Monday and Tuesday Nick and I were in San Clemente with a great group of local pastors and wives in our presbytery (we are part of the Presbyterian Church of America, or PCA for short). It was very encouraging to meet and connect with other couples that are in a very similar stage of life as us and also laboring in ministry in Southern California. The whole event was exactly what we needed: encouragement, fellowship with couples we could relate with, and some alone time. The one thing that stuck out to me the most from our discussions with other couples was when our small group leader asked us "Do you guys have people in your life that check in on your marriage and family life? Do you have another couple or a friend who you feel comfortable with sharing your struggles and burdens with?" Many of us have a handful of close friends and family whom we trust and love, but to have someone that you can come to on a different and more intimate level with is another story.
And it was not a surprise to me that most people did not have people in their lives that checked in on their marriage or that they felt comfortable with sharing things about their marriage/family with. Yes, our spouse is and should be our best friend and most intimate partner, and they should be someone we can go to about anything. But what if you need advice and counsel from someone about your spouse? If you need encouragement about sin you are struggling with or a rough patch in your stage of life? Who then should you turn to?
By God's grace, Nick and I were able to confidently say 'yes' to that question. We do have this support and I do not share this with you to boast but to share how valuable these relationships are for our marriage. When sharing such deep and personal situations with someone that is not your spouse, there is a lot of wisdom that goes into finding and trusting someone that you can open up to. A lot of the time our pride and sins get in the way of being able to admit to someone that we are sinners and in need of help. The support and encouragement both Nick and I have received from our "check-in friends" has been invaluable.
So if you are contemplating if you should have someone to help keep you accountable and encourage you like this then please let me reassure you: it is worth it! I have found it most helpful that my friend is almost the same age as me, has the same amount of kids as me, has similar philosophies as I do in parenting and in life, is a pastors wife like myself, and is obviously a Christian. Both of us feel as though we have two-way communication with our friends in that it is a two-way street of checking-in with one another. If you can't think of a friend whom you could pick up the phone and call and share deep parts of your heart with, then try being that kind of friend for someone else. If you know a friend who is going through a dry valley or could use some encouragement, reach out to them. A card, phone call, bible verse/passage, or coffee date can not only help that person but their whole family as well.
Our conference leader and Nick's professor at Westminster Seminary, Dr. Dennis Johnson quoted a murder mystery book in which the main character tries to get cracked and broken people to admit 1. I'm wrong. 2. I'm sorry. 3. I need help. and 4. I don't know. These are four sentences that are difficult for any person to admit and reveal to someone. This struck a cord with me since I often find myself struggling to discuss things like this when something is not going as planned. Having a friend to confide in can not only help you confront your sins, quite possible save your marriage and family life from ever slipping away from you, but they also can and should constantly lead you to the cross--the only place where we are reminded of our nakedness before God, and our shamelessness through Jesus Christ. It is there where we are forgiven, restored, and renewed.
Galatians 6:2 says, "Bear one another's burdens."
Colossians 1:9-10 - "And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as walk in a manner worth of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God."