Recently I was in the checkout line haggling with Gracelyn that “NO!” she couldn’t have bubble gum, and I caught a glimpse of the latest People Magazine cover story featuring Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas and the headline: “Their Marriage Crumbles.”
I’m not going somewhere ugly with this. My heart bled when I saw another marriage fall. But because it sells magazines, we see it all the time. Some are desensitized to it at this point. But this wasn’t a rock group disbanding or a basketball team that lost their star slam dunker. This was something sacred that ended. This was a big deal – someone’s heart and life was in pieces and a covenant was not honored.
God permits or promotes all things because He is All Powerful. He has permitted the divorce rate to be where it is. This side of heaven, I’ll always scratch my head and wonder why. He has also permits my heart to pierce and ache each time I see a variation of this headline or hear about it in the everyday life I lead. Chances are, I will never meet these celebrity couples, but I lifted them up in prayer as if they were my own flesh and blood. That’s what I do. Everything screeches to a halt and raw emotion drowns out whatever else is going on in my manic mama life. It’s a one-of-a-kind pain some of you know first hand. But what if every magazine in the county covered your hurt? I simply can’t begin to imagine that. So I lift them up to my Father in Heaven and now I’m begging you to do the same.
It makes for a better story to tell you right there in my hurt, my memory played me a song I learned at Vacation Bible School this summer, called “On the March Again”. The lyrics are “We’re gonna change the world, we’re gonna change the world. The army of God is on the march again. Yeah! Yeah! We’re on the march again.” There were 1400 children singing this song. Hearing a literal army of children sing that refrain, convincingly selling it, is incredibly powerful, and kinda contagious.
So at our “Since You Asked” Married Couples Forum on Friday night I found a way to personalize the front page of People Magazine. I took the beautiful smiles of the couples we’ve been serving in the ministry and put them on the covers of magazines! Our headlines read: “Strong man + Strong Woman + God = Solid Marriage“, “They persevered” and a quote by one of our friends, “I’m the happiest married guy on the planet.” I, for one am a big fan of what God was doing in their marriages and I believe we can change our world. It was fun ice-breaker and it sparked a chuckle as the couples delighted in how they were making headlines for God’s Kingdom.
We broke out in all men and all women break out sessions (because men speak husband, and women speak A LOT). We talked about the places we seem to stub our toes in our marriage. The struggles shared helped each of us to feel less like we live on an island. Many offered “golden nuggets” of wisdom and counsel. “I’ve walked where you walked”, and tender tips of “Here’s how I got through it” connected us in a powerful way that only God could have orchestrated. My favorite comment was, “I was NOT excited about coming tonight. I thought it was going to be a bunch of holy rollers just answering the questions the way they thought Pastor would want ‘em to. Instead, minus the beers and the football language (I’m paraphrasing a touch) it felt like a night out with my buddies. We were honest and real, and I’m really glad I came and made those connections.” Ahhh. Even the guys had a good time! Yup, that’s a God thing for sure!
Then we gathered the 2 groups together for a team building exercise. We lined up 2 long rows of chairs that faced each other. We handed each couple 1 spoon and an ice cream snickers sundae that was frozen solid in mason jars that we bought from one of our favorite local restaurants. Here were the rules:
1. You could not feed yourself
2. You could not make a mess.
I shouted “GO!” And they were off! They had each other’s undivided attention as they worked together. My bet is most of us hadn’t fed our spouses since the wedding cake. There was anticipation as everyone’s mouths watered watching our spouses drilling into this frozen concoction. Every scoop was an upper body work out, but in the end both came away satisfied. The couple that finished first jumped up declaring victory, and the others admired the decadent joy of unity they witnessed.
That’s marriage in a nutshell, (well in this case, a mason jar) isn’t it? Feed each other, come away satisfied and in touch with one another’s needs.
We ended the night watching the short clips from the movie “When Harry Met Sally” where the little, old couples told their stories of how they got together. We soaked up the idiosyncrasies that glued these characters together for decades. And that set up the final thought we wrapped up on. We reminded everyone every time they make time to investment in their marriage; they help make the stories they’ll tell side by side when they’re old and gray more charming and more sacred.
So what did you do Friday night?
If you just read this and thought of someone who would have benefited from being with us, please Disciple that person -share the love by sharing this blog. And please ask them to join us in this journey God has set us on – if they are married, they are invited. It’s that simple.