Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Behind the Marriage Message

A month ago, as I started thinking about this past message on marriage, a few things were on my mind. 
Reverends Frame
at the marriage retreat

#1—PCC’s annual marriage retreat was a week before the message.  We didn’t want to duplicate material from the retreat in this message.  And, as a pastor who was helping teach at the retreat (which ended up being a lot of fun, but was crazy intimidating), I was freaking out about how I would come up with enough material.  So, I started reading.  I read books for the marriage retreat sessions.  And I kept reading, looking for other material that might help with a message.  I stopped reading one book halfway through; it was like a never-ending blog post, and I wasn’t connecting with the author. 

Then I found this book.  I referenced it in my message Sunday.  It’s short, accessible, and written by a man, which was refreshing after the rambling female voice in the never-ending blog post book (Yes, I’m aware of the irony that I am a female who writes with a female voice in blog post form.).  It’s one of those short books that references lots of other books, articles, and studies; I found the “Notes” in the back very helpful.  This book doesn’t lay out secrets to a successful marriage, or a recipe for relating to the opposite gender.  Thank goodness!  I’m so tired of those books.  If you’re like me and looking for a fresh approach to marriage, then check it out.  This is the guy who talked about 5 years of marriage behind like kindergarten, which gave me the idea to extrapolate out the Terrible Two's and Tantrum Three's of marriage.

#2—Not everyone is married.  Shocker, I know.  I consulted with two young, single people, one male and one female, about what I could discuss related to marriage that could help them.  They both said expectations.  Coming from a generation with a less-than-positive perspective about marriage, they wanted help forming realistic, God-honoring expectations of marriage.  They wanted a chance to start forming expectations now, before they’re married.  So, that’s what I set out to do.  While I didn’t explicitly address the unmarried population in my message, and I should have, I did consider them; actually, I let them inform the direction I would take. 

The direction I took with Scripture, well, that was all mine.  Maybe I’ll do another blog post about that...

Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Best Year of Your Marriage

We’re starting our year talking about how to have The Best Year of Your Life.  If you’re married, then the best year of your life must include the best year of your marriage.  If everything else is great—your time management, your parenting, your finances—but your marriage is awful, then it won’t really be the best year of your life.

Throughout our marriages, we go through different phases:

I.   Naked and Unashamed (Genesis 2:25).  In this early phase, we are bare before our spouse, emotionally and physically, and we are not ashamed.  We feel safe, vulnerable, and secure.  If you’re in this phase, then...
1.       Enjoy it!  Enjoy your partner.  Keep having the late night talks; be sappy and romantic; sit close and hold hands.
2.       Learn how to fight fairly.  When your relationship is still in a good place, start learning how to fight fairly.  Even though you’re in this phase, fights will rear their heads.  Start learning how to stay on topic and NOT bring up the past.  NEVER say the word, “divorce,” or call names or spew foul language at one another. 
3.       Learn communication skills.  Reflective and active listening books and seminars abound.  Start learning these critical skills that will aid you your entire marriage.  One key aspect of communication is speaking your spouse’s love language.  Identify their love language, and start learning how to “speak” it.
II.    Naked and Afraid (Genesis 3:10).  This difficult phase of marriage lasts varying lengths of time.  In fact, some marriages get stuck here forever, and many marriages dissolve or explode during this time.  But they don’t have to!  Just like the Terrible Two’s are a phase for our kids, this is just a phase for our marriages.  If you’re in this phase, then...
1.       Go to counseling.  Find a counselor that works for you.  We found a calm, compassionate counselor who gently cared for us and diffused the pain.  Others prefer, or need, an in-your-face approach.  So, if you go to a counselor, and it’s not a good fit, try another!
2.       Build a support system.  Find a couple who can be trusted confidantes, a couple who believes in marriage and specifically believes in YOUR marriage, and invite them into your struggles.  You don’t have to go through this difficult phase alone; find support in community.
3.       If you haven’t already started going to marriage retreats, seminars, and/or small groups, then go!  Learn about common issues in marriages and how to address them.  Spend the day or weekend with your spouse, away from your regular responsibilities and stressors.  PCC offers a marriage retreat each year; over 120 of us went away a week ago to strengthen our marriages.  Come with us next year!
III.    Known and United (Genesis 4:1 and 2:24).  This phase is when you know your partner and know that, together, united, you can face anything.  Conflicts still arise, and your marriage will still go through ups and downs.  But your marriage is strong and grounded.
1.       Find a younger couple to take under wing.  Many young couples don’t have examples of lasting marriages to aspire toward.  Imagine the difference it would have made to your marriage to have a mentor couple to guide you and help you through struggles!
2.       Continue investing in your marriage with retreats, seminars, and books.  You know a lot, but if you’re like me, you don’t put into practice everything you know.  Brush up on the basics.  Do the things you know to do; keep dating; keep learning your spouse as they grow and change; keep loving intentionally; keep communicating.
3.       Celebrate and reminisce.  Celebrate getting to this phase and getting through phase two.  Consider renewing your vows.  Save for a second honeymoon.  You are experiencing what God designed since he created man and woman; don’t take it for granted!

*Issues like addiction, abuse, and infidelity need professional counseling, and often, ongoing support and care even when crisis stages are over.  Other issues like loss of a child can rock even the strongest of marriages.  Seek out the care you need.