Not too long after Mike and I married, he was invited to join a church league softball team. He really enjoyed playing softball, and was free on Monday nights (when the team played), so he assumed that the answer was a no-brainer. Of course he would play!
That sure wasn’t my perspective. My thought was, What is he thinking?
You see, when Mike and I married he immediately became a dad to my two children. When he wanted to join the men’s softball team, he was still in the world of singles -- thinking only of the effect the team would have on him. What about the conflicts that his playing ball would cause with our children's teams? If he and the kids all played softball, then it would mean there would be two nights a week when we wouldn’t be able to talk until bedtime. Once we talked and he considered his new responsibilities as a dad and husband, he decided that it wasn't the season of life for him to pick up the 'ole softball glove.
Perspective … makes all the difference, doesn't it!
Likewise, Mike and I have found that attending a Weekend to Remember® marriage conference can be a different experience at different points in our lives. Married only three months when we went to our first conference, we were filled with energy and confidence. However, we walked into our second Weekend to Remember with a very different perspective—weary and very hungry for God’s strength.
When Mike and I went to our first Weekend to Remember, we were there to enrich our already fantastic marriage. We just knew that ours would be a consistently loving relationship because of our deep feelings for each other.
We learned some secrets that weekend that got our good marriage off to an even better start. For example, I learned that I have to make a conscious effort to remember to remember: Remember that my spouse thinks differently than I do. Remember that I need to model the same character traits that I need from him. Remember that when I most need understanding and love from Mike, I need to make the greatest effort to understand and love him.
When I heard Joy Downs, one of the conference speakers, talk about filling your husband with the very things you need from him, I was touched. The Holy Spirit seemed to nudge me to pay special attention. Joy said that loving your husband and finding a satisfied marriage was like priming a water pump. She explained that we often have to pour water into a pump if we want to get water (and not mud) out of it later. It seemed so elementary. But without even realizing it, I had always expected Mike to perform with love and compassion before I poured that love and compassion into him.
Until we went to our first Weekend to Remember, Mike had never thought about the different ways men and women think. As we heard Tim Downs explain the benefits of those differences, it became apparent to both of us that God had a plan in mind for the unique ways that He made each of us.
These principles helped us survive the loss of two babies during our next year—a miscarriage in July 2006 and a tubal pregnancy in June 2007. Because we already knew that we would each process these ordeals differently, our expectations were healthier and we were more tolerant and patient with each other. Rather than offending one another, because we weren’t on the same page emotionally, we were able to give each other grace.
I understood that Mike would focus on necessary tasks and would complete them one at a time to take care of me. He knew that I would consider every possible (and impossible) explanation, cause, and effect known to man to explain why this could happen to us. He also understood that I would want to help our two older children through the loss of two babies.
Because of what we learned at our first Weekend to Remember, we realized that we had to share our pain and our struggles to successfully get through them as a couple, even when all we could muster was “This stinks.”
After losing the babies, I didn’t get mad at God, because I presumed it was His will. And as a Christ-follower, I wanted His will even more than I wanted a baby. Regardless of the logic, I had all of this anger with no place to go. It was building up inside of me, and if I wasn’t careful, it trickled out all over Mike. Okay, sometimes it was more like a break in a dam that gushed all over the place and made a big mess. It was an indescribable, gradual resentment with no target and it built, and built, and built.
When we were asked to help with this year’s Weekend to Remember, we were not only excited to get a group together, but also thrilled to go back to the conference ourselves. We knew that after our tough year, nothing would be more worthwhile than attending a Weekend to Remember. We were drained from the challenges of life, and our marriage needed a boost.
Being in this state gave Mike and me a sense of urgency to listen when we attended our second Weekend to Remember. We were different people than we were at our first conference. The Lord blessed our hearts with fresh wisdom, and He reminded us of goals that we had set for ourselves at our first conference—goals that we needed to revisit. He used the messages to remove some barriers that Mike and I didn’t even realize we had built between ourselves.
We took stock of our spiritual walks, both as individuals and as a couple, and we planned some follow-up steps together to get even closer to God. We now understand that although our initial romanticized view of what we would become as a married couple was lovely, it requires work—not complacency. We heard for the second time that we are never standing still in a relationship … that we are either drifting toward oneness or isolation. And both of us had a new understanding of what it would take to find true oneness.
Mike and I were blessed to attend our first Weekend to Remember when we were on the mountaintop with a blissful romantic outlook on life and marriage. We were equally blessed to attend our second conference when we were in a very painful place.
God has used our Weekend to Remember experiences to not only revitalize our love for each other, but also to remind us that love is something you do—not something you feel. The Weekend to Remember gave us the strength and tools to get back to doing love together.
Reprinted with permission from The Family Room. You can receive the free e-zine by e-mail every month.
Though we wish it were so, the reality of life is not always a Cinderella story. But during some difficult days, I learned there was something better than a magic wand to wave away my troubles.
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