I remember the day well.
Chad and I had only been married a few years. We just had our first baby, and were still recovering from a major remodel on our first house. I had recently left my job to stay home with our daughter and Chad was preparing to leaving his job so we could pursue college ministry and raise support for our income. We had also started seminary and moved churches – all to position ourselves for a certain ministry job.
That’s a lot of change, a lot of stress, and not enough sleep for this young couple!
Because we changed churches, our small group had also changed. We left our comfort zone of old friends and were now meeting with a brand new circle of “future friends” – other newlyweds from seminary who were also in ministry. We had a good feeling about them, but none of us had gotten “real” with each other yet.
And then our marriage got tough. Heartbreakingly, gut-wrenchingly tough.
We were leaving the honeymoon stage of marriage – the sweet, peaceful, us-against-the-world stage. We were now entering the what-have-we-gotten-ourselves-into stage. We had jobs, seminary, a baby, 4 am feedings, homework, a mortgage, a ministry, renters in our newly remodeled basement and definitely not enough sleep for any of it.
And we had no one to talk to about it.
The very people in our new church and small group were the ones who would recommend us for our new job. How could we tell them? It might ruin our chances. And who are we to have marital issues if we want to go into ministry? It was a terrifying secret I desperately wanted to be free from.
So we prayed. We cried. We probably even fought a little. And we finally agreed that we needed to talk to fellow believers, to be honest, to be ministered to and accountable to. And we were in a small group God designed for exactly that.
We just had to be willing to go first, come what may.
I remember that day well. The group met at our house that night. We had dinner, then decided to do something different and break up into men and women to share and pray for each other. I remember sitting in a little circle with the other gals when my turn came to share. I took a deep breath and aired my dirty laundry, “Chad and I are having a hard time.” The next few minutes was a blur of tears, honesty, humility and prayer.
And then something wonderful happened.
The next woman’s turn came and she said, “me too”. And then the next woman shared something equally hard and encouraging and beautiful. The flood gates had opened. Light poured in to some very dark places we had all felt alone in. We were squinting from the tears and from all the light that had overwhelmed darkness that night. Hope, redemption, grace all poured in. We were not alone. And we would fight for our marriages.
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. ~ James 5:16
Choosing vulnerability in our small group that day saved our marriage. But more than that, it taught us that we should always be in a community of believers. God designed His church that way. We are stronger together. There is safety in numbers. The enemy is looking for those who weakened under the weight of their shame, stray from the herd and become an easy target to kill.
For our own survival, we will always choose friends and a community we can be open with. With every move and new small group since then, we continue to choose vulnerability. If we have to go first, we’ve learned how to step out bravely and do so. I’ve never regretted it.
Proverbs 27:17 As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.
The day we chose to open up and share the hard stuff was the day our marriage turned around.
That was the day that saved my marriage. Since then, there have been plenty more days like it. More days that have saved my marriage.
That day has come again in different forms…
~ The day we decided to take in two foster boys and gathered to pray in their bedroom before their arrival, to hold out our unknowns to The One who knew it all.
~ The days before adopting these sweet boys. We prayed with friends that would be there to hold us if we lost them, and who were there to celebrate when we adopted them.
~ The days we have moved away from our circle and all that we know, to pursue what God has prepared next for us… and take a risk with a new community of future friends.
~ The days that we didn’t just need our small group, but we needed professional counseling to give us tools to learn new skills in our marriage and family.
~ And all the days in-between these events, when our marriage, our children, our family faces a new challenge and we find ourselves weary or broken.
~ The days our friends needed us in the same way that we needed them, to pray over, support, bring a dinner to, laugh and cry with and say “me too”.
Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. ~ Galatians 6:2
These are the days when, with the last of my strength, I reach out to God and the circle He has given me. I have become a better spouse, parent, friend and Christ-follower because of these days. Every day that this has happened… has been the day that saved my marriage.
Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching. ~Hebrews 10:23-25