David and Robin Howard

David: We were married 26 years ago, coming up on 27. We both came from Christian homes, have always been faithful going to church and studying God’s word – very much in love with each other, but really had, at that point in time, not developed a strong sense of the purpose of marriage.

Robin: We were in a church that studied the Bible, but we didn’t have community. And we didn’t really have a good form of resolving conflict well. And that just caused a lot of unnecessary pain and struggle at different times in our marriage.

David: It wasn’t one big thing. There weren’t any structural cracks in our marriage, but it was the little things that kept adding up. But after 26 years, we were processing our kids leaving home, an empty nest stage.

And one of the things in my law practice is I kept getting phone calls from clients, although I’m not a divorce lawyer. They would, in talking about business transactions, say, hey, by the way, do you know of a divorce lawyer? I’m having some trouble. And I would always suggest re|engage.

And they would always come back with this, wow, I’m so glad you gave us that message and gave us that opportunity, it’s made a huge difference. So over the years after hearing that, that was a curiosity piqued me and said, well, if it can really be good for marriages that are in trouble and on the brink of divorce, it could also be good for a marriage that just wants to improve.

Robin: It’s a great place to process and learn. And you learn from God’s Word what His plan is for marriage. And you do it in context of community. And you’re encouraged by the other marriages who are going through the same process.

David: And one of the reasons we wanted to go through re|engage is one of our couples out of three had been through re|engage, but two of our couples in our community group had not been through re|engage. Now that all of us have been through re|engage, we have a common language that we can talk to each other about whenever we’re talking through our marriage issues.

Robin: The things we learned in re|engage was just how both of us had our own tendencies toward selfishness. And the principle of drawing the circle around yourself was really helpful in just focusing on what my triggers were and what my default patterns were in dealing with conflict – and to deal with those, it was going to translate to a much better marriage. Whether he changed or not, that wasn’t up to me.

David: Because I think there are these go-to defense mechanisms we all fall into – these common traits that we have or bad habits that we’ve gotten into. And there are some blind spots sometimes that we have. And by going through and identifying those, it’s much easier to be able to deal with them.

It’s really inspiring for a spouse to see them dealing with their own issues. It really makes you want to then start focusing on yourself.

Robin: I think we’ve been able to laugh at things easier, and be able to call each other out on things, and not be so sensitive or defensive, and just say, hey, yeah, you’re right. The other was just the model that God really designed for marriage to what He wanted it to be is a reflection of His love for us. And it’s a mutual sacrifice, a mutual submission. And this is something He’s designed to bring Him glory. And this isn’t something designed just to make me happy.

David: Mediocrity is just not the standard God calls us to. When you have Paul saying we should love our wives as God loves the church, and we really take that apart and figure out what that means, it’s an incredibly high standard. In fact, it’s probably one we can’t even do on our own. We need community, we need the Holy Spirit. So to me, it was the challenge of not wanting to accept mediocrity in our marriage but take ground.

We’re not only accountable to ourselves, but we’re accountable to Christ in how we help our spouse live out their destiny in Christ. So we’ve got to answer for that someday. So to love them well with the standards that Christ has given us is really what God calls us to in marriage.

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