Several years ago, I sat alongside two other church women in a living room full of young wives and mothers. We had been invited to be panelists who would give opinions and “wise” answers to their questions about marriage and family issues. We had fun! The younger ladies had great questions—about how to stay spiritually focused and still let your husband be the spiritual leader, about personality differences, about becoming a mother, about how to honor your husband in the real world.
What I loved about the other ladies on the panel was their love for God’s word. They had scriptures coming out everywhere and wonderful truth to hand these younger girls. But one thing stuck out to me negatively that night—like a thorn on a rose—and I haven’t been able to shake it ever since.
One of the questions the girls had for us was: “What do you think about marriage conferences?” Before I could even formulate a complete thought, another panelist began to shoot down the whole idea of a marriage conference. She claimed that they were dangerous because you might start comparing yourself to everyone else and that you would only hear the teaching in light of how your spouse needed to change. She said that a marriage conference could actually do more damage because you would see how poorly your husband measured up to what a Godly husband should be. She took about five minutes to expound upon her position, and honestly, by that point I was totally flabbergasted. I had no words. I wasn’t even able to utter one sentence to the contrary because the wind had been knocked out of me!
In case you haven’t guessed, I’m ALL ABOUT tools to help you with your marriage. I think marriage is so important. And a marriage without help and support is doomed to failure. I feel like this panelist did those women a terrible injustice by convincing them marriage “conferences” were not worth their time. My husband and I have been working with a couple who began a marriage ministry a few years ago, and we just can’t say enough good things about it. In fact, one of the very points they make as they teach is that couples should ingest as much marriage help as possible! Every book they can get their hands on, every teaching, every conference, everything!
May I just reinforce that point? May I gather up the negative words and thoughts floating around out there about marriage workshops and conferences, and put them into the trash can? Your sneaky, lying enemy would like you to think that your desire to attend a marriage event is just a stupid idea. He would try to convince you that your husband would make you feel dumb for bringing it up. The enemy brings shame and condemnation on you for having a Godly desire—how twisted is that?!
Your marriage is important! Your marriage is valuable! Even if you are not currently getting along with your spouse, it is worth trying to fix! Just like it takes time and effort to grow spiritually as an individual, it also takes time and effort from both of you to grow together spiritually in your relationship. It takes work to learn how to speak your spouse’s language. Sometimes the work is hard and sometimes you have to deal with uncomfortable subjects. BUT IT’S WORTH IT.
The marriage ministry we work with is amazing. Couples go away on a retreat out in the country for a weekend, and you should see their faces and read their body language on Friday night. Wow! It does not take a mentalist to read the novels they are writing by their unspoken cues. But by Saturday morning, things have already begun to shift. The Holy Spirit has been massaging hearts as these couples sit in the presence of God and hear His heartbeat for their relationship. Then, as Saturday closes up after some really good, really meaty communication work, these couples look totally different. On Sunday morning, we’re all dancing and celebrating what God has done in their hearts, their marriages and their outlook on life. There are lots of joy-tears, lots of embraces and a whole lot of laughter.
Could a husband and wife come into that weekend comparing themselves to all the other couples? Sure. Will they experience conviction from the Holy Spirit for things they might have said or areas they have neglected? Sure. Will there be some difficult moments? Probably. Is it worth it? ABSOLUTELY.
My husband, Tim, and I have ministered at six marriage weekends now, and we have taken something fresh and applicable away from the same teaching EVERY time we have heard it. We have taken those opportunities to be vulnerable with each other and bare our hearts. And through some difficult and painful moments, we have been healed. We have grown our trust for each other and because of that, our love has grown. And now we even LIKE each other!
God is the one who thought up marriage and He does everything with purpose. A man and woman united in marriage are the picture—the representation—of God on the earth. That’s worth fighting for. That’s worth pushing through some uncomfortable moments for. Don’t let the enemy of your soul try to tell you otherwise.
If you have never tried a marriage conference, marriage group or marriage weekend, I hope you will soon. All of us come into this covenant relationship with issues. Baggage. And all of us need help figuring out where and why we get stuck. The Holy Spirit is a wonderful teacher and He is gentle. He works tangibly through people to speak into your heart, to embrace you in your desperation and to show you the path to life and freedom.
So, no more Mrs. Nice Church Lady when somebody starts bashing marriage events! Next time, I’ll have a very formulated rebuttal. And I’ll save you a seat at the next workshop!
Helpful Marriage Resources I recommend:
Marriage Today, Jimmy & Karen Evans: www.marriagetoday.com
Encounter Marriage Weekend, Rick & Brenda Laurence: www.encountermarriageweekend.com
Gateway Unity, Gateway Church’s Marriage Ministry: http://gatewaypeople.com/ministries/marriage-family/about-0