One of the most important measures of success in our ministry is something that will probably never show up in the annual report. It’s the area of ministry that has no flow charts, graphs, or statistics to share, but I guarantee you this one area impacts EVERYTHING within the walls of North Creek. It’s the health of Mark and I’s marriage.
Thankfully we’ve had a relatively strong marriage, but like any other marriage, there have been moments of struggle. In the seasons where it’s tense, I see that play out in our kids, our staff, and ultimately the vision and momentum in our church. No pressure, right? Just in case you think that is unique to pastors, it’s really not. If you are struggling in your marriage, so are your children, so are your friends, so is your extended family, so is your business. Our marriages are important to God…and a lot of that is because He understands the implications of that relationship in our communities and society.
One of the most important areas of our marriages to keep in check is the area of purity. Yes, purity is just as important after you’re married as it is before you’re married! There is so much at stake if we allow our intimate affections to go in the wrong direction. For the last 16 years of our marriage, we’ve had some boundaries that we agreed upon that have helped us to make sure that we don’t allow ourselves to go into situations that may lead our affections away from each other. We have also done our best to invest these boundaries into those who serve with us.
One of those boundaries stands out above all the rest because it is the backbone for helping us in the fight for our purity. It may seem extreme, but we ARE extreme when it comes to sexual temptation and finishing the race of our marriage to the best of our ability! So here’s my tip above all other tips:
We are never alone with a person of the opposite sex.
Hear me on this one: We have friendships and work alongside people of both genders. We aren’t just avoiding people like the plague! Half of our church staff are male and half are female. We are surrounded by different levels of amazing friendships with men and women. We highly value those relationships and are grateful every day for these people…and somehow we’ve created these deep relationships without putting ourselves in situations that could cause others to question, or worse, cause us to crumble.
Quite the contrary, what makes those relationships healthy is the knowledge that there is NO WAY our friendship can be compromised because we won’t give them opportunity to be. I rest easy in the knowledge that the men on our team care about my image and my marriage (not to mention their marriages!) so much that they will leave a building at the drop of a hat should we find ourselves about to be alone. (And if they didn’t, I’d leave anyway!) It’s not because we are tempted…it’s because we have such a deep respect and value for purity in all of our marriages. What an honor to serve alongside of people who hold our marriages and ministry with such value!
One of the leadership lessons we got before we were married was the foundation of this principle: If you think you are above having an affair, you are wrong. There will come a day when you are tired, discouraged, weak, or caught off guard. What you can depend on are the boundaries and habits you’ve created in your life and the effort to surround yourself with people who will help you protect those boundaries.
We all carry the ability within us to be weak, but we can control the situations that we put ourselves in. Think about it!