Marriage is a three-legged race. When we pledge ourselves to our partners for life, God sees us in many ways as one person. We are bound to each other.
This can cause a number of problems. It’s awkward to try to run with someone tied to us. We have to re-learn how to move so that we don’t throw our spouse off-balance. If our spouse runs at a different pace or with a different rhythm (which they almost always do), we have to make adjustments to find a happy medium.
Should our spouse fall, it doesn’t do us much good to try to drag them along. We have to reach out and lift them up. This can be time-consuming and frustrating, especially for those of us who are goal-oriented and competitive. We can see all the other couples passing us by, and the further behind we get, the more irritated we become.
We might feel tempted to scold and blame our spouse. At best, these might shame our spouse into getting back up, but they won’t ever help the relationship. Nagging doesn’t help. Making jokes at our spouse’s expense does not help. The only thing that will get us back into the race with a committed and enthusiastic partner is to stop and go at his or her pace.
I didn’t come to know Christ until five years into my marriage. My wife had been a Christian since she was a young girl, and my sudden enthusiasm for following the Lord was a welcome change but somewhat shocking for her. I quickly committed to all kinds of Christian activities that we weren’t accustomed to. Church, Bible studies, volunteering, tithing, teaching, conferences, service projects…you name it.
Before long, I realized that I had left my wife far behind me. Her walk with the Lord had been moving at a much slower pace for many years. Now, I was trying to force her to go from that walk to a sprint in just a few, short months. I was disappointed that she wasn’t growing as quickly as I was, and I tried to push her along to catch up with me. All this accomplished was getting her to dig in her heels and start resenting me for trying to make her go faster than she was ready to go.
Over time, I’ve learned to slow down. God won’t allow me to cross the finish line without my wife. We are a team, and the rules of the three-legged race are that you finish together. When I relaxed and allowed my wife to find her own pace with the Lord, she began to grow faster and faster.
I’ve also learned that fast isn’t necessarily good. Much of my early speed was about doing, doing, doing for the Lord, but not all of my doing was God’s will. I have a list of things I volunteered for that turned out to be disasters. If I had slowed down and gone at the Lord’s pace for me, I might have grown more quickly. Now, instead of doing, doing, doing for the Lord, I’m trying to learn about being, being, being with Him.
It doesn’t matter how super-spiritual you are or how much the world needs you, if you are married, you can’t go faster than your spouse and please God. Your first ministry is to the one you’ve committed your life to. Stop, go back to where you left him or her, and help your spouse get back on his or her feet. Then, run (or walk) the race together at the pace of the slowest person. You might find that there was much you were missing by going so fast – the first of which will be the joy of running the race together.