I called our oldest daughter, Lauren to tell her that her dad and I were leaving town. We would be spending three days in downtown Chicago and then traveling to a suburb of Chicago called Shumburg, to attend Family Life Marriage Conference. Our adult children are very familiar with Family Life Marriage Conferences. As they were growing up, Bill and I would sign up for the two-day get-away conference about every five years as we have found it necessary to review every so often, why God has joined us together. We have found the conference extremely helpful for reminding us of God’s unique design for marriage and that He in fact gifted us to each other; for better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and health, AND we are to like it and be happy about it, until death we do part! We have found the conference knocking us to our senses on more than one occasion. Family Life has been such a great tool for our marriage that when Lauren married her husband, Neil, we insisted on treating them to the conference weekend. We wanted to insure that they would start out on the right side of two-becoming-one. On the day that I called Lauren, the conversation went something like this: “Your dad and I are going to Chicago for the Colliers real estate conference and then at the end of the week, we’ll attend Family Life.” Silence ensued on the other end of the line… after several seconds, Lauren quipped, “I hope you’re going as leaders and not repeaters.” I realized at that moment that she must believe that couples get to a point of “arrival” in marriage and in her mind, her parents should have arrived. She and Neil, being married for six years, are obviously still in the early stage of, “to have and to hold”.
Arriving Friday evening, we entered the grand ballroom of the hotel where we proudly took our seats, front and center. There were over 400 couples in the room. As I scoped out the other couple participants, I took note of several “to-be married”, “just married”, “happily married for ten years or less”, and some “should have never married”. When the master of ceremonies asked for those married thirty years or longer to please stand, I fluffed my hair, straightened my tiara and stood with a straight back to receive the well deserved congratulatory applause. I turned to take my imaginary bow, my tiara sparkling. As I proudly faced the audience, I noticed only two or three other couples who fell into our age group. My tiara began a slow slide from my gloating head. If I had remembered my magic wand, I would have swirled it in the air, vanishing Bill and myself from the room. With all eyes locked on us, I could only imagine the thoughts in the minds of these young couples who were the same ages as our children. Were they, like Lauren thinking that we belonged in the “should be graduates” group? By all appearance, we did in fact fall into the same age category as the couple leading the weekend.
Family Life is committed to changing families, one marriage at a time. The conference touches on all the potential home wrecking topics such as: child rearing, submission, respect, and communication, just to name a few. This was our fourth time as attendees and we have found that with each conference, there is a new thought or idea that opens our eyes and catches our attention. I could only pray that this would be the case on this particular weekend if I was going to swallow my pride and rub elbow to elbow with this crowd of young marrieds.
As it happened, we shared our hotel with approximately one hundred very tall, capable high school basketball players. They were in Shumburg for a weekend basketball camp sponsored by Under Armor sport clothing. Under Armor’s marketing slogan is “Protect this House”. Bill and I found this slogan more than fitting for our purpose of repeatedly attending the conference. We too want to “protect this house”, to build a strong marital foundation upon a rock, not sand, in order that we may leave a legacy of love and commitment for future generations. C. S. Lewis said, “There are lots of things you can do with sand; but do not try building a house on it.” We committed long ago to continually work together on the foundation of our marriage and family. We see this work continuing until death we do part. Therefore, that meant overlooking age and overcoming the fact that we stuck out among the group of young people.
Once we recovered from the initial shock of being the elders in the group, Bill and I settled in with the attitude that we would use the time to knock the rust off and affirm that we are in fact building our relationship on a solid foundation. As by God’s divine appointment, the conference did in fact hit a few corroded spots in both Bill and me. By the end of the second day, we were refreshed and encouraged to have behind us some of the issues that the younger couples were just beginning to tread upon, which we also had addressed in the past, as well as some issues in our lives that have developed since becoming empty nesters. The review was good for us. We have a greater appreciation for our past and each other and are looking forward to the next thirty years. At the end of the conference, we recommitted our lives to each other by reciting our marriage vows and determined that we are both prepared to be leaders, not repeaters.