Every other year Nan and I have attended a major Christian counseling conference. It is the kind of event that attracts most of the heavy hitters in the industry. We look forward to it for several reasons. It affords us the opportunity to continue to grow within our profession, and it introduces us to new faces as well as reconnects us with familiar ones. But I think the biggest benefit is that it gives us a vitality injection. Just joining together with seven to eight thousand other pastors, counselors and people helpers is energizing.
I believe it is the same with relationship conferences and seminars. Even if you have been married for a long time it is likely that you will pick up some helpful new snippets of learning. Perhaps, however, the greatest benefit of participating in these events is being with others that are in a similar pursuit. In short, it is comforting to know that you are not alone in your struggle to understand and grow relationships.
This week we begin teaching our 35th pre-married/pre-engagement class at our church. As I look back I am pleased that the class has evolved. Both the content and the delivery systems have changed. Our original overhead projector (remember those?) was retired many years ago in favor of a laptop computer and projector. Statistics have been updated. Content has been added and subtracted or re-stated. And a lot of those content updates have flowed from our participation in conferences and seminars.
I am always saddened when I hear someone brag that the last book they read was in school. What a shame! What if they said the same thing about food? They would have died of starvation long ago. Relationships can starve of nourishment, too. They require regular feeding to stay healthy and growing. So often it is the guys that resist participation in relationship events. I am sure that most of the sign-ups for our class are done by the women. I understand that – I don’t like to admit that there might be some insufficiencies in me. It triggers a primary inadequacy wound that is found in most men. But I can assure you that just the fact that you are willing to go means something significant to your partner. It means that she is important.
Just like with counseling, many people do not attend these events until their relationship is in trouble. They go looking for a solution to the pain.
What if instead you could prevent the pain by being committed to ongoing growth?
But I must also give you a caveat. It is not enough to just attend an event. You must be willing to let it change you. You have to be engaged in the process and do the sometimes hard work. Some people come out of an anger management class just as angry and unyielding as when they went in. Pride or fear keeps them from being helped. But you can be different. You can be an overcomer and a winner.
James 1:23-24 (NIV) Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.