This picture was taken in the fall of 2005, at the first Marriage Conference. The 10th will be held this weekend at City Pres. My husband and I showed up to that first one for a couple of reasons, but the main one was that we had recently moved from Norman to Kansas City and we missed our friends. We were all meeting up in Ozark, MO, at Doug’s parents’ house. It was a really great, refreshing time with our friends. It was also kind of weird, because Doug and Julie and some of the other couples had some big stuff happening in their marriages and they shared that with the group. My husband and I were still basically newlyweds and we were incredibly naive enough to think that we didn’t have problems.
We returned to the conference the following year, with our first-born child in tow. It was at that conference that I recall Doug and Julie dropping the bomb on all of us that they were in marriage counseling. I remember clearly Doug saying, “All the stuff that has worked for the past 10 plus years just doesn’t work anymore. We need help.” Their honesty opened the door for others to share. There was so much hurt in the room. And once again, my husband and I found ourselves scratching our heads and not being able to relate.
The last time we attended the conference was in 2008. I remember sitting towards the back of the room with the vain realization that we just had something that no one else seemed to. Our marriage just worked so well. We worked so well. We were friends and we loved each other- simple as that.
Each time the conference came around, I felt like I had to talk my husband into going. He never really wanted to, I didn’t want to fight about it, so we just didn’t go. We used every excuse- usually our kids- as to why we couldn’t go.
We’ve been a part of the open and honest City Pres culture since the beginning, but I still expected to have to talk my husband into going this year. To my surprise, when I brought it up a couple of months ago, he said, “We need to go. Now more than ever before we need to go. There are a few things that we just aren’t on the same page about.” Now this was news to me. I could think of one thing that we weren’t agreeing about- moving to OKC or staying in Norman- but “a few things”?!? What was he talking about?
That was the beginning of a series of many hard, painful, intense, fruitful, and encouraging conversations for us. We’ve fought and argued and cried more in the past 3 months that in the past 10 years of our marriage. Doug’s comment about stuff “not working” anymore finally made sense. If there was one thing I could count on in our marriage, it was that we knew what it took to “get back to normal” when we were off. Now it seemed that “normal” was alluding us. The same stuff that had always worked was failing.
Now Charles and I are the ones in counseling. We’re the ones admitting that we need help. And, this weekend, we’ll be the ones sharing how God has graciously and painfully and faithfully brought us to this place. We’ll have stories. We’ll have hurts to share. We’ll be crying. And we’ll be offering the hope of the gospel to the other couples there. Not the gospel of “just be nice to each other,” or “be friends first and everything else will be peachy.” A true gospel of brokenness and wholeness in Christ. So, if you’re married, the marriage conference is for you. Whether you have problems or your marriage is perfect like ours was (yeah, that’s sarcasm, y’all), there will be something for you. So just get there.