Bring it.

My husband and I stood at a makeshift starting line with other couples from our Bible study group, goofy grins on our faces with the challenge ahead: a three-legged race.

Looking back, I have a bit of pity for my husband being paired with me in this situation. He’s one of those guys that tries some sport he’s never attempted, picks up the ball, and—hey! Would you look at that? A natural. I, on the other hand, occasionally attempt walking and chewing gum at the same time in order to stretch my coordinative abilities.  He also has a competitive streak that thrills his opponents. I just want everyone playing to be happy. “You want to win? Okay by me!”

But there at the starting line, our legs bound together with some kind of neon-orange surveyor’s tape, he bent to whisper in my ear. “Hug my hip, okay? Feel it—and we’ll do great together. Just follow me.” Fine with me. And with that, we were off. We laughed and perspired and shrieked (me, not him) as we wound around trees, his sprinter’s gait half-carrying mine. The fun part? We smoked ‘em. Our chests heaving, we slapped high fives.

It wasn’t a bad analogy for marriage, actually.

In some of the most successful, happy marriages I meet, the couples tend to have a common factor: extraordinary teamwork, fueled by a common purpose.

They willingly work together, bound and hip-hugging toward a finish line.

I was reminded of this recently when my husband conducted a training for local mission and church workers, in which he asked me to assist. This was an area of specialty for him—like three-legged races, perhaps?—and I wish I could fully express the deep pleasure it felt to work as a team together toward a goal we were both passionate about. The training was more full as we bounded out of the gate together, and more rich as we eased our individual gifts together for a mutual, Godward purpose.

I wish this kind of oneness, of sameness in vision and energies, could be more of the norm. Because I think it helps marriages thrive. My man and I aren’t always headed in the same direction. Yet, I also think it’s a grace we can, and should, pursue. But how?

How can couples bind themselves, so to speak, with a unified aim?

A few ideas—but I’d love yours, too, in the comment section below.

  1. Talk about it. Books like The Purpose-driven Life, personality/gifting tests, and prayer can help us unpack that unique craftsmanship God’s inlaid in us for His good purposes. Without this sounding overly simplistic—consider a Venn diagram of sorts of your experiences, passions, gifts, and vision. What do you share? Chances are, you share more interests (at least general ones: raising godly kids; experiencing fulfillment in our daily activities; having a strong marriage; being good neighbors) than not. To get more specific, ask questions like, what do you both “pound the table” for, or feel strongly about? Are there any common experiences/thoughts that drew you together? What values do you both hold as critical and what ministries stem out of these?
  2. Be the wingman. Genesis uses the Hebrew word ezer—helper—to describe the woman in relationship to the man; incidentally, this word is used in the Old Testament to describe God Himself and others in the sense of a military ally or shield. Are you two in the foxhole together? Do you fight for your spouse’s gifts and particular makeup? Are you his or her chief advocate? Part of “being in your corner” involves not undermining each other with little digs, constant comparisons of who’s doing more, or tugging for power in your relationship. 1 Peter 3 talks about having “unity of mind” and a “tender heart”. Would that describe you?
  3. Don’t go it alone. Perhaps you’ve heard of couples who’ve developed their separate passions—even ministries—so thoroughly, and without one another, that they end up splitting. I know of some. I don’t say that as a fear tactic, but as a caution. Bring your spouse into your ministry and work. Even if he or she isn’t interested in participation, don’t withhold your heart and soul in this area. Stay linked even when you’re working apart from each other.
  4. Try it out. Challenge yourselves to find one area of serving Christ that you can do together. Maybe it’s inviting a discouraged couple for dinner, leading a small group or Sunday School class, supporting underprivileged kids financially. Maybe it’s simply parenting more as a team.

Ask God: Lord, how can we act more as one in this three-legged race in which you’ve bound us together—for You?