During her workout yesterday with her trainer, my bride was asked what the secret is to staying married. She responded correctly by talking about our faith in God. Of course non-Christian couples also stay married for a lifetime. According to the statistics I hear (I don't know where the people get them), the non-Christian marriages, as often as those of believers, last. Yet, I still assert that my wife's answer is correct -- for us.
I think relationships that last are often the ones in which the parties involved share the same chief love (See 2 Cor 6:14-15). For Marian and me, that's Christ. But for non-Christians, it is certainly something else, maybe the marriage itself. There is a way to stay married that honors God as God and there is a way to stay married that is idolatrous. My love for Christ fuels my love for Marian. If I did not love Jesus, I think there is a strong probability that I couldn't stay married to anyone. I'm too cantankerous, reckless, and selfish. When two sinners are put into a lifetime relationship, in close quarters, with distinct personalities, preferences, and ideas on a variety of issues, well, that is a disaster waiting to happen. But when those same people have the same chief love, the relationship is strengthened ten thousand times over. I have learned from Scripture that I am to lay down my life for my bride; the way Jesus laid down His life for me. I am to crucify my old nature, considering it dead, and be no longer submitting to it. And while I have a desire to do this for my wife, would such a desire suffice if not founded upon the desire to do it for my Savior? I doubt it. I'm not good like that.
This is also true for me as a pastor. I do love my people. But I don't pastor them primarily because I love them, but because I love Him. I would not do pastoral ministry for anyone else. I pastor for Jesus. And if the day comes when I am convinced that He no longer is asking me to pastor, I will quit, promptly. Of course I have no skills, so I might die of starvation. Nevertheless, when Jesus is done with me I'm done with pastoral ministry. I don't think I'm particularly good at it anyway. Having written all of that, I also want to say that there is no other place I'd rather be in ministry than among my church family. What God calls us to, He gives us a heart for. So if my people will let me stay, I think I'll be with them for a long while. As I said, I love them.