As the summer ends for students and a new school year starts, this is a time for new beginnings in many respects. An opportunity for some students to continue to excel, and a time for others to have a new start to get it right. That is how we view the marriage retreat weekend each year as it relates to our marriage. As I sat in the Youth Kick off service at church last night …it hit me when the Minister began to talk about the praying stations for the youth: 1. The Cross; 2. The Wilderness Room; and 3. The Refresh Station. This is how we come into the weekend. Maybe not in the order listed above, but it’s a good way for us to explain how the HOM Retreat blesses our marriage and our family.
We started attending the retreats about 11 years ago, along with joining a Couples Bible study class. I was eager to start the class, but my husband had reservations. However, he agreed to come to please me. Then I wanted to go to the retreat. Now he really was not feeling that. I was giving him too much, too fast. After everything I had learned in bible study, church and listening to advice from other couples I didn’t press the issue and we didn’t go. The next year I tried again and I give God all the glory, because my husband replied, “If you want to go we can go.” He still didn’t seem too eager, but he was willing to go because I wanted to go. For me that was a testament of what it means to make sacrifices in your marriage. Therefore, from that point, a new chapter began. Therefore, for the past 11 years we have attended the retreat and the couple’s bible study class. The weekends usually go like this.
Friday Arrival: The Wilderness Experience It’s funny when the committee sends out communication to the couples as we prepare to attend, one of the first things they tell us is not to argue. I wondered why they would send that out. Nevertheless, without fail, it seemed that leading up to the time of the retreat we were always getting into it about something. Well by the time, it was time to leave for the weekend we would arrive to the retreat in the midst of an argument. I would always say what’s the point of going. Why did we even bother to come? It was amazing how life would try to get in the way and block the sole purpose of what we were coming for. You see, I always wanted to show up as a couple that had it all together. I always wanted to say it was an attack of the enemy when we didn’t arrive the way I wanted us to. Or was it? Our arguments would be all over the place. I didn’t like him some days, and I know he didn’t like me. It would just appear that we were lost. As if, we had not learned anything from the previous year. However, I realized that God was still showing us those things that we still needed to work on. It gave us a focus for the weekend. The angry departure just showed us that we now have all of the tools that God had just equipped us with so we needed to use them in order to make our marriage stronger and better than ever. The mere fact that I am sitting here writing and telling you this is a true testament that we have learned and benefitted so much from attending the retreat. Each couple has their own Wilderness Experience, but please know you are not out there alone.
Saturday: We lay it all on the Cross-. During the class sessions, we sit and listen to Facilitators talk about various subjects. We typically end up in sessions related to one of what I refer to as the Three Stooges of marriage. Finance, Communication, Sex. Many of our arguments seem to revolve around one of the three. It appeared as if God had handpicked the sessions based on what He knew that we needed. God begins to work with you even before you recognize that you need help. He just goes to work. He will guide and direct you from beginning to end. During the weekend, you will find yourself opening up with each other and sharing those things that are keeping the two of you in bondage. You will be able to have the hard conversations with one another. There will be no interruptions of children, work, or family. You can lay it all on the table. You will be able to feel and see God working in your marriage. You get to bring those burdens to God and leave them with him. Now will they just disappear? No! However, you will have new insight, and a new way of resolving conflict, a better way to communicate. A new way of seeing your spouse. I know we have.
Refresh Sunday: By Sunday, we usually feel that God has given us new insight. We usually leave feeling rejuvenated and empowered. It’s like a breath of fresh air. Sunday is the day that God lets us know that he has taken us out of the wilderness, and is giving us a fresh start. He’s given us new direction. He lets us know that He sees us and knows our hearts. It’s the day that we know God has not taken his hand off our marriage. For us, it’s the time to reflect on the big picture. It’s the day that God tells us that yes trouble will arise again, but I hear Him saying to us, in this next year when life starts to happen, and things get hard know that this weekend I have equipped you with everything you need to survive. Also, when you feel like it’s getting too tough I am just a prayer away waiting to hear from you…and when I see that you may have gotten lost and found yourself back in the wilderness I will bring you back to this very place, take your burdens, give you new tools to work with and fill you up again to carry on. God has done just that.
We are now a part of the Retreat planning committee and we continue to attend the Couples Who Care Bible study class. This past April we celebrated 23 years of marriage. We look forward each year to the retreat weekend. We hope that this Blog story will help and encourage others to attend the weekend.
George and Cynthea Lester