My wife and I recently went for a marriage retreat at the Parish Hermitage. We really needed it. I really needed it. I was not in a good place regarding my marriage, and my wife and my marriage were suffering for it. And the two things that really blow me away about this are 1. that I felt genuinely justified in my position and 2. I regularly emphasize to my clients that marriage is at its best when you focus and work on yourself, rather than focusing and attempting to work on your spouse. And even though I knew this stuff in my mind, my heart and spirit had gotten twisted around backward and I felt truly stuck – not yet hopeless, but really and truly stuck. Yuck!!!

I am so grateful and humbled to share with you that the Spirit of God worked in a powerful way over the last week, and especially through this weekend, to open the eyes of my heart and bring me to a renewed place as a husband, through repentence and healing. I am grateful to Eddie and Judy Parish for their continuing joyful willingness to share their rich gifts of hospitality, spiritual discernment, and loving grace. And I am grateful to my wife for going to the hard places with me by being open, vulnerable, and real.

And my soul and my marriage are renewed. My hope has once again taken flight and my spirit feels free to flap its wings in freedom and joy. Thank you, LORD!!!

I share this glimpse of my personal journey with you for a couple of reasons. First, I want you to know that we all struggle in life and relationships – even us professional experts. Struggling is okay. It is universal. At least when we are struggling, we show evidence that we are hoping for something better. Second, I want to encourage you that you really do not have to wait on your spouse to make some kind of changes so you can have a better marriage experience. You can improve your marriage experience right now, starting today! You can choose to stop dwelling on what you see as the shortcomings in your spouse or the injustices in your marriage, and you can choose to place your focus on improving yourself as a spouse and finding joy in blessing your mate, whether or not he/she seems to “deserve” it right now.

I must say, I am amazed at the difference I experience in my peace, joy, and marital satisfaction, when I “practice what I preach” to my clients on a regular basis. I shouldn’t be amazed. I share these perspectives with them, because I know it is the best way to live – in marriage and all other relationships. But knowing the Truth and living the Truth take vastly different amounts of willingness and self-discipline. And by the way, our time at the retreat made it clear to my that I was the one who had the most changing to do. The minor “flaws” I had pegged in my wife were far eclipsed by the disgruntled attitude I was blindly wielding to the harm of each of us and our marriage. Repentance, joy, and grace are not just nice terms from the language of Christianity. They are POWERFUL forces for life transformation, my friends!

For more guidance along these lines, I highly recommend “Sacred Marriage: What if God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More than to Make Us Happy” by Gary Thomas and “ScreamFree Marriage” (audio) by Hal Runkel. And while you’re at it, you might want to round out the resource package with “Passionate Marriage: Love, Sex, and Intimacy in Committed Relationships” by David Schnarch.

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