Before I got married, I imagined that marriage would be like one continuous date. We would sit at the table and talk for hours. We would enjoy each other’s company all the time. We would study the Bible together, pray together, and serve in the church together. I was young and I didn’t know much about life and adulting!
Marriage is a wonderful thing, but it is not what I pictured. Jerry and I have been married for forty years now. We have raised three children. We have discovered that we don’t have as much in common as we thought we did when we were dating. We have discovered our incompatibility. We have sometimes had lean financial times. We haven’t always felt in love or even happy with each other. There have been very good times and there have been challenging times. One of the challenging times for me was when I was experiencing the impact of the Empty Nest as our children grew up and left the home. I wasn’t happy and I was pretty sure it was somehow Jerry’s fault. At least I would take it out on him. I wasn’t going anywhere; I was fully committed to staying married, but I was far from content with my life or our marriage.
Not long before that, ReEngage had become available at the church. Jerry wisely decided that we should go through it. Once a week we actually sat down with each other and talked about meaningful subjects. Then we would go to the meetings and talk about those same subjects with other couples. I loved it! We grew so much closer!
The homework was the highlight for me, but the group experience was also impactful. Couples were speaking their experience into the lives of other couples. No one was forced to share anything, but as we got to know each other we realized that there were others who were experiencing or had experienced the same things we had. It was comforting to know that we were not the only ones! We also saw couples who were putting up with things that we took for granted. It was not like a counseling session — there was lots of laughter as we shared both our joys and our frustrations. In the experiences of younger couples we could recognize and remember the things that God had already brought us through. Younger couples could see that you never get to a time when you can just coast in your marriage, but that there was something to aspire to in the relationships of those who had been together for decades.
God has a lot to say about marriage in the Bible, much more than I realized. Because everything that God says about relationships applies to the relationship we have with our spouse. Sometimes we don’t recognize the difference that Christ wants to make in our daily lives. Those who don’t recognize what it feels like to be “lost” can’t get very excited about being “found”! ReEngage was a reminder of how much I needed Christ. God worked on my heart. And when the heart changes, behavior follows.
The most important takeaway for me from that first time through was to stop blaming our problems on Jerry and see what I was contributing to them. I came to appreciate Jerry for the man that he is, instead of the man that I imagined that I wanted him to be. It was a time of spiritual and emotional growth for both of us, and it continues to be as we lead other couples through the experience.