A Special Welcome from Dan
Dear Marriage Voyager,
I am grateful the process of growth takes a lifetime and is ongoing on earth. We are on a long and tumultuous voyage that has more beauty and danger than I understood when Becky and I married over 43 years ago. I would not trade it for all the riches of the world, yet there are moments when growing together has been the most challenging thing I have ever done in my life.
Marriage is the best and worst of times, and a taste of heaven and hell. Marriage is a context where the best of our hearts and the worst will be revealed. If we are not committed to becoming individually and corporately who we are meant to be, it will be a long and dreary journey.
We are honored that you are inviting our team to be allies for your marriage. We don't know the health of your marriage. You may be doing exceptionally well and hope for a tune-up to improve what is already superb.
You may be on the border of ending and wondering if there is any hope to salvage what was once good. It is our conviction that to grow our marriage; we need three core commitments:
There will be little good that occurs without a commitment to being open and willing to address what Jesus calls the 'log in your eye.' Nothing ruins a marriage faster than blaming the other for hurt and disappointment.
Most couples avoid difficult discussions because it resurfaces unaddressed issues that have never been healed. Even the best marriages often attempt to minimize disappointment and accentuate the positive. But that usually leaves hurt unaddressed and unresolved. No one can tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth in one' dump', but there needs to be a commitment to let the truth about yourself and your partner be told with humility and kindness, yet, nonetheless, said.
Hope is not merely a positive and enthusiastic demeanor. Hope is a deep conviction that change can occur because death and all forms of decay and division don't get the final word. We enter this process, believing the resurrection of Jesus is real and life-changing. Change is never quick or conclusive, but it is true and sure. Hope doesn't come primarily based on seeing immediate change, nor does it come without a commitment to defying the odds, standing against every obstacle, and trusting God's goodness. At this point, you may not feel like you have much hope. Your willingness to enter into this material is all the hope we need. Hope is like a mustard seed—plant it and don't rip it out of the ground, and it will grow.
There are several things we would strongly encourage you to consider as you let us take this journey with you. These are simple principles of wisdom true for life and as well for engaging your marriage.
1. Take your time.
If you try and rush the process all that will occur, at best, is you will be more informed, but likely not transformed. It took you many years to get where you are. It will take less time to change, but remember all good change requires a lifetime. As you watch one Lesson and do some of the reflection that we will prompt, let yourself have time to write and percolate on where you are. Don't rush yourself or your spouse.
2. Plan your time.
Take your time, but also carve out time to watch, write, reflect, and talk. We would suggest watching the Lesson together. It is divided into parts and can be viewed in whole at one time or in sections. Once you have finished, write. Writing helps clarify and deepen your understanding of the material as it relates to your marriage. We would suggest you follow the pattern of looking first at the log in your eye. Then look at what you sense to be true regarding your marriage—tell the truth. Finally, what is the hope you hold for yourself and your partner? Then set a time to return to have a conversation about what you wrote.
3. Listen long, hard, and well.
When you return to talk, commit yourself to a specific time. It is not wise to have a conversation that is so open-ended that it lasts for hours. We can't tell you how long to talk, but test out time, like a half-hour and see how it goes. If it feels too difficult, for any number of reasons, settle on a shorter time. If it doesn't feel sufficient, and the conversation seems productive, extend your time frame.
Remember, a conversation is not a debate. It is not a sermon or a monologue. It is a conversation guided first and foremost by openness and kindness. The moment a conversation begins to veer toward contempt for oneself or the other, it is best to name that and stop.
No conversation built on judgment or contempt will ever lead to good. A good interaction requires you and your partner to agree on what feels 'unsafe.' The goal is not agreement but understanding. I don't need to agree with what you feel or think to grow in intimacy with you. I need to be attuned, that is to feel what you feel. I need to witness what you experience and let my heart enter your disappointment or frustration without necessarily resolving it or taking responsibility for it.
4. Kindness soothes wounds that mere understanding can only touch.
We are inviting you to grow in kindness for yourself and your partner. Romans 2:4 tells us it is the kindness of God that leads to repentance. A marriage doesn't grow without repentance. We will spend far more time on that thought through the course material, but from the beginning, we are inviting you to let the kindness of God lead you to a new freedom. The more kindness you experience from God, the greater the goodness you will have to offer your spouse. One way to begin is to let kindness be the one measure you use to assess how you are growing in your marriage. Kindness is a commitment to offer honor and goodness to the other irrespective of the harm or hurt you feel. Kindness is not niceness. Kindness has guts and ferocity, and it refuses to return harm for harm.
5. Don't quit.
It may take you far longer to finish this course than you thought at the start. We promise it will be far harder than you expect or wish. It will also be far more vibrant and more delightful than you can imagine. No matter how long it takes, don't let your process fade. The easiest 'out' is to get too busy. We hope you could take it slow, but not taper. There will be countless excuses, interruptions, and obstacles that will make it challenging to finish your voyage. There are forces seen and unseen in this world that don't want you to grow. Count the cost and know there are enemies to doing good work. Make a plan and commit to time in the calendar. Just like having time in your calendar to go to the gym or play golf, set a time, and go for it.
We are honored and grateful for the privilege of connecting with you in your marriage. We believe a strong and growing marriage is the greatest gift you can give your children, church, and community. We are committed to helping you grow through this course and in many other offerings.
We believe you can grow and know joy in your marriage. To that end, we set sail.
In God’s Kindness,