About 20 years ago I changed how I counsel couples who come
to me wanting to get married. I used to
struggle with why I didn’t like the more academic approach of having couples
read books and take tests to direct their new relationship. There is really
nothing wrong with this approach – it just didn’t fit with me.
The change that came 20 years ago arrived as a word from the
Lord to me, “Have them write a letter of
what they want this relationship to become in 50 years and I will give them the
desires of their hearts.”
Right after that word came, I had a couple come in for
marriage counseling and I shared with them how the Lord had changed my approach
to our time together. At the end of our
first meeting, I asked the couple to craft a single page letter to share with me
what they desired to take place in their marriage in the coming 50 years. For our next meeting I asked them to bring
their completed 50 Year Letter.
At our next meeting, I asked for my copy of their letter and
quietly read it to myself as the couple watched. Like all couples in love, they were
holding hands and making eyes at each other. After
reading the letter I thanked them and asked them to schedule three more
appointments with me.
When this young couple left my office, I reread the letter
and highlighted the areas they wrote about – love, communication, family,
finances, dreams, ministry and so on.
For the next few months as we met together, I unpacked each of their
desires and added personal and biblical insight. They eventually got married and began to live
out what was written in their 50 Year Letter.
The assignment I gave to this couple, and to many more like
them over the years, was to keep this letter in a safe place and bring it out
each anniversary and read it aloud together.
When they finish reading it each year, I asked them to then ask each
other where they were in comparison to the desires expressed in their 50 Year
Letter. My hope was that each year the letter would become a yearly marriage tune up or, if needed, it
could become a call for a major overhaul.
God enjoys giving us the desires of our hearts. There is a condition in His giving us our
desires – we must first delight ourselves in Him. Delighting in the Lord means that His values
become our values and what makes Him happy makes us happy.
Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight
yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Our delighting in God precedes His giving us the
desires of our heart.
Now, when I meet a young couple to counsel them for the first
time, before I give them their writing assignment, I share how God feels about
marriage and how much He wants their marriage to succeed. It is from the desire of God’s heart towards
them that a delight in Him emerges. A
God-directed passion and a delighting in God together is where growth as a
couple takes place. This is why I believe God changed how I counsel couples wanting
to get married.
In my office file cabinet is a section filled with 50 Year
Letters written by many couples over the last 20 years. From time-to-time I take out some of the
letters and pray for the couples. I pray that the passion they had for each
other in the beginning, and the delight they shared together in the Lord, would
be burning stronger than ever with each passing anniversary as they read their
50 Year Letter.