The next couple of days hold special significance for my wife and I. We talked briefly about it this morning before I left for the office. It was around this time eight years ago that my then fiancee and I were getting into our Dodge Neon (yes the same one we have now) and traveling to Sevierville, Tennessee to get our marriage license for our wedding the next day. I can remember the anticipation of that Thursday night. Even though I had worked my forty hours that week, which meant long days, that Thursday night I couldn’t sleep. There was so much excitement surrounding the coming days events. I believe if we all think real hard we can remember the excitement that I am talking about. In some ways it is hard to believe that we have been married for eight years and in other ways I really can’t remember a time in which she and I weren’t married. I can honestly say that I love Diana more today than I did the day I said “I do” in Gatlinburg, TN. There have been ups and downs like every couple. Something invariably happens over time however. The wedding day nervousness and excitement seems to fade over time as you settle into a routine. In our short married life we have been blessed with three boys, “adopted” a little girl, I have been in ministry nearly seven years, we have moved four times, and other things. Being a man who likes routines and generally gets flabbergasted when my routine is broken, it is natural for some excitement to wear off. That doesn’t mean that I don’t love Diana or that I’m not excited to be married to her. However, I think there is a problem with being okay with letting the excitement wear off. When we are no longer as excited about being married we tend to take the other one for granted. Sometimes we mistreat them because we think they will be there forever. Where we use to never criticize them or raise our voice, now we find our selves critiquing our spouse over everything and yelling to prove our point. Please understand I am aware that it is natural for some excitement to wear off, but I think we should fight to save as much of it as possible. One exercise I have couples do through counseling is to write down the top 10 reasons they fell in love to begin with and see how many of them have changed during the course of marriage. That leads many people to discover that excitement again because they haven’t changed all that much. For others it breaths excitement back into their marriage because they realize they are still in love and the changes have been for the better. I would recommend every couple who reads this blog to try it. But that isn’t the purpose of this blog (although I have written much more on it than I planned).
The purpose of this blog today is to say that the wearing off of the excitement of marriage is a lot like the wearing off of the excitement of our salvation. When Jesus was talking to John in the book of Revelation and giving specific messages for specific churches there is one church by the name of Ephesus. We find it in Revelation 2. God names some good things about the church, but then comes a big word. That word is “nevertheless.” It is equivalent to our “but” in modern English. God says “as good as you are, I have something against you.” God’s charge against the Ephesian church was that they had left their first love. The excitement had worn off. They were so busy doing ministry that they forgot why they did ministry and who they were doing it for. Have you ever been there? Has church ever seemed like a chore to you at times? There is a high burn out rate for pastors, teachers, and volunteers. When we first begin it is exciting and we see it as a new challenge, but after a while it becomes a load we carry. I am not an expert on the topic of burn out other than to say that there have been days in which I have felt that way. I am not saying this is the case in your life, but I want to share what God taught me through those times of struggle in ministry.
The first thing He taught me was that my focus had shifted. Believe it or not dear Christian it is possible to do the work of God, and not being doing a work of God. I was so busy keeping my job, that I wasn’t doing my job. What I mean is that I was going through the motions of what a pastor is suppose to do (pray, read the Bible, visit, teach, preach, etc.). I think we have all had days where we show up for our job simply because it was expected. God showed me that was a focus issue. Our focus in ministry must be the glory of God. Too many times we get caught up in the three “B’s” in ministry: buildings, bodies, and budget. Those three things can sap the strength out of any worker in the church. Another thing God showed me was about love. It is easy to talk about the love of God, but that leads to many times us taking God’s love for granted. This is where the marriage exercise came from. I had a trusted friend in ministry tell me to sit down and write out the top 10 reasons I serve God. After I was done he told me “if love is not top on that list, then your priorities are out of balance.” Love has to motivate everything we do. That is what Paul wrote about in 1 Corinthians 13. If love is our motivator then a task will mundane and will seem more like a job than something we enjoy. The final thing I will write about is God showed me about passion. Anyone who knows me knows that I am a passionate person (perhaps too passionate at times about certain things). I heard a Tim Tebow quote one time that spoke about passion. He said that anyone can have a desire or a willingness to be great, but that desire and willingness leaves you on the football field when a 300 pound defensive linemen falls on top of you. If you don’t have passion you won’t get up and go to the next play. I thought that was an impressive statement. In ministry it is about passion for the One who loved you enough to die for you. It is about saying “I don’t care what happens today God, I will still love you and serve you no matter what.” Without that passion to serve God and see others come to Christ, I fear you will leave your first love at some point. Go back to the day you said “I do” to Christ, remember why, and allow that passion from then to stoke your fire today!
By His grace and through His strength may we live for Him