So You Want to Make a Difference?
Does that describe you?
Does your heart yearn to have an impact, to change lives, and leave the world a better place after you’re gone?
What if this desire held the potential to sabotage your future marriage?
I see it happen all the time.
And that’s why I’d like to share this story with you.
A Tale of a Guy Who Wants to Make a Difference
I have this friend. If you met him you would like him instantly. Friendly, fun, loves Jesus and sports, married with kids, even adopted more than one of them. An all around great guy.
He’s also one of the key directors at a welfare ministry in the city where he lives. So to be perfectly frank, this man of God is doing all those things the Bible says we’re all supposed to be doing.
Unfortunately, last time I was able to talk with him, his marriage was falling apart.
In fact, he was kicking his wife out of the house.
We don’t need to go into all the nitty-gritty details, but if you knew them you might agree his wife deserved to be kicked out of the house.
Be that as it may, I urged him to consider what kind of toll his work; excuse me, I mean his ministry; was taking on him, and vicariously his marriage. I encouraged him to see that, though working 80 hours a week with this important organization, was making a significant impact in his community, God could call on many qualified candidates to fill that role.
But God had expressly called him – and only him – to love, serve and minister to his family in an irreplaceable way: as a husband and father. I reasoned that if things were that bad at home, maybe dialing the work hours down to around 40 might not be a bad idea. And if that meant he had to find a new job, that could be a better option than finding a new wife. Or his wife finding a new husband and father for their kids.
I haven’t talked with him in months now. He’s too busy to talk.
I fear he has probably been too busy to do anything about his marriage; if he’s still married at all. But I know he’s still working at that ministry, tirelessly helping others, most of them (ironically) women with children. And no husband at home.
The Moral of the Story Is…
The purpose of this post isn’t to “shrink” this guy. I’m not a therapist. I’m not even a counselor. The truth is, lots of things might inspire a man (or woman) to put in more blood, sweat and tears at the office than at home.
However, there’s only one part of my friend’s story I want to address here: his yearning to exercise and enjoy influence.
If my friend were picking potatoes for a living, instead of changing people’s lives, I wonder if he would still determine to put in 80+ hours a week while he lost his family.
But at this ministry they need him!
He’s making a difference!
He’s making an impact.
I also believe he’s making a mistake.
And it’s a mistake I don’t want you to make in your future marriage.
I’m not saying desiring and wielding influence is bad. Like attention and acceptance, influence is a healthy part of relating in the world, but seeking it out or settling for it can keep you from growing in the healthy life-giving intimacy for which you were made.
In the meantime, consider these questions, and discuss with friends:
- Do you see the desire to make a difference as a theme among your friends or your generation? What various motives to you see behind this desire?
- Do you personally feel an urgent need to change or impact the world in a a significant way? What various motives to you see behind this desire (or lack thereof)?
- Have you witnessed friends whose marriage fell apart even as they were striving to do great things for God in the world? What can you learn from that (beyond the obvious: marriage is hard)?
- How could you see the desire to influence people interfering with your ability to maintain healthy intimate relationships with the important people in your life?
[This is post is part of a series called Relation^ology (it begins with this post) where we identify the greatest relational need of our heart and then ID the counterfeits we seek out or settle for instead. Relation^ology started out as a discussion series and can be booked for your college, youth or young adults group (or singles group, life group, cell group, community group or whatever they’re calling Bible study these days).]
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The LoveEd study guide series, Beyond Sex & Salvation, will empower you to prepare for relational success when it counts: BEFORE YOU FALL IN LOVE! It’s NOT for couples, but for any wise individual who thinks they might want to get married sometime before they die. Check out the first two 8-lesson study guides in our store. You can walk through it on your own, but it’s more fun with friends, so consider putting together an FMU LoveEd small group study. Even better? And ask a married couple you respect to lead it!