Today I heard one more story of a keen young gospel soldier recently married. From what I can tell the wife is feeling abandoned, isolated and increasingly desperate. And the husband is pressing on in his ministry service for the Lord!
If I had a minute with the young gun I'd ask him to read about John Wesley's disastrous marriage. Just after John married Molly he wrote to her from the road to inform her of his views on marriage and ministry: "I cannot understand how a Methodist preacher can answer it to God to preach one sermon or travel one day less, in a married than in a single state." (Read more here). It should be a cautionary tale for every young gospel soldier.
But the Wesley model is not dead. I still remember the ringing endorsement our own marriage union gained from a leading UK evangelical while we were still engaged. "You're marrying well there Glen," he said, "She's a doubler." He was referring to a calculation that there are (apparently) ministry doublers and ministry halvers. Thus the question to be asked about every prospective bride is, "Is she a doubler?"
Now that might be a question you ask a prospective PA or church worker. But if that's the first question you want to ask your bride-to-be then, seriously, that's the proof right there. It's not meant to be. And you're the problem! If the prospect of being fruitful and multiplying with this woman inspires a ten year business plan, call it off now. The kind of multiplication God has in mind is multiplication in which you commit to each other for their sakes. And, fellas, the more you want to use her for other ends, the less multiplication's gonna happen!
And I'm not just trying to make a cheap gag here. The Lord has designed marriage to be a multiplying union. But in His economy it turns out to be fruitful as and when you are brought to commit to each other in deep oneness. I mean this physically but I mean it in every other way. The way to ministry multiplication can only be through marriage multiplication which can only happen in and through the union and communion of husband and wife. That's got to be the beating heart of it all.
Single people should definitely seek the Lord's wisdom about who to marry. Wesley should definitely not have married Molly. If two people have massively different expectations of what Christian service will entail then that's a real warning sign. But what first needs to be sorted out in our thinking is the very nature of marriage itself. It is not a ministry multiplication venture. It is a covenant union, joined by God, reflecting Christ to the world. And out of this union comes a multiplication of spiritual and physical children. Under God it cannot help but be fruitful and multiply. But under God He will bring fruitfulness in very unexpected ways. It will not be a multiplication one spouse's prior ministry plans. The old individual plans must die. This will be a new union with a totally new kind of fruitfulness - much of which simply cannot be predicted.
But an understanding of marriage that is anything like a contractual business partnership will strike at the very heart of the covenant union.
I pray for this young couple, that there would be a death to the old individualist/contractual understanding. And that out of that death would come new life in their union and communion. And, yes, that out of that there may even come a wonderful fruitfulness. But it will be His fruitfulness His way.