As followers of Jesus, healthy social relationships are something we strive to develop and sustain. In our study of the scriptures, we learn much about the complex experience of relating to other human beings, particularly those unlike us. Very quickly in this study, we learn of the importance of the first human institution: marriage (Genesis 2). According to recent Barna polls, 11% of the American adult population is currently divorced and 25% of adults have at least one divorce during their lifetime. Interestingly, divorce rates among conservative Christians are significantly higher than other faith groups, including non-believers. According to these same polls, less people are entering into marriage, many due to the attitude that it simply does not work.
Recently, couples involved in our ministry had the opportunity to evaluate the health of our marriages at our first ever marriage retreat! Forty couples came together to reflect on the health of their marriages, as well as the marriages of their friends, and it was invigorating.
Over the course of the weekend we had the opportunity for intentional dialogue, focused study in the word, table fellowship over meals, and we shared both laughter and tears. We discussed issues such as our roles as men and as women in the specific context of our vocation as third world development workers. We asked questions like: “How many hours should men work during course of a the week? How many classes can mothers successfully take during a semester?” We discussed issues pertaining to future deployment like, raising our children in the third world and taking care of our parents. We also discussed various issues concerning the full-time ministry we are all apart of: “What type of accountability do individuals have with one another, and what type do they need? What is our responsibility as married couples towards the single individuals with whom we serve?” The hope was that we’d walk away from these discussions with shared biblical values and understanding on the issues at hand. As we reflected together, we were refreshed and thankful to the LORD. He is doing a great work in us and he has been so faithful!
In the end, the retreat was not solely focused on our individual couples, but the surrounding community in which these couples live, and the health, benefit and accountability that such community offers.
Written by Betsy Johnson