The first weekend of this month, Barbara and I were in Minneapolis, MN with 150 married couples from Bethlehem Baptist Church. The weekend marked the 4th time they had hosted a marriage retreat. There were couples who had been married for 2 months up to 49 years! It was an incredible weekend. Let me share some of it with you.
On Saturday, one couple approached me after I finished teaching on conflict in marriage. I could tell that they had been through some difficulty. I was a bit tired by this point in the weekend but I managed to listen well to their story and respond to their questions. As our interaction ended, I wondered whether I had said anything helpful at all. These types of short interactions over the course of a weekend are always a struggle for me. I can tend to minimize these brief encounters with people I barely know. The next day, the wife handed me a note that simply read, “The Lord has done a real work. Thank you for praying.” As I read the note, I was humbled and reminded of how God uses our feeble efforts to accomplish His work through our relationships with one another.
One of the surprising benefits of regularly teaching on communication, conflict and practicing forgiveness is that it provides ample opportunity to do some really good personal evaluation! I am always reminded of how much I need to grow in these areas myself. That shouldn’t come as a surprise but there is a subtle temptation when you are viewed as the invited expert. Whenever I teach on these topics, I immediately begin to think about my relationships with my wife, children, co-workers, extended family and beyond. I am quickly reminded of my own sins, failures, and weaknesses. And I am also reminded of God’s sustaining grace and patience with me.
At CCEF, we have the privilege of working with all kinds of people who are dealing with the challenges of living life in a world full of sin and suffering. But it is within that context that God reminds us of how privileged we are to do what we do. On behalf of all of us at CCEF, I want to thank you for your prayers and financial support. God is using your gifts in the lives of countless people all over the world.