Since that time, we have learned what an amazing marriage counselor Jesus is. We have both developed relationships with Christ. We have had godly, loving couples around us modeling marriage and helping us through some rough patches. And, as we have continued to grow, we both looked forward to the Focus on the Family conference “Seeing your marriage through the eyes of God” February 28th.
The seminar was a live simulcast of a program from Colorado Springs. Over 400 people, people married months, years and decades, gathered in the sanctuary that gray Saturday morning to listen to many well known authors and teachers. The wisdom was overwhelming, but several thoughts just seemed to stick out.
The first speaker, Gary Thomas, is the author of Sacred Marriage. I knew from his book that he challenged the popular notion that marriage was to make us happy with the idea that God intended marriage to refine us and make us holy. During his message, he talked about becoming a God centered spouse, rather than a spouse centered spouse, loving out of reverence for God. Breaking it down, it means that my husband is not just my husband; he is also a child of God. Now, that wasn’t exactly news, but what I missed in acknowledging that is who my father in law would be then: God! I admit I do not treat my husband as though God were my father in law. What about you?
The next speaker was Beth Moore, a popular Bible teacher and author of Believing God. She spent her time speaking to the women while asking the men to eavesdrop. Mrs. Moore admonished the women to be grateful for good rather than being obsessed with “great” as well as to leave the fixing of their husband to God. (It would take His power, anyway.) The thought most striking from her message was that we are the Bride of Christ, not the WIFE of Christ. All those excited, romantic, breathless moments of early love will continue in heaven. We will never get tired of, used to, or bored with being with God.
Right before lunch we heard from Del Tackett, spokesperson for Focus on the Family’s The Truth Project. He illustrated that marriage is a model of God’s nature. God is triune in nature; family is husband, wife, and children. Jesus said, “I and the Father are one,” while speaking of marriage God said, “they shall become one flesh.” [Emphasis mine] Additionally, submission was not to “stick it to Eve,” but to demonstrate another divine attribute: that the Son submits to the Father as the wife submits to her husband. It is culture that makes the negative connection between submission and authority.
Gary Smalley, author of The DNA of Relationships, was the perfect after lunch speaker. Not only was he entertaining using props and slides, but he had some great wisdom to dish out. My favorite, though, was less thought and more visual. He held two leafless brown twigs up, one him and the other, with the pink bow, his wife. He started swatting one twig with the other while narrating, “Love is from God; we can receive it, but we cannot manufacture what we don’t have.” Wow. All the years I spoke harshly to my husband, demanded him to change, flashed in my mind. Then Mr. Smalley pulled out a large grape vine, the Source. Attaching the twigs, they “became” large draping branches of the vine, alive, bearing leaves and grapes. Of course, I had heard the parable before, but having seen how it illustrates the Power that can change marriages from dead lifeless twigs to alive, growing, blooming branches of the Vine, my husband and I are going to keep a vine in our house to remind us that we need to be connected to the Source, to Jesus, not just for our individual salvation, but for the health of our marriage.
Finally, author John Trent, put the uplifting conference into perspective: “When we are lifted up, we can see Jesus better.” We can’t live on that mountain top or in that tree, though. His message was about learning how to make the “up there” principles into 2 degree adjustments. Fast, desperate, 90 degree adjustments will cause loss of control and usually make the situation worse, he offered, so better to do many, very small 2 degree adjustments to maintain course.
The conference has given my husband and me a little more guidance and quite a few more things to explore. One of the best reasons to attend a seminar like this was heard in the welcome by Jim Daly, president of Focus, “We need to stop going to church for our marriages and to Caesar for our divorces.” Terry and I both say a hearty, “Amen!” to that. We know church is not just a place to get married, but a place where marriages can find healing, too.