Marriage ... a little word with a humungous implication.
From the day you get married, it is something you have to work on for the rest of your life, through the good and the bad. And yes, I mean for the rest of your life ... not just until you can't be bothered anymore and want to move on to a different model. Call me old-fashioned but 'Til death do us part' really does mean that to me! It may have taken me almost 30 years to find my man ... but I'm planning on sticking with him FOREVER (sorry Mark, if you had other ideas!!!)!
A friend who recently got married updated his Facebook status, very wisely to read ...
"Marriage: Just been thinking...the idea of finding a 'soul mate' is akin to the idea of going around hobby shops seeking a pre-completed jigsaw puzzle. Both are oxymoronic, and both simply do not exist. Even if they did, surely the beauty of both marriage and jigsaw puzzles, is the process of building, piece-by-piece, something that is eventually to become a work of art?"
... he now has a lifetime to put that into practice!
It illustrates very well a course we were able to part of earlier on this year by Family Life, called "The Art of Marriage". While we have always thought we had a pretty good marriage, we learnt so much about ourselves and each other by taking this course ... and our marriage was subsequently strengthened as a result. Not only ours but those of the others who took the course, some who had been married just a couple of years and others who had been married 30+ years.
When we took part, it was quite an intense 24 hours covering all kinds of topics. Each session included a 45-60 DVD and then time for each couple to spend some time together (just the two of them) to talk through some questions and other things highlighted. In the every day hustle and bustle of life, when do you ever get the chance to take time out with your spouse just to work on your marriage, it was such a great opportunity. (I was quite skeptical at first ... being cynical about cheesy American Christian productions but once again I was proved totally wrong!)
There is also a much more compact small group study covering the same areas and over the last six weeks or so me and Mark have had the opportunity and the privilege of leading our (adult) Sunday school class through the sessions. It has given us the chance to revisit some of the areas we worked on earlier in the year and hopefully encourage some of our friends to spend a little bit of time to think about and strengthen their own marriages!
We are very aware that putting ourselves 'out there', committing to life on the mission field puts us and our marriage even more on the radar for attack. Trying not to sound super-spiritual but just looking at the reality of the situation ... when you actively put God first and commit your lives to his work, the Devil is not going to like it. He wants you to stick your tail between your legs and go running home where you will probably be a lot less effective. One way to do that is to break down families and more specifically marriages.
During this time of preparation, before heading overseas, we have been actively trying to strengthen our marriage and deepen the foundations as much as possible. So that when we do come under attack or even just hit little stumbling blocks along the way, we can stand strong together for the sake of our marriage, our family and the work we have been called to do.
Think about giving your own marriage a little bit of 'work' sometime ... I can highly recommend it!