happy,” and he says, “I looked inside of that and it was a black hole of emptiness.”
And then he happened to be driving in the car and he heard a series about heaven and life that happened to be from Living on the Edge. God spoke to him and he pulled off 101, California, and cried like a baby and received Christ. And that was the beginning of a completely new life.
And what I like about him, he went about it like a Marine. His poor wife. He said it was bait and switch. It really was. He said, “Two years in,” he goes, “my life, my friends, my habits,” he said, “I learned God’s Word is important, I learned prayer was important, a good Bible-teaching church is important. I got in a small group with my pastor, another guy, and another guy. Man, my addictions I addressed. Just two years, we are having dinner, and she looked at me and she goes, ‘I don’t think I even know you anymore.’” And he said, “Privately, I’m thinking, Yes!”
And, yet, was she was saying was, “I married this person, we partied together, and this was our world. I don’t – who is this guy? Now, you’re a great father, you are treating me in ways I don’t really understand. Kind, but weird. You’re doing things I have never seen you do.”
And here’s my point, you’ve got to have a plan. Add ten years and then ask yourself, Who do you want that person to be? What do you want that marriage to look like?
The second, this is a really practical thing because it’s like, “Oh, that’s a great, big picture.”
Structure. Some of us are very spontaneous, some are very detail oriented – if you don’t structure for outcomes, your life will be filled with good intentions where you start and fail, start and fail, start and fail.
In planning as a couple, this week, I’m going to get down to some really basic things. This is just a suggestion. Some of you are great planners, way better than me, you have way better ways to do this. But for those of you that are sitting here thinking, We don’t plan, we just react. We just respond. Oh, the kids need shoes! And, by the way, if you’re like most, the women feel a greater responsibility and they are always feeling like, What are we going to do? What are we going to do? And they feel like we don’t lead well when we don’t plan.
And so, one of the things that helped us, I don’t know how it works in your world, but in my world, usually I get a paycheck every two weeks. Some people it’s once a month, some people once a week. I get a paycheck every two weeks and have for whenever.
We have a – it doesn’t have to be blue. We have a blue folder. Every bill that comes in goes into that blue folder, even the ones that we pay online. We print it out, it goes into that blue folder. Every two weeks, I sit down with my wife. We have a checkbook. And we will, she will take the part that you subtract and I will take the part where we write the checks.
And a lot of them, of course, we pay online and I’ll write on the bill and she will say, “Okay, I’ll do that online.” And we go through every two weeks and we do our finances together. Here’s what you need to learn about money: money is never about money. Money is about values and priorities.
Every two weeks, for thirty-five years, we have had a discussion about what matters. And a lot of times, it was, well, we paid our bills and now we have a hundred and thirty-six dollars to make it through to the next two weeks. So, we are going to put seventy-eight dollars in the grocery envelope, we’re going to put twenty dollars in recreation, and we’re going to put sixteen dollars in for gas, when you could buy gas for cheap. And when the money is out of those envelopes, we’re done. And we are going to stay in the black.
And then it was like, okay, well, Eric needs shoes and Annie needs this. What should we buy, when? And, okay, let’s the habit is more important than the amount. So, we are going to save fifty dollars a paycheck. That was our big savings plan. And it became a habit.
The second thing is now we have made those, then we open our calendars and we look at, okay, what is coming up the rest of this month and next month? And we just, we’d talk about it. Well, we’ve got a birthday here, I’m supposed to teach here, and we are supposed to do that. Well, this couple asked us to do that.
So, what are we doing? We’re planning our life together. Do you realize how many of your arguments are about one of you does the checkbook or one of you does it online, you don’t know where things are at. Your conversations about money are called arguments. Your conversations about calendar are called conflict.
Well, why did you do that? Why didn’t you tell me that? Well, I don’t want to do that. Well, you always do that. You play golf and you play golf. I just went out with the girls and I’m sick and tired of you always taking our money and, well, you said we were going to stay on a budget. We made plans and you never stick with them. Does this sound remotely familiar? Why? Because I lived them all.
Structure. Every two weeks, this is how much money we have. Visibility. Transparency. What are we going to do with it? Here’s our calendar. At the beginning of every week, and we’ve done this so long it’s informal now. Often it’ll be over a cup of coffee. “So, what do you have coming up this week?”
And she’ll just walk through her week, tell me all the major things coming, “Oh, Annie is going to come over with the kids in the afternoon. I’m going to do this.” “Well, I’ve got to travel Tuesday and Wednesday and I’ll be back. So, that kind of messes up with our date night. When do you want to do that?”
And do you, it can just whoo. Hope for the long-term, hope once a quarter, hope with your finances because you do it together. I am telling you, you can be proactive in creating a life that you look forward to something this week. You look forward to a great time together away. You look forward to sitting down and having a plan that it may take time, but we can get out of debt.
Final comment, if you are in a situation, I wrote this at the bottom, of crisis of debt, or counseling, or in-laws, or addiction, get outside help. Get outside help. Pay whatever it takes. I had to.
And here’s the thing. If this reoccurring problem or conflict in your sex life, in your finances, debt issues, in-laws, resolving conflict – you’re smart people. If you could have solved it on your own, you would have solved it by now. Right?
You get outside help. Let me encourage you to do that.