John and I have been married for a little over 26 years. Without a doubt, our relationship is my life’s priority, second only to my relationship with God.
Before we were married, John called Poppa to ask for my hand. (I love that he did that! I mean, I was 34 and had been living on my own for 13 years. But, my sweetie is a little old fashioned and he wanted the blessing of my parents.) Later, John told me about the conversation they had. When asked “the question” Poppa told John that I had been raised by parents that believed in: God first, spouse second and family, church, careers, recreation, etc. all followed.
This lesson was lived out before me when I had a “teenager crisis” and was angry at Mom. I went to Poppa, hoping to get him to side with me against her. His response was quick and clear: “I love you, Jill, but I love your Mom a lot more.” And, my observance of their marriage reflected his word.
As I wrote last week, my first life priority is my relationship with God. Through His word and guidance, I find the reason for life, my own life’s purpose, the future, the definitions of right and wrong, direction, joy, strength and comfort.
My second priority is my relationship with my spouse, John. The scripture says that in response to a question “Jesus answered, “Don’t you know that in the beginning the Creator made a man and a woman? That’s why a man leaves his father and mother and gets married. He becomes like one person with his wife. Then they are no longer two people, but one. And no one should separate a couple that God has joined together.” (Matthew 19:4-6)
Years ago, my workplace was considering some big changes. During a one-on-one meeting, my boss talked with me about how those changes might impact my organization. He commented, “I have never asked you about you relocating.” I could tell that he wanted my reaction to moving to another place without having to ask me the question. I replied, “To be honest, since you haven’t asked me about moving, I haven’t talked with God or John about it; I don’t do anything without talking with them first.” My boss, a great man, was clearly taken aback that again (I had done it before) I was so open about my faith. But, my reply was honest: those two relationships are more important to me than is any street address.
John and I are partners and lovers. For a time, we did not see each other for weeks and sometimes months due to our careers. During those times, one could look at our calendars and note that we had more time apart than we had together. Use time as a measurement and you might wonder at the importance of our marriage. But, look at our hearts and you would see that we were working together, pushing to get done what needed to be done; supporting one another; promoting the development of each other and of our relationship.
Some of you are single and don’t have to be concerned about working as a team with another person. I get that. I was single until I was 34 and sometimes making decisions were easier. If God intends for you to remain single, do that and live well.
For me, being married to John has made me stronger and my life so much fun. Others may say that your marriage isn’t what you expected or what the scripture describes. My questions are simple. What are your life priorities? Is God first? Is your mate the next highest priority? If both of you share those priorities, then I pray that this time of trial will cause you to go deeper, working hard together to get through the challenges that face you. But, if God and your spouse are not the top priorities for one or both of you, it is time to pray, to talk and to make some changes.
I know that this discussion of life priorities may seem to be unrelated to the development and work of a leader. But, when the foundation of our life is strong and secure, then the rest of our decisions, our plans, our goals are all grounded firmly.
Thomas a Kempis wrote, “The loftier the building, the deeper must the foundation be laid.”
I’ll ask it again: what are your life priorities? The answer is important for it will form the foundation upon which our dreams become our successes.