Perhaps it goes with a certain stage in life–you reach a point where you want to focus on the eternal and significant. The accumulation of degrees, skills, and material goods seemed like it went along with raising kids, but now the kids are out of the house. It is time for reevalutation.
Where do you start? What are the tools? How do you use these tools? This is the subject recently addressed in a weekend retreat that Lee and I attended. It was taught by a couple(Don and Elaine Lanier) from Navigators. (Navigators is an international Christian organization which has been around since the 1930’s. You can find them at: http://www.navigators.org/us/ministries.) The class is called Second Half.
The starting tools are tests. The Myers-Briggs (MBTI) test for determining your personality characteristics, along with spiritual gifts and primary roles diagnostic tests are the pre-class homework.
Once you start the class, you learn that the emphasis is on partnering. The tests are designed to give you a window into you own make-up as well as your partners. The basis of partnering is understanding, appreciating, and celebrating your differences.
In the class, you learn the bare bones on conflict resolution–discovering your pile of hurts, doing listening prayer, repenting, and asking for forgiveness. A married couple must deal with with conflicts as they come up because unresolved conflicts block the flow of grace, both horizontally and vertically.
It is best to learn your own and your spouses love language. It helps in communication and partnering. Communicating in your spouse’s gifting and personality style instead of yours is also an effective tool to bridging the gap.
Further, it is important to learn to live and function together in a Christian community(the church). It gives a medium for growth as well as a context for ministry. We can learn to care for each other, be transparent, let down barriers, affirm, accept, protect and focus outwards in unity.
The Laniers next addressed margins. This seems to be a neglected teaching in our society. Margin is the space between your load and your limit. Having margin can positively affect your health, your relationships, and your focus. When you are rushed and trying to be all things to all people, you will become imbalanced. The Laniers recommend putting your high priority times on the calendar–time with God, date night with spouse, a Sabbath rest etc. If you do not prioritize your life, it will drift away from your passions. They recommend books by Dr. Richard Swenson, Margin and The Overload. Margin allows room in your life for God’s interruptions. It allows you to live your lives without regrets. A quote from the Second Half book is, “When who I am is what I do, when I stop doing, I’m not.”
The second part of the class focuses on understanding your calling. You identify and refine what is and should be your circle of influence. The key concept in this section is focus. If you are scattering your efforts they will be ineffectual. Focus on our gifting and our calling helps us to make a difference. I would add that we need to be looking for where God is already at work within that focus and to join in there.
The last step is to coming up with an individual life mission statement. As a couple, you compare these for commonalities and then come up with a partnering life mission statement.
This statement then needs to be honed and refined, with God’s input of course. The Laniers spoke on the strength gained in partnering by participating in the spiritual disciplines together. Reading the Bible and praying side by side will not only bond you more strongly, it will aid in finding a common mission to partner in. It will strengthen you in pursuing that mission together.
I have just scratched the surface in reviewing this class. The class has just scratched the surface on how to begin a second half partnering ministry.
Not all of our ministry will be in partnership with our spouse, but what a joy to serve in this way. Lee is the greatest gift I have ever been given next to Jesus. What a privilege it will be to work together for something that will last.
Change is not easy. To accomplish a change of direction, we need to simplify and purify our lives so that we are not bogged down. We also need accountability. Our class group has plans to reconnect to share our refined plans. Hopefully that will continue on until the plans become reality. Iron sharpens iron–we need each other.
“An unexamined life is a wasted life.” Socrates.