Last week, my husband Bryan and I celebrated our 14th anniversary!
An older lady we know congratulated us on our day, noting that “one of the biggest challenges of marriage is that, as you get older, each person changes and then you end up feeling like you’re no longer married to the same person.” I have no idea why she felt our anniversary was a great time to let us know of this impending danger, but nonetheless, I couldn’t stop thinking about what she said. It made me realize that one of the reasons Bryan and I are so close is that we have changed in big ways since we got married, but we’ve changed in the same direction because we’ve been growing together spiritually.
I know, I know…the phrase “growing together spiritually” sounds like the overused subtitle on every book at your local Christian bookstore. What does that even mean, and what does it look like (aside from the book cover picture of a couple holding hands in the park)?
Here are 7 ways, based on our experience, that Christian parents can grow together spiritually.
1. Worship together at a church that is mutually fulfilling.
It’s always a little dangerous to talk about the varying levels of “fulfillment” that might come from attending different churches. After all, we should go to church to worship God; when we start looking at church in terms of what we’re getting out of it, we can quickly fall into the trap of a consumer spirituality. That said, when our heart is in the right place of finding a church home where our worship brings us closer to God, it’s possible that churches can be spiritually fulfilling in different ways. If one spouse is less fulfilled by a particular church home than the other, it can lead to differing levels of motivation to attend and, consequently, differing levels of spiritual growth. Bryan and I have experienced that imbalance in the past. Today, however, we both love our church, and it has made a significant difference in our mutual spiritual development.
2. Conduct a family worship time together.
It sounds funny, but leading a mini-worship time each night with three kids under five years old has actually helped us grow spiritually as adults. It brings us together in joint mission to raise our kids to love the Lord and is a daily reminder that the mission is ours…not mine and not his. When we sit in our nightly circle to share the Bible, sing and pray, there is an undeniable sense of Godly calling that unites us spiritually.
3. Read books about faith together (or apart).
Bryan and I have a mutual love of reading, which makes books a great place for us to come together spiritually. Sometimes we read the same book and discuss our thoughts through a reading plan, but more often we just talk to each other about what we’re learning from the books we’re reading on our own. The insights we share lead to great discussions about faith.
4. Have honest discussions about faith challenges.
If you or your spouse is having faith challenges right now, this all might sound a little Pollyanna. How are you supposed to grow together spiritually when one of you is struggling with doubt? If that’s the stage you’re in, it’s important to openly discuss those challenges. When Bryan and I struggled for years with infertility, there were more times than I can count that I said I was “done” with God. But I knew I could express those feelings and Bryan wasn’t going to love me less, think less of me as a spouse, or tell me I was going to immediately get struck by a lightning bolt from heaven. He was there to comfort me and offer insight without trivializing my spiritual doubts. Instead of growing apart spiritually during a time of darkness, our honest discussions kept us growing together. Remember, growing together doesn’t have to mean you’re spiritually starting from or ending in the same place.
5. Join a small group together.
We’ve been part of several different small groups over time through church, and the joint fellowship has always blessed us. That said, finding the right small group can be a bit like finding the right church; if the small group is a good fit for one person but not the other, the benefit can be limited. It’s important to find a group that is mutually fulfilling.
6. Take spiritual counsel from each other.
Bryan recently pointed out to me that I’ve been reading more books about the Bible lately than I’ve been reading the Bible itself. I was, admittedly, slightly miffed that he would feel it necessary to coach my spiritual life, but I soon realized the blessing of having a spouse who wants to shepherd my faith. I made a new rule that I can’t touch one of my books until I’ve read at least two chapters from the Bible each day. (And I’m looking forward to offering him “counsel” next time I see the opportunity…)
7. Grow spiritually as individuals.
Ultimately, faith is personal. Each of us has the responsibility of developing our relationship with God, and there won’t be any mutual growth without personal growth. When both spouses take that personal responsibility seriously, it is a marital blessing like no other.
What have you and your spouse done to grow together spiritually? What things help keep the two of you moving in the same direction?