His and Her Story
Mark and Stephanie
My wife encouraged (dragged) me along to an information night 9 years ago for couples graduating form a marriage course (Nova Shalom) as it was known then; Married for Life as it is now.
I dutifully went along and picked up a registration form at the end on the night 'knowing' that it would get lost in all the other junk mail that ends up in the kitchen, but the strangest thing happened it kept turning up on top of every pile I looked at.
In the end I conceded and we went along to one of the first courses run in Wellington. I didn't think we had a bad marriage and as I looked at the other 6 couples on the first night thought what is wrong with you!
In the 13 weeks that followed I discovered how little I knew about God's blueprint for marriage, and in the following 7 years and 9 times through the course we have discovered how little we learnt the first time through.
While all 13 weeks impacted our relationship the final week of our first course was the turning point for our walk with God. The lesson focused on the three seasons referred to in Isaiah 37:30. We had been through the free feeding season of new Christians and the second more selective season but had not recognized that the third season had arrived. We needed to ".....sow & reap, plant vineyards and eat their fruit" as Isaiah put it. We needed to stop taking - our jar was full.
We had heard people say after moving to a new church, that this or that pastor was the best thing since indexed bibles, but only months later they had moved church again. We realized that these people had become spiritual beggars at the table of others failing to recognize the need to move on in God; they drained one relationship after another then they moved on leaving God and his call on their life behind.
At the end of this lesson we were completing the course evaluation and it had a question would you be interested in going into leadership training with Marriage Ministries International and to my wife's amazement I suggested to her that we did. There is nothing wrong with seasons 1 & 2 God designed them to feed us and make us strong but we need to recognise when they are over and see where God has called us to sow.
We have had our marriage transformed into a covenant-centred marriage reflecting the image of God, however dimly, to a hurting world and know how important our marriage is to God. I am sure we will not stop learning. But I know we would not have sown the seeds or reaped the harvests if my wife had not lifted that registration form to the top of the pile all those times, and I love her for it.
Will you stop letting life put junk mail on top of God's offer to you?
So we started the Married for Life course and it wasn't at all what I had expected. I was amazed that God had thought through so much about marriage! I knew he had ordained it and it was in His plan but had never realised that he also created all the details!
For example like Roles - roles for husbands and roles for wives, always complimentary. When we first got married we used to have a problem with 'money'. My husband would spend it and I would want to save it - conflicting ideas but God says they are complimentary. When we use each other's strengths then they compliment each other. If I save and then he spends it - we don't end up in debt and we have the things that we need, sounds simple and sensible. Another example is sex - God designed man and woman both physically and emotionally to experience great pleasure and satisfaction from sexual union. That statement blew me away; that we could experience 'great pleasure and satisfaction' - Wow God wanted the best for us even in the bedroom. How many of us close the bedroom door on God? I know we did at the beginning of our marriage but now that we've let him in we can both say that we now experience 'great pleasure and satisfaction'. Praise God.
In the subsequent courses that we have done God has taught us so many things about our walk with Him and with each other. Praying together, constant forgiveness and spiritual warfare are just a few.
One of the lessons that has really impacted us has been the Faith, Vision and Trust lesson. The lesson taught us that God had a 'faith vision' for each person and situation and that He is waiting for us to line up with His will and agree with His vision. My husband's faith vision for me was "Naphtali is a doe set free who bears beautiful fawns". At the time we laughed at the bearing beautiful fawns as we had no children and weren't thinking of any just yet! As time went on the faith vision made more sense and it's been amazing to see what God has done in the area of freedom for me. Later however we decided that it was time for a family and 2 years later (!) we were finally pregnant. During that 2 years we had our ups and our downs, each month we would think maybe this month. We did though remember God's faith vision for me; which was to 'bear beautiful fawns'. Now God keeps His word - we have to trust and wait, wait and trust, remind Him of His word, remain faithful and under His wings, be obedient to what He's teaching us and continually praise and worship Him, despite the circumstances. 5 years later we have 2 'beautiful fawns' for which we give all the thanks and praise to God. This time could easily of broken us especially with our previous track record of our sexual union but we had a promise of God that we could stand on, and He was faithful! If you're wondering what the details are that God had planned for your marriage, then do a Married for Life course. We would highly recommend it.
If you have a testimony to to share please e-mail it, with a photo if possible, to Murray Fookes