Marriage Relationships: A Picture of Jesus & His Bride, A Man & His Wife
In 2010, my wife, Suling and I were shocked and saddened to hear that parents we knew (our children attended the same elementary school) were breaking up. We befriended this family through the rhythms of school activity. What happened? As we listened to their story, we came to understand that good looking marriages on the surface often do not translate to health deep down. Marriages journey through different seasons. Some get entrenched in brokenness, pain, bitterness, contempt, etc. from a progressively hardening heart. Break ups ensue.
After pondering and praying, we were led to “not just sit around idly by and do nothing … let’s not just idly watch the marriages of folks as some deteriorate into unhealthy ones or default to autopilot … let’s do something – something positive and proactive – to bless our community.”
A persistent impression from the Spirit sprung into a movement. A core team of volunteers (greeters, set up, registrars, cooks, hosts, technical) birthed the idea of bringing The Marriage Course by Alpha Canada to a mall. In the early days, we wanted to host the course in a safe, neutral space. People frequented Oakridge Mall (right on the Canada Line with ample free parking) and we were able to connect with its Oakridge Senior’s Centre. We rented that space as our “relationship central” for the community. Since then, we’ve hosted courses in church chapels, large halls, and in our home. A former intern and alumni from our first course, now a chaplain to the city, has hosted courses at a Waves Coffee shop in downtown Vancouver.
Couples of all ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds are invited to come out for a “date night” every Wednesday evening for 8 weeks. We turn the place into a restaurant. Lights are dimmed, love songs play in the background. Each couple is shown to a beautifully set table for two – complete with tablecloth, roses, & candle. There is ample time and space to chat privately and reconnect in a fun, relaxing, and music filled atmosphere over a lovingly prepared meal. Quality food is key. Suling hails from an iconic restaurant family in Halifax, NS; she brings that restaurant DNA to bless many eager appetites and we also have a professional chef on our cooking team. “What’s on the menu tonight?” is often on the mind of couples driving to the course.
Each of the couple uses a guidebook to interact with each other and the DVD teaching of Nicky and Sila Lee (Holy Trinity Brompton, UK). There is no group discussion. Response is always overwhelmingly positive as couples learn and grow in their relational and spiritual health. The time carved out of their busy schedule is never a waste and is strongly encouraging for each couple and also for us. After the course, many couples really miss Wednesday date nights.
Subsequent to hosting The Marriage Course (8 weeks), we have run The Marriage Preparation Course (5 weeks), The Parenting Children Course (5 weeks) and The Parenting Teenagers Course (5 weeks). These 4 courses make up what is known as “Relationship Central.”
In 6 years of hosting The Marriage Course and Marriage Preparation Course, over 90+ couples and 50+ couples respectively, have participated. In the weeks together, strangers and acquaintances become friends. Many invite others to the next course offering. After each course, we have evaluation and feedback from the couples, giving them opportunity to meet up with us after the course ends. We have discovered that the weeks following each course is a natural and organic opportunity for my wife and me to engage in deeper conversations about relationship issues and spirituality. Some have experienced genuine life change and have come to Christ in new found faith. Regardless of where couples are in their faith journey, we believe many have taken one step closer to the Father. We still count many couples as close friends and connect with their families regularly.
The course is full of substantive material, practical takeaways, and biblical principles. Many couples