On the Edge of Forevermore…

The other day I met with a couple whose marriage is totally on the edge. In their case, the passion is gone, and they’ve both grown distant. They believe it’s unlikely that their relationship will survive. I care about this couple deeply and have known them for a long time. My heart breaks over their situation.
My heart breaks partly because I believe in redemption, and I have witnessed its surprising grace in marriage. That grace comes in many different ways, sometimes through fighting and staying and rediscovering intimacy, and other times through trying every resource and ultimately leaving (possibly for reasons of personal safety – physical, emotional, mental, &/or spiritual).
But I worry about the prevalence of people who seem to shortcut the potential for redemption in marriage. Many are turning away from each other because they no longer experience pleasure, delight, or intimacy together anymore. Certainly, these are painful developments, and they demand attention and care in marriage, but I grieve over the flippancy with which our culture offers marital breakup as a good solution. I asked my friends who are contemplating divorce a question that I have asked a hundred times before, “Have you been to counseling?” and their response, like a hundred others I’ve heard before was, “We looked into that, but it’s too expensive, and we are so busy.”
In that moment, I wanted to say to them, “Seriously? Too expensive? Too time consuming? I don’t mean to lose my cool here, but think this through. You are considering divorce… Do you know how expensive that is?  Do you realize how time consuming that will be?! Please, please, please do not enter that path lightly. I know that sometimes divorce is the only option left, and there are solid reasons for people to split up. But I implore you to try every other good resource first. Give redemption a fighting chance!”
There is no price too high to pay and no investment of time too great to try and save a marriage before calling it quits.
During our 3rd year of marriage, Tim and I hit an extremely rough patch. It was scary for both of us to experience the intensity of emotions, to see such an ugly side of ourselves and each other. I remember in the midst of that painful season, I called a friend and told her we were really struggling. We talked, she listened and held space, and then offered me one of the most generous gifts in that season. She simply said that she had an amazing counselor who was difficult to get in to see, but she would be willing to give up her upcoming session with him and give it to us if we would be willing to drive the 3 hours to see him. Without skipping a beat, we said yes. We did. We drove 3 hours, both ways, multiple times, and paid money on top of that to see this man. I am so grateful we did, and I can undoubtedly say it was worth every penny and all the time it took.
So, I hope you will forgive me when I get weary of hearing, “It’s too expensive,” or “We just don’t have time.” If this is your situation today, hear my urgency, which comes from love: Make time. Find the money. Because there is no price too high and no time investment too great to do all you can to save your marriage. God is the great Redeemer, but we often get to participate in that process through the choices we make, which can have a forevermore impact.
If you don’t know who to see, email me. If you truly cannot find a way to pay, email me. Just do not let time and money be the reasons you walk away from giving your marriage every chance to succeed.
*If you have experienced a divorce you regret, know that God’s pleasure & delight in you has not changed and He still has unlimited capacity for redemption. Our mistakes never cancel out God’s mercy and the potential for God to still work beauty, goodness, and healing in and through our lives.

Prioritizing My Marriage

Over the years, lots of people have asked Tim and I about working together, pastoring together, being landlords together…we have a lot of together going on! I’m a little sensitive when this topic comes up because it touches on all sorts of insecurities for me. First off, we were told in our early years of marriage that spouses could not pastor together because that was nepotism and it would never work. I’m sensitive also because I know that a lot of couples should not and could not work together, and so I never want to send the impression that this model is for everyone. Third, I am sensitive because although we work together in a lot of domains right now, it might not always be what we want to do, and so I want to protect the choice for either or both of us to bow out or change vocational focus someday.  But for now, Tim and I work together and we really like working together. I get to see a side of Tim in our small business that I never knew he had until we started that venture – who knew that Tim could paint?!? We have both changed so much in the 5 years we have co-pastored and it is thrilling to be growth partners with each other in ministry everyday.

