A few weeks ago Ann and I traveled to the home of a couple for a three day intensive. We weren't quite sure what to expect but by all accounts it went very well.
We told our story and allowed them to interact and ask questions of us when they were curious about different aspects of how we walked through that painful time. It was a time of confusion, doubt, hope and growth in our lives. It was a time of connection and compassion for us with this couple.
We then had the privilege of listening to more of their story. There was pain and tension as you might expect. It really is an honor to be invited in where ones greatest pain and shame and glory are intertwined.
We taught and talked and counseled. It flowed effortlessly from sharing and interacting to helping them learn how to express, and to hear, what was most true deep inside. That last part took practice and will take more practice but there was vast improvement over the three days. It was beautiful to see.
We talked about gender and betrayal and anger. We discussed low cost and high cost behaviors in rebuilding trust. It's important to affirm each other for effort as trust is rebuilt regardless of whether you feel hopeful about the relationship at the time.
The thickest section of our book is on intimacy. Emotional, Spiritual, Recreational and Physical both sexual and nonsexual. Of particular help was spending times on the barriers to intimacy. There are many different reasons it is difficult to be close and open and vulnerable with the one we have chosen to spend the rest of our life with. Understanding that much of that is in motion before a couple ever meets is often a great relief. If each person is willing to look at his or her own stuff I have great hope for the couple to survive and strive and thrive. It's never too late to learn to be more intimate with one another.
We also touched on guilt and shame, grief and grace and forgiveness.
There is much to tell but it isn't my story to tell. I can tell you we were blessed to be able to meet with this couple. I don't have words to tell you what it is like to have the time in our lives when we ached the most turn into the place where we offer the most. I'm always amazed by God's relentlessly tender, excruciating grace. Ann is a beautiful woman and to spend three days with her doing this was of another kingdom. It was a thrill to see her offer her wisdom and softness to both the husband and wife.
The track is long through the climbs and falls and corkscrews of rebuilding. Even though you don't know this couple say a prayer for them now. And say a prayer for us. Oswald Chambers said that an unguarded strength is a double weakness and we don't want to take anything for granted in our marriage.
At the end of the weekend I was energized and exhausted. I wanted to meet with another couple right then! And I was ready for a four hour nap. Ann was just exhausted. She's energized and exhausted after leading a three day women's retreat with 100 of her closest friends. :)
Reflecting back on this time I realize this. I was at home in their home riding the whispers of the one who longs to guide us home. God willing we'll be asked to do this again.