Almost a year ago, John Mark preached without a doubt the most profound sermon on marriage that I have ever heard. As I sat in the back of the beautiful building downtown listening to my son, I was struck with the rightness of all he had to say. You see, Phil and I have been married now for 33 years. Way back when we first started this journey together, we barely had a clue what we were supposed to be doing. We just knew that we loved each other passionately and that somehow our lives seemed to just click.

As John Mark preached, I finally saw why two completely different personalities could fit so well together. Here’s a little exerpt of what he said:

One of the primary reasons for marriage is mission.

Here’s what I mean by “mission”. God gives Adam a job to do: rule over the earth, work the Garden, take care of the Garden…

We need to recapture a Biblical theology of vocation. Your job is part of God’s calling on your life. In Biblical theology we do not work to live—we live to work…

God wants you to join with Jesus and the people of God and work for human flourishing…

In the story, God calls Adam to a mission. All men need to have a mission. Guys, I should be able to sit down with every single one of you and ask: “What is your mission in life? What has God called you to do? Why did God put you here? And you should be able to give me a short, clear, concise answer…My mission is to…

But here’s the problem: Adam is incapable of the mission by himself.  He needs help. Which is why God says, “I will make him a helper…”

He goes on to explain that the word in Hebrew which our Bibles translate as “helper” is the same word used in the Psalms to describe the mystical way in which God comes alongside us to help us do what we are incapable of doing by ourselves.

But there’s more…

All healthy marriages are built around mission.

Couples that exist for one another are doomed to failure.

If your marriage is about your marriage, it will collapse in on itself. If the point of your relationship is your relationship, it will self-destruct.

Which is why a man has to have a mission before he is married and the marriage needs to be built around that mission…

Women don’t marry a man without a mission. And men, don’t marry a woman who doesn’t want to help you on your mission. Because you need help!

And that explains why I am more in love with Phil today than I was as a starry eyed bride in 1978.  And why two distinctly different people work so well together even when we clash and I cry and get stubborn and fall apart. (a little dose of reality lest you think this is some sort of fairy tale romance!)

When Phil asked me to marry him all those years ago, he had already painted a picture for me of a life I couldn’t wait to embrace.

He knew where he was going and he invited me to join in the task with him. He highlighted the ways in which I could help fulfill that vision, acknowledged his need for what I had and he didn’t, and together we dreamed of a mission that would take both of us pulling at full strength for the rest of our lives.

What woman in her right mind would say NO to that? (of course the fact that he was absolutely hot and drove a souped up 1970 Lemans didn’t hurt either!)

And for all these years we’ve chased down that vision together. We’ve raised our children, outlined our calendar, prepared for our future… lived our lives… all with that vision in the forefront.

And so, some words of advice to women who want a marriage with a mission:

  • Don’t marry a man who doesn’t have a vision for his mission.

That said, many men need a woman to come alongside them and help them articulate that vision. There are ideas and impressions swirling around in their heads but they’re not yet able to clearly define what they’re feeling. That’s where you come in! By listening long and knowing him well and using all that fabulous womanly intuitive brain God gifted you with, you may be able to define his vision.

  • Don’t marry a man whose vision makes you cringe.

I know of one woman whose husband’s vision for his life included a somewhat bohemian lifestyle. Freedom to move as the Spirit led, keeping things simple, flexible, fluid.

The problems in their marriage started when she insisted that they vigorously prepare for the distant future. Her vision involved hefty retirement accounts and sound financial planning.

Can you imagine the clash?

She’d had no real clue what his vision was before their marriage. He hadn’t sounded a clear trumpet and she would never have agreed if he had. Disaster!

  • Don’t try to change a man’s vision.

Yes, you’ll be adding your help, your own vision of the vision. But to try to change where he senses God is leading him will only invite heart breaking discord and discouragement. Some men will put up a vigorous fight- but most men will sadly give up and give in. Yet all the while they’ll resent you. Is that worth it?

  • Put all your gifts and talents and education and energy behind his vision.

He needs your help. Without you he’ll never tame that Garden. But with you at his side, lending a woman’s immense fortitude (think pioneer woman!) he will have that rare and satisfying sense that he’s doing exactly what God has called him to do.

And he’ll love you for it!

  • Fit your family around that vision.

Too many men end up relinquishing their calling because they’re shamed into believing that it’s selfish somehow to pursue a vision that requires sacrifice on the part of their families. A woman who believes in her husband’s mission makes it the mission of her entire family. And a mother who helps her children adapt and is able to excite her family about their mission together, will find herself surrounded by indescribable joy- and fun and adventure.

A woman like that has an incredible power to make it work.

  • Do the next thing.

If you’re a single woman and you’re racking your brain to try to figure out what you should be doing with your life, just DO THE NEXT THING.

You don’t need to worry about what your husband’s vision might be. God has this amazing and mystical way of working all those details out. Go to school, prepare for your future, forge ahead. Trust God to be the one to bring a man with a vision you can embrace.

And so, dear sisters, I pray that God will gift you with what He’s given me:

A man with a vision for his mission,

and the passion to pursue it together.

From my heart,


EtcIntentional Parents