Welcome to our Christian Marriage Enrichment Retreat! Good luck to all you happy couples! Calling it a “retreat” makes it sound like we are losing the war, but this weekend will be an attack on all the ways you are not who you ought to be as a couple!
We will be sharing Christ’s love, but only with our spouses — ha! Here at the Christian Marriage Retreat Center there are no televisions and no alcohol, so you get to spend two days with nothing but your beloved and your iPhone.
We will listen, listen, listen — except for the leaders who will talk, talk, talk. We will explore your spiritual, physical and emotional relationship in ways that will feel invasive at first but by the end of the weekend will be merely unwarranted.
A huge thank you to Chelsea who made the name tags with the adorable glittery wedding rings, which you are required to wear. If you are the special couple whose name tag has roses on the back, you get to be the first to tell us about the funny way you met. If you met at a bar or on match.com, we encourage you to make up a story about meeting at church.
If your story is boring, you may feel better after we spend the first session talking about couples in the Bible. Boaz buys some land and gets his wife as part of the deal. God tells Hosea to marry a prostitute. King Solomon thought quantity was the way to go. One of the laws in Leviticus is that if your brother dies and you are a male then you have to marry his widow. Some of you are imagining that, and the hair is standing up on the back of your neck. This weekend we will assume that Priscilla and Aquilla met in a singles Sunday school class so we have one story to work with.
Jesus never went on a marriage retreat, because he was perfect so he couldn’t get married. During our second session, we will look at what Jesus says about families. This will not take long.
Jesus says, “Whoever doesn’t hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes and even life itself, cannot be my disciple.”
That’s not a good verse to cross-stitch.
Jesus says, “I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one’s enemies will be members of one’s own household.”
We wish Jesus would say one sentence about marriage that you could post on Facebook for Valentine’s Day, but the Gospel writers must not have been paying enough attention.
You may enjoy the third session more when we will sit in hula hoops looking into each other’s eyes for an uncomfortable length of time. We will share intimate details and our deepest feelings. Everyone gets to write a love letter. You can mention sex during our discussions, but this is a Christian retreat so we will giggle when you do.
During session four, we will tell you about the marriage-enriching things you are failing to do. We will be asking hard questions: Why is the garage his? Why doesn’t he ever answer the phone? Why does he expect credit for every little thing he does around the house? Why is the bedroom hers? Why is she on her phone so much? Why doesn’t she give him more credit for helping around the house?
On Saturday morning, we will go hiking — the kind of activity that we can easily pretend to enjoy. We will be walking up a little hill, but we will keep calling it hiking up the mountain. Those who don’t want to hike will play Married Pictionary, Married Catchphrase and The Newlywed Game, which are offered as incentives to hike up the mountain.
Saturday night is romantic movie night. The pastor asked us not to watch Trainwreck, though she admits she hasn’t seen it. The other choices are Sleepless in Seattle (the couple only has to get along for the last two minutes of the movie), Groundhog Day (it takes the guy a thousand tries to get it right) or Silver Linings Playbook (is it just me, or is he a little old for her?).
By the end of the weekend, you will either wonder how your parents stayed together without this retreat, or know this weekend could have fixed your broken childhood.
We would like blueprints for the perfect marriage, but God gives us the wisdom to understand that there are no perfect couples. What God gives is the grace to be kind long after the wedding bells have stopped ringing, the grace to be as polite to one another as we are to our friends, and the grace to keep our promises, even when it is hard.