Growing Spiritually as a Couple While Raising Kids
It’s a common surprise: parents think that once their children get past the exhausting toddler years and become more independent, life will slow down and the couple will have more time to connect spiritually. For many, the opposite becomes reality. For whatever reason—busyness, tension in the relationship, stress, or another issue— couples can grow apart and miss out on spiritual intimacy.
Cathy and I met on our first day of school at Azusa Pacific University. We were married one week after Cathy graduated. From the beginning, we knew we wanted to focus on doing youth and family ministry together. A year later we moved across the country so I could go to graduate school. With hearts united on ministry, we expected to have spiritual intimacy in our relationship. It didn’t happen. We had good intentions—we tried everything from devotionals to prayer commitment times and couples’ Bible studies. We would usually start out strong—but then we would fail to have the discipline to continue. As our kids got older, our spiritual time together became scarce. We experienced what many couples experience in marriage and that is that the spiritual intimacy in their relationship is the least developed area of intimacy. In many ways, we were leading parallel lives spiritually, yet we knew we were missing something as a couple.
One day we were talking with an older couple who had mentored us from time to time, and we shared our frustrations with them. We expected they were the type of people who read through the Bible every year together and had long intimate prayer times daily. “Actually, you both might be setting yourselves up for failure,” they said. “We spend twenty to thirty minutes a week in a devotional time together as a couple. Start with that and see how it goes.” The conversation had a huge impact on us. Today, in addition to trying to pray together daily, we set aside a special time each week to get spiritually closer. We look at a Scripture together, read something short and inspirational, share our ideas about what we’ve read, and then pray. Our weekly times of spiritual connection even led us to write a devotional for couples called Closer (1). It is the best-selling book at HomeWord, but it is a bit humbling when we hear wonderful testimonies of couples telling us of their new found spiritual connection, they mostly just mention the time together, not the book! So why not take the “closer challenge” and commit to spending 20 minutes a week in a spiritual connection time.
Dr. David Stoop, a leading authority on marriage, estimates that just one tenth of one percent of couples who pray together will get a divorce. We’re not trying to turn this into legalism, but having a devotional time once a week and praying together daily builds a foundation of spiritual intimacy that will draw couples closer and prepare them for life together, even with teens, and beyond these years. Because Cathy and I often come at parenting from a different angle, devotional times help to keep us on the same page. So make it a goal to move toward spiritual oneness. Jesus quoted the Old Testament when he said, “A man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and the two will become one flesh” (Matthew 19:5; Genesis 2:24).