Q. We have grown in our marriage and would love to help others but feel like we still have a long way to go. What ideas do you have for how to keep our own marriage going forward as well as coaching others?
A. We love this question because we have been there. In 1983 I (Gary) was finishing my doctorate in counseling, working full time, and Barb was feeling isolated as she was caring for our 5 and 2 year old daughters and trying to keep our family connected. We loved each other. There was no overt sin present in our marriage. We had just drifted due to too many seasons of school and misplaced priorities coming one after another. Our 5 year old daughter drew a family picture and left me out of the drawing, explaining that “you are at the library studying.” Within weeks of that incident, graduating, and launching a new Christian counseling practice we were just plain hurting. That is when Barb received a brochure for a marriage conference in the mail and said, “we need this - not for your counseling training but for us!” We went; sitting in the back row the first night then moving closer to the front the next day and joining the next year’s volunteer team on the last day. In other words…in the midst of my being in a “fog” God brought clarity and hope for the revitalization of our own marriage and a renewed sense that we could help others. And the rest as they say, is history. Since that weekend we have been serving marriages, but always starting with our own. Therefore when we review the question above we have a few firsthand thoughts to share.
1. When you desire to help others, just as on an airplane, put your own oxygen mask on first. In other words if you are going through “stuff” (and aren’t we all?) then you can help others…but not before you are teachable, broken and open to starting within your own marriage.
2. When you step in to putting the “oxygen mask” on others we coach you to start small, “under-promising and over-delivering.” When you sense God’s call to championing marriages using your passion and gifts, it starts with a heart and passion for others, as well as an intentionality to start somewhere. We caution you to not be overwhelmed by the opportunities and stresses other couples’ marriages bring to the table. Your willingness to love well, to encourage and to “show up” goes a long way in helping others take the steps to experience their own great marriages. “I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35
3. Bathe your desires in God’s Word, seeking wisdom from Godly counselors. Pray as a couple to be used by bringing biblical truth, willing hearts and spirits, and a desire to love others well.
4. And if you desire for Barb and me to serve and equip you, check out our Marriage Champion opportunities. We have equipped couples throughout the world with the tools God has given us to multiply our life message. It is rooted in Philippians and we love to share our 40 years of experience. It would be an honor to lift up your arms to champion not only your own marriage - but the marriages of couples God has put into your lives! Go for it!