I have had many joys during nearly 38 years in ministry, but one of the privileges I will always hold dear is having been able to officiate at all three of my children’s weddings. Most of you know that in late June Linda and I traveled to Cheyenne, Wyoming to be present at Tim’s wedding to Cassie Beckman. The Pastor at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church was very gracious in providing the required counseling to Tim and Cassie and then inviting me to perform the service. Linda and I had a wonderful time and are overjoyed to welcome Cassie into our family. Since my mind has been focused on weddings I would share the following reflection and challenge.
This is the wedding season. Most of us will probably be attending one or more weddings this summer, and so I would like to reflect on one of the topics I discuss with couples that are preparing for marriage.
If you are married, how often do you and your spouse discuss goals, dreams and expectations? New couples often discuss goals and dreams - there is so much to look forward to. When a couple finds out they are going to have a baby, there is often a renewed excitement and urgency to talking about the future. Unfortunately, as the years go by, our sharing dreams and planning for the future often becomes less frequent, more task oriented, and may lose that earlier excitement, expectation and openness.
One of the tips I pass on to couples preparing for marriage is the need to continue sharing dreams and setting and evaluating goals throughout their life together. Far too many relationships end not because of some "irreconcilable difference" but because couples drift apart slowly and quietly. "Mid-life crisis" is a term most of us are familiar with. Often the cause of the "crisis" is that a husband or wife hasn’t been in touch with his/her dreams and goals for many years. Something causes that person to stop and think about where (s)he is in life and the person suddenly decides (s)he is unhappy with his/her current life and wants a dramatic change. The cause for this sudden introspection may be psychological, like turning 50 or 60, or it may be the result of a change of career, a death in the family, or children leaving home. Whatever the cause the result is that a person suddenly emerges from a busy routine to decide that (s)he is unhappy and frequently isn't even sure why.
I often describe this process by the analogy of falling asleep driving and waking up to find your car in a ditch. Most people in that case would get out of the car (if physically able) and leave it behind. In the same way individuals and couples that don't stay in touch with their dreams, hopes, and expectations are often jolted awake to find that their relationship and life isn't what they hoped or expected. Unfortunately, instead of working to redirect their marriage to meet those dreams a person or couple may conclude that the only way to fulfill those dreams is to leave the old life and look for a new one.
Do you remember your dreams from 20, 40, or even 60 years ago? How do you feel about them now? Were they worth pursuing? Why not sit down with your spouse and talk about those dreams and set some new goals together. To do so is one way to invest in additional years of wedded happiness.
In closing, I recognize this emphasis on marriage may not be where many of you are in life right now, and so I would suggest that we should have this same open communication with God. When is the last time you talked to God about your dreams? And when is the last time you read and prayed in an attempt to discern God's dreams for your life?