Kathy Petersen’s Blog

Focus on Marriage Teleconference

Posted in Christianity, marriage by Kathy on March 2, 2009

This past Saturday, my husband and I were privileged to be among the 80,000 people who attended the Focus on Marriage teleconference brought by Focus on the Family. I hope that the presentations will become available as DVDs, because they were all truly wonderful. To give you some perspective, I practically had to drag my husband kicking and screaming, and within just a few minutes into the first speaker’s presentation, I could tell he was glad he came, and has repeatedly affirmed that sentiment in the hours and days since. To be honest, he didn’t tell me that he didn’t want to go, because he didn’t want to “throw cold water” over me; but it was very obvious that he didn’t want to get up so early in the morning on Saturday to go to a marriage workshop.

Actually, it was not a “workshop” (which is really what I thought it would be, at least partly, complete with workbook and materials, breaking up into small groups — either couples’ groups or male-groups and female-groups). Instead it was a presentation, a speech, not a “lecture” (which has boring overtones), or some other form of teaching session, in which a total of 5 speakers spoke for about an hour apiece (I’m guessing), each from his (or her) own background, on the theme of marriage. Although there was no collaboration beforehand from the various speakers, it was evident that the handiwork of God was involved, because, just like the Bible is one unit though written by dozens of different men, this conference all melded together although there were 5 different speakers.

I’ll be writing the remainder relying heavily on my notes, but I make no pretense of being able to recreate the speeches from the notes, but rather giving the sense of the speech, and how I felt, and what I learned. I will say that there were numerous times when I sat and listened while my husband took notes (because the speaker was talking more to men), and vice versa. It would be interesting to me to see what other people who were also able to attend or view the conference took away from it, so feel free to link to me and/or leave a comment about it. There were about 40 people at our particular site, and I know there were about 500 remote locations, in addition to the actual conference site in Colorado Springs. Each speaker was introduced and followed by one of the Focus on the Family staff, but unless otherwise noted, I didn’t take notes from what they said, because much of it was just introducing the person or announcing a break or the next speaker.

The first speaker was Gary Thomas, and the title of his speech was “Seeing Your Marriage Through the Eyes of God.”

If your goal is to serve Jesus, stay single. If your goal is to become like Jesus, get married. God designed marriage to make us more holy than happy. Marriage is the joining of two sinners into one, forcing them to live together, which more or less magnifies all the sins and faults and foibles of the other; and it forces us to take on the nature of a servant, as Jesus Himself did. James 3:2 says that we all stumble in many ways — everyone offends. If you think the problem in your marriage is your spouse, so you decide to get a divorce and find someone else, rest assured that that other person will also offend — perhaps in different ways, but will offend nonetheless, and you will offend the other person.

It’s redundant to say “difficult marriage” because all marriages have difficulties [WOW!] — because it is the joining of two sinners.

Most marriages fail, not for lack of “how to” but for lack of “heart to.” If you know how to do something but don’t want to, it doesn’t matter because you will not do it; however, if you want to do something, you’ll figure out how to do that thing. People who are romantically in love do not have to be told how to make the other person feel good — they do that automatically, because they have the heart to do that; the problem arises when they “fall out of love” and no longer have the heart to please the other person that they begin to have difficulty in pleasing them.

We need to rediscover the purpose of marriage: to shape our souls. The purpose of marriage is not unending romance, the “happily ever after” picture in movies and books — on the scale of human history, that view of marriage is a recent invention. Are we asking more from our marriages or our spouse than God intended? — if so, it is not the fault of marriage nor our spouse nor God if we are unhappy in our marriage! Neuroscientists have been able to measure brain chemicals of romantic attraction and emotions, and have discovered that at the most, the “romantic” emotions of marriage do not last more than 24-36 months. When these emotions fade, it leads people to question, wonder, or assume that they have “married the wrong person” because they start from the assumption that the feelings shouldn’t fade; rather than questioning the (romantic) view of marriage.

Expectations affect reaction — if you expect to be renting a compact car, but instead are given a free upgrade to a luxury sedan or a nice, roomy truck, you will be very happy with your “good luck.” If you expect to rent a nice truck and that’s what you end up with, you may start grumbling about not getting the leather seats or some other luxury you wish you had ended up with. But if you expect a luxury sedan and end up with a nice, roomy truck (a down-grade), then you will be sorely disappointed. The actual object (nice, roomy truck) was the same each time, but the expectations beforehand made your reaction different. In a similar way, if we expect to remain head-over-heels in love in marriage, when those feelings subside, we feel gypped. But it is not the fault of marriage, but our expectations when that happens! Marriage isn’t about being young together, but growing old together.

We need to become a God-centered spouse. A spouse-centered spouse responds to the spouse based on how the spouse acts or treats me, rather than treating the spouse based on how God tells me to treat him, or on how God deserves to be treated. Marriage provides the context for us to grow in the ways we need to (which goes back to the point made in the first paragraph). 2 Cor. 7:11 says we need to purify ourselves, perfecting holiness. Our difficult spouse/marriage may be the perfect training ground for us to perfect holiness within us — learning things such as patience, meekness, longsuffering, humility, etc.

If you are married to a Christian, you are married to a child of God. That makes God your Father-in-law! God feels about your spouse the way you feel about your children. You need to love your spouse out of reverence for God.

When you ask an engaged woman about her fiancé, she can talk for 15 minutes solid, telling what all he is; but if you asks a woman who has been married for more than a few years about her husband, she launches into a list of everything in which he fails, or all that he is not. When does a man become known by what he is not, rather than by what he is? Because of our expectations about marriage, and when we become disappointed because of our expectations, we focus on what we don’t have, rather than on what we do have.

We need to seek first the kingdom of God: 1) redeeming love; 2) grow in His righteousness — to be loved and how to love; 3) “and all these things shall be added unto you” — do right first, and happiness will come; but if you seek happiness first, it will elude you.

After Gary Thomas spoke, Mitch Temple (who was more or less in charge of the conference, and is a director of the marriage programs at Focus on the Family) said that one of the big problems in marriage is the idea of “consumerism in marriage” — that is, that “I am the consumer, and you are the producer.” But this is false — marriage is bigger than me.

More posts to follow!


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  1. […] camp, jim daly, jim dobson, john trent, marriage, marriage conference, marriage workshop |   Click here for the introduction and part […]

  2. […] john trent, marriage, marriage conference, marriage workshop, unity, wife, wives |   Here is part 1 with the introduction; part 2; and part […]

  3. […] john trent, marriage, marriage conference, marriage workshop, unity, wife, wives |   (Click here for the introduction and part 1, if you haven’t read parts 1-4 […]

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