Side By Side Friends, Please help me welcome our guest, Becky Graham. Becky and her husband, Dave, transplanted to South Florida from the Chicagoland area in August 2015. They are members of Parkridge Church in Coral Springs, FL. Becky recently launched her first book, Faithful: An Unexpected Journey to Motherhood.
“I’d like everyone to draw a triangle on the piece of paper in front of you,” the woman instructed the group.
As part of our church’s mandatory pre-marital requirements, Dave, my fiancé, and I found ourselves sitting in a conference room at the church, on a Saturday, along with 12 other couples, for the next six hours. Knowing the divorce rate was 50% of all marriages, they wanted the couples to have a better than 50% chance of staying married.
“After you’ve drawn your triangle, I want you to write your name on one of the corners at the bottom and your fiancé/fiancée’s name at the bottom of the other corner.”
I showed Dave that I wrote his name on the left and my name on the right to signify, his left brain personality and my right brain personality. He smiled as he understood the meaning.
“Now, I want everyone to write down the words “career, job, money, house, car, popularity, sports, and image” randomly around the triangle and draw an arrow from your name to the words that are important to you.” She gave the room a few minutes to complete the task.
“Look at your partner’s paper. Do their arrows point to where your arrows are pointed? Are your arrows headed in the same direction? Are you interested in pursuing the same things as they are? I would say about 50% of you have arrows headed in the same direction. However, most of the time, couples have their arrows pointed in different directions towards goals they want to pursue individually. When arrows are pointed in different directions, all kinds of problems can erupt in a marriage.” The room suddenly became quiet.
“At the top of the triangle I want you to write ‘Jesus’,” she continued to instruct us, “and draw two arrows on the sides of the triangle by the names pointing up towards Jesus.”
We drew our arrows.
“This is what a Christ centered marriage looks like. When the both of you together have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, you both have your eyes on Jesus and want to become more like Christ. The more the two of you keep your eyes on Jesus and growing towards Him, in the direction the arrows are pointed, the more Christ centered your marriage will become. You will have a common goal, mindset, and outlook in which to pursue such things like careers, finances, parenting, resolving conflict, and sex.
“Think about Christ’s character. For instance, is selfishness is part of Christ’s character? What about lying or deception? Pride? Name calling? Accusing? Holding grudges?” she paused and the room became very quiet. “If you’re having trouble coming up with an answer, the answer is NO.” The whole room laughed with her.
“Making an intentional decision to have a Christ centered relationship and marriage is important because being married comes with lots of unexpected surprises that will challenge and test your relationship to see how strong your bond and commitment are to each other.”
Once again, the room fell silent and she closed the session with prayer.
Dave and I found a quiet place to have lunch together.
“I’ve been thinking about the session this morning and about having a Christ centered marriage,” Dave said as he looked down at his sandwich.
“You know I was married before. I didn’t have a relationship with God back then,” he continued. I nodded in agreement.
“I was a really selfish husband in that marriage. I didn’t believe in God and, even though my ex claimed to be a Christian, she didn’t pursue a genuine relationship with God either.” Again, I nodded in agreement. Dave told me the painful story of how she pursued other men to fill the hole in her soul that only Christ could have filled.
“I’m not that guy anymore and I don’t want that kind of marriage either. I want a Christ-centered marriage with you,” he looked up and our eyes met.
“I want to take everything that I did wrong in THAT marriage and NOT do it in this marriage. I want you to have the best husband I can be. You deserve the best.”
By this time, a smile spread across my face and my eyes became misty. I prayed for a guy like Dave and here he was sitting beside me making such a declaration.
Friends, it’s been 24 years since that pre-marital class. Not only did we commit to having a Christ-centered marriage, we also wrote out a family covenant giving our marriage and relationship a firm foundation in which to stand. The past 24 years have not been easy! But, with our eyes firmly planted on Christ we keep growing closer to God and to each other.
You can read more about how Becky and Dave Graham’s marriage stood firm during difficult times in her new book, Faithful: An Unexpected Journey to Motherhood (May 2017) available at Redemption Press https://www.redemption-press.com/shop/product/102668.
You can follow Becky on her blog at www.SmallTownGirlBG.com where she writes about what God is teaching her and on Facebook Page Small Town Girl Becky Graham.
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