We have just returned from an annual conference that is near and dear to our hearts, the Okoboji Lakes Bible and Missionary Conference. This Conference has been in existence for 78 years and it has been a part of our lives for 12. Each year we see people that we don’t see any other time but each year there is no gap. We just start right where we left off. It’s an amazing phenomenon to be connected to others by a common belief. It’s encouraging. It challenges us to “keep on keeping on” and sometimes it challenges us to take a new step. (more on that in another post) This week one of the many “take-aways” I came home with has to do with marriages and pride. Because of our own story and our experience in marriage mentoring people feel comfortable discussing relationships with us. We heard the same story multiple times. The sad part is I would say at least 50% of the time that is all they want to do, discuss.
If the person we are talking to is one of the people in the relationship they have taken the first and often hardest step, they are admitting they need help. However sometimes all they are looking for is sympathy, maybe even confirmation that they are not in the wrong and that it is their spouses fault. We’ve learned over time not to be too hard on the one talking to us because it is often a step in the process of healing. As I said, at least they are admitting something is going on.
My real quandary is our friends who came to us because they care about their friends who are apparently struggling but they want to keep it all a secret. They are striving to minimize anything that is happening (or not happening). Obviously someone is struggling or they wouldn’t be talking to us in the first place but they only want to have very secretive conversations hidden behind closed doors. Now, I don’t believe in “airing your dirty linens” for all the world to see at every moment. The exact details of my family’s issues are ours to own. That said, when we need help, we need help. Those wiser and more experienced than I cannot help if they do not know I have a need. I have witnessed the pain of divorce in our family and close friends. It is awful, messy and long lived. I believe the pain of honestly stating the need for help to be much shorter in duration and often with a positive outcome. I have experienced the power of mentoring. Couples sitting with couples, caring and providing a safe environment to peel back the layers of struggle. Listening, really listening and helping the hurting couple to do the same. This process enables the hurting couple to get beyond the obvious, the surface issue and get to the root of the trouble. Oddly enough the issue that can be seen is not usually the real source of trouble.
I could go on and on with lessons learned, most of them from experience in our marriage but I won’t right now. The sorrow I’m feeling right now is that so many couples never give their marriage a chance once they feel the hurt. They give up. Why? I’m sure there are many reasons but the one I kept hearing this week was, “we want to keep this quiet.” Oh there are all kinds of reasons (excuses) for this and some of them sound good. “We don’t want to hurt (embarrass)the children or our parents.” “I don’t want people at work to know.” “It would only make things worse.” Really? Or is it simply our pride? Do we not want our neighbors to know we are struggling? If you or someone you know is struggling in your/their marriage PLEASE reach out. If you don’t know where to begin, contact us. There are trained, caring couples all over the state of Iowa waiting to help. They WILL keep your situation confidential. It does not cost a lot of money. God has used mentors to repair and strengthen marriages for years. We are fortunate to have trained mentors in many regions around Iowa. These people are trained volunteers who are passionate about marriage and family. They WANT to help.
If you live in NW Iowa contact the Cherish Center at 712-338-3333. Central Iowa contact Treasure Chest Ministries 515-897-0597. Eastern Iowa contact Twogether Mentoring
A note to friends of those struggling: Friends don’t let friends keep on struggling with no intervention. We also heard several stories of divorces that surprised all but a few close friends of “Christian couples.” How can a divorce be a surprise? Broken relationships don’t happen overnight. Relationships erode far more often than they explode. If you really care you will faithfully pray AND verbally encourage your friends to seek help. Don’t allow their pride/fear to get in the way of possibly saving their marriage. They may not initially agree to seeking help. Don’t give up. Keep praying. Make yourself available to talk. Continue to ask questions and listen, really listen to their answers. Nothing is to hard for our God. He can soften their hearts. You might be just the catalyst they need.