By David and Rachel Dummitt
For the last 22 years, my wife, Rachel, has been my partner, best friend, and comrade-in-arms. When I was asked to write about experiencing lasting joy in marriage and ministry, I immediately thought of her and how she has helped to build both our home and our church with strength, grace, and joy. So for this issue, I asked Rachel to share her insights and wisdom.
When Dave and I married, neither of us could have imagined the journey God had in store for us. While both of us had grown up in the church, we were eager to step into the shared dream of ministry together. We have experienced the goodness and bigness of God along the way, and we have also experienced pain, discomfort, and challenges. Through it all, we have learned a few things that have helped us fight for joy in our marriage.
Set Boundaries on Your Outlook, Attitude, and Words
One of the major ways Dave and I have fought for joy in our marriage has been by setting boundaries on our outlook, attitude, and words.
We have established boundaries we don’t cross in terms of the way we talk about things. At some point we decided to not “go there” as far as losing hope or becoming devoid of faith during the hard times, even—especially—when we feel big emotions. We have had to dig in and commit over and over again to have faith that no matter how a moment or season of life feels, we will have faith that God is in it. He has seen us through enough seemingly hopeless times that we choose to hold onto hope that he will carry us through the future problems too.
We also set boundaries with the way we talk to each other. As challenging as it can be, we fight to filter the words we release from our lips. We work hard not to just “let it fly.” We have to remind ourselves that just because we feel a certain way doesn’t mean our perspective is necessarily correct, and that feeling big emotions doesn’t mean we need to use big statements. The catchphrase “don’t think big thoughts” has protected us from responding rashly and creating even bigger problems.
Protect Sacred Space
We live in a culture that idolizes ambition and sees achievement as a trophy. Many couples are running on empty simply because they are pursuing too many things. Dave and I have learned we must fight to protect sacred space in our home.
To experience lasting joy in our marriage and ministry, we need to carve out time, space, and breathing room. This will look different for everyone, but for us it has meant fighting to keep Mondays as rest days. We relax. We take naps. We don’t try to be super creative or demand a lot of time together (e.g., doing projects). We just delight in the day together.
During some seasons of life we need more than one day off to restore health. Guarding sacred space also means spending more extended time away together, whether that’s a beach vacation or a weekend getaway.
Have Shared Dreams
Marriage means becoming one with another human. Having a shared vision, a shared dream, keeps you on the same trajectory and fighting for the same mission. Leading and growing 2|42 has been a shared dream for us, and we have prayed, worked, and leaned into that mission together.
In our experience, when ministry couples coexist with vastly different big dreams, it is easy for a husband or wife, or both, to become disillusioned and bitter. One person is going full force in one direction, and pretty soon that dream feels more like a competitor to the spouse.
But Don’t Overestimate What Fulfilling Dreams Is Going to Do for You
As I already mentioned, today’s culture heralds anybody pursuing and succeeding at anything. But just because we can be good and successful at something doesn’t make it a God-given dream or the highest-value activity or accomplishment. We must prayerfully discern the dreams that are from God and the ones that are merely selfish ambition; we do this to maintain margin in our lives, focus on what matters most, and remain united as a family. God will never call you to something that will cause you to sacrifice your marriage.
Ministry life can be tough on a family. It involves odd hours, loving hurting people, and working harder during holidays when most people are on vacation. Ministry families need to develop grit to handle the demands and schedule.
Early on in our marriage, I had to grieve on some level; I had to let go of what most people would consider a “normal” life to embrace the adventure of ministry. But I am convinced God called us to this, so while I grieved a little, Dave and I stepped forward to receive the blessing of getting to watch God at work. Life is different, and socially it can be odd; we have weird schedules compared to our neighbors. But ministry is a privilege and a gift.
One of the things I have had to learn is that ministry life can be intense, and some seasons demand that we lean in, toughen up, and not freak out. We have had to learn that the crazy seasons will end, and we will be refreshed eventually.
These lessons aren’t meant to be anecdotal; marriage and ministry are complex. But I am convinced that ministry life can be a joyful family adventure if we learn to embrace the uniqueness of the mission, establish boundaries, protect margin, and trust God, who called us into this journey.
David Dummitt is the lead pastor and planter of 2|42 Community Church. His wife, Rachel, who wrote this article, helped to start and continues to help lead 2|42, one of the largest and fastest-growing churches in the country. Rachel is an accomplished musician who helped start The School for the Arts at 2|42. The Dummitts live in Howell, Michigan, with their three children.