But co-leading and co-pastoring is not what makes us married. Marriage is so much more than running a business together or running a household together. Marriage is about writing a love story together.  It is about walking hand in hand down the street for breakfast on a Monday morning (a pastors Saturday!).  It is about surrendering my self-imposed need to cook everyday and ordering carry out to eat on the front porch instead sometimes. It is about choosing to talk to each other and finding the space to really listen. It is about realizing that getting the dishwasher loaded can always happen later, but some sort of daily investment in each other needs to happen every day. It is about giving up the urgent in favor of the important. Marriage is about making time for each other every day – small little investments that add up over a lifetime. It is not about just talking business (although we do plenty of that!).  It is about talking and listening from your heart – hearing about the small details, the hopes, the fears, the dreams and the mundane. Tim and I have a lot of time together, but we have to fight for the time that really builds the sort of marriage we want to have. I think that is true for every couple, whether you work together or not. It is easy for us to just slip into all business – Who is speaking? Who is watching Russell? When are we having those people over? Can I book that private event at the studio next month? Can I buy a new truck? (No!  The answer to that last question is no.) There is a never-ending list of schedule-coordination, to-do-lists, and logistics to discuss.

Prioritizing is never easy. It means saying no to the good stuff in order to build the great stuff. Important relationships are worth prioritizing but it will mean the laundry sometimes goes undone. It will mean eating leftovers so we don’t give each other the leftovers of our attention and energy for another day.

Having an “I used to think” List

Gary Aronhalt recently spoke in our worship service and made a passing comment that everyone ought to have an “I used to think” list.  I have ruminated on his idea ever since hearing it. We don’t usually like to admit that we used to think or believe one way but have since changed our opinion because that means admitting we may have been wrong. However, the alternative to changing perspectives is staying stuck and not progressing or growing as people.  Do I really want to be proud of thinking the same things today that I thought when I was a pre-teen, teen, or young adult?  Do I really imagine I have it all figured out today and will perceive myself, the world, and God the same when I am 70? Most likely, many of my present suppositions will change over time, which is a healthy mark of personal and spiritual development.

So I’ve been thinking… and here is my first draft of a list of Things I Used to Think:

I used to think that whenever people changed churches, they were flaky and just church hopping. Now I think that we have friends and faith communities for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. I used to think that because I’m an ENTJ and logically minded that I would not be a very sentimental mom. Now I think that parenting has opened up a part of my heart that I did not think existed. I used to think that if a woman made more money than her husband, they had a bad marriage and probably would not make it. Now I think that people of quality are not threatened by equality. I used to think that people could not be friends with their parents. Now I know that I can. I used to think that what a person believed was about all that mattered. Now I think who we are, what we think, and how we behave are interconnected. I used to think that God was stationary, like a rock. Now I think that God is on the move and active, like a world traveler. I used to think that if I was publically humiliated or rejected by others, I would not survive. Now I know I can.

Perhaps for me there is a theme of growing a bit in the grace and freedom of my life in Christ.  I’m curious, what would you put on your list? I would love to hear!



Happy Anniversary Tim –from Susie

When Tim and I were planning our wedding, which happened 11 years ago this week, we had our list of priorities.  #1. We would invite as many people as we wanted to invite, without any excruciating guest list cuts. #2. Stuart Briscoe (my pastor) had to perform our ceremony.  #3. We would host a really great dance.  Dancing was more important to me than my dress, and I think I dreamed about it more than walking down the aisle.

Last month we went to Mark & Kimmie’s wedding, and they too knew how to prioritize dancing.  So, Tim, I, Bill, Kate, Cherstin, Travis, and a host of other people whose names I want to list but won’t, all got out there and shook our stuff.

Dancing is such a leveling experience. Everyone moving, acting goofy, and throwing their hands in the air and their heads back in laughter. It’s about celebrating and moving and acting ridiculous, and even when you don’t know what you’re doing, you find yourself yelling out, “Go Mark, go Kimmie, go-go-go, Kimmie!”

I’ve decided Russell is going to grow up in a bilingual home. He will come from a family that taught him both English and Dance.  Grandma gave him this annoying little karaoke machine with the song “Shake, shake, shake your body,” and we play it multiple times daily.  It’s fun, it’s silly, and it reminds me of the importance of joy.

There are many disciplines I want in my life, and practicing joy is one of them.  Life is hard, really hard.  Yet God has built us with a need to celebrate, and sometimes the best way to do that is to dance.

Happy Anniversary, Tim! I love being married to you – and I’m glad we are still prioritizing people and dancing together today. To the rest of you, take a little time for joy today!