Five years ago, Christina received the shocking news that her brother was getting divorced after nine years of marriage. It hit her hard and she found that she went through all the stages of grief, especially anger and depression. It started to affect her family life and she felt God calling her to look at her own marriage. When she looked in the mirror, she didn’t like what she saw. With four young children and trying to balance alternating job schedules with Jon working during the day and her in the evening, they felt like roommates.
“With our jobs, we were ‘tag team parenting’. We were like passing ships in the night. We didn’t do many meals together because of our jobs and we weren’t praying together. By the time we were actually alone, we were exhausted so we just watched TV. Since we were exhausted, our fighting was worse,” said Christina.
After some introspection, Christina knew there was a hole in her heart. However, she realized she was trying to fill it with her husband. She came to understand only Jesus can satisfy her deepest hunger. She could see how her expectations of Jon were unrealistic.
“I was holding Jon on a higher pedestal than he should be on since we all are sinners,” said Christina.
After this revelation, it was the start of focusing more attention on their own marriage. Around this time, God placed in her heart to plan a marriage retreat.
“I wanted the marriage retreat to be a safe place where other couples could come and see that we are all in this fight together, and that we don't have the ‘Instagram perfect’ marriage. Just like any Olympic athlete, it takes hard work! I wanted speakers to share practical ways to make our marriages better and closer to Christ,” said Christina.
That first year, Christina spent two months planning the retreat and she had seven couples. By the second year, the registration sold out in four days with 25 couples registered. This will be the fourth year the retreat will be held.
“It has been so amazing to see God touch so many couples’ hearts,” said Christina.
Christina explained that before she and her team of volunteers start planning for a retreat, she always prays a novena, a special nine-day prayer. She said that every time she does this, God shares something new that she needs to work on for the retreat.
“I'm still amazed at how God leads the retreat, not me. Every year, I ask the speakers to pray about what to talk about. I give them a few ideas to get them thinking but I want them to seek how the Holy Spirit may be guiding them based on their own personal experiences. It always amazes me how all the talks, even though they are different topics, all go together so perfectly. God smashes them together like we did it on purpose, but we didn't,” said Christina.
When the craziness and stress of planning the retreat hit, it can be hard to see the forest from the trees. However, when Christina looks back at her marriage, she is quickly reminded about the importance of this work.
"Any time I question doing another retreat, God reminds me and shows me friends, family and even clients that need this for their marriage. I need it. It's taken several retreats, but Jon and I are learning to take a step back from the “planning role” a bit so we can sit, listen and be a part of the retreat as well.”
To learn more about A Deeper Love Marriage Retreat, visit here.
Below are questions for your own personal reflection and prayer. If you'd like, feel free to respond to a question in the comments so others can benefit from your faith journey.
1. How is God calling you to use the crosses you bear to produce fruit or bring about good?
2. How is God moving in your marriage? How is He calling you to love your spouse more deeply? What can you do to prioritize your marriage?
3. Do you have unrealistic expectations in your marriage or close relationships?