We’ve been married 46 years. We have three sons and eight grandkids, and we’ve had a great life. But when we reflect on the last 15 years of our marriage, they have been some of our happiest years, and it’s all because of a vision retreat.
When we look at our journey and the crisis we came to, we can see that our schedules consumed our lives. We didn’t guard our marriage against it,and we let our guard down. That caused so many difficult things to happen for us. I put our marriage into cruise control, and we coasted into a devastating crisis. I messed up and compromised our marriage with adultery.
We were in ministry at the time, and I disclosed it to my overseer. A few weeks later, I resigned, and Betty and I went into a five-year period of intense recovery. I decided at that point that I didn’t want to put any band-aids on our situation. I wanted to get to the root of what my problem was.
We sometimes didn’t know from one day to the next whether we were going to divorce or if we were going to make it or murder each other.
What we found is that the church often does not know how to handle ugly, stinky situations like ours. They know how to handle sanitary sins—not yucky ones—but ours was about as ugly and yucky as it could get. We desperately looked for real help and ministry, and we got it in XO, but the road to healing was not easy.
I woke up every day around 5:30 am and watched Jimmy Evans on Daystar. It was part of my renewal, and how I reprogrammed how I looked at my marriage, at Betty, and at conflict.
We’d been taking in XO’s material for severalyears when we heard Jimmy talk about vision retreats. We said, “That is something we need to try.” So,we went to southern Michigan to a friend’s cabin in the woods for three days and brought the book. It was so enlightening because the book asked questions that we wouldn’t have thought about asking, and it gave us time to work through them.
We had no internet, no cell phone service—just us and the squirrels.
The retreat was instrumental in helping us look beyond the crisis that we were still healing from, and it pushed us to focus on our future, past our recovery.
The retreat pushed us to think about what our vision was and where we wanted to go. How did we want to get there? What was in our hearts beyond that present moment?
We bought a house, and it needed nine months of remodeling—which would have been stressful—but we’d just done our retreat. I don’t know how many times we stopped and reflected back on what we’d talked about and decided in that cabin. Refocusing on our vision actually made the intensity of the project enjoyable.
Our retreat was so helpful to us that we wanted to do whatever we couldto provide those sametools to other couples. We are marriage pastors at our churchnow, and about a year ago, we walked a group of couples through a vision retreat series. We saw them digging and thinking about where they are and where they wanted to go.
We want to enable other couples to do what they needtokeep their marriage intact,so they can accomplish their best in marriage. That’s our dream—especially for young couples with kids—because we know that no matter where you’re at in your marriage, you are guided by vision. Whether you’ve got little ones or teenagers at home,or you’re coming into an empty nest stage, vision progresses, and it has to be established continuously, according to the stage you’re at. Every season requires that you look deep into what you want in your future and get things back on track to where you want to go.
We believe so strongly in the benefits of vision retreats that we’re in the process of remodeling our basement to turnit into a vision retreat center for couples who can’t afford a Motel 6, so they can have a place to work through a retreat where finances wouldn’t be a burden. The Lord put it on our hearts to remove that wall—that challenge—and bless other couples and help them along their marriage journey. We want to do all we can to make retreats conducive to couples and help them to do this if they want to. Finances shouldn’t be a deterrent to a healthy marriage.
Wise Words from Denny & Betty
Over the years, we’ve had the privilege of helping other couples whose pastors mayhavewrittenthem off thinking, “I’m not going to waste my time on them.” Andwe’ve seen those couplesrestored to flourishing, healthy marriages today. We just give our story to people. We try to be open books that read, “This is what we learned. This is what we found out.” Ignoring stuff? It doesn’t work. You can’t ignore things—big or little—and expect them to just go away. You can’t brush it under the rug.The Word says, “Without vision, people cast off restraint” (Proverbs 29:18). In other words, it’s like we don’t have a boundary or anything to guide us.
The vision you establish on a retreat is the boundary—the guide for your marriage.Even though we were pastoring, we were busy with ministry. We left our marriage alone like it was just supposed to happen. But marriage doesn’t just happen. We’re discovering that the maintenance of marriage is continuous andcultivated. You never arrive. You cannot put it oncruise control. You have to continually press into it. It’s intentional. It’s about feeding your marriage daily, so that it becomes rich and new and doesn’t get lost in the midst of life.
Do you have a story of how XO has impacted your marriage? We would love to hear it! Submit your story here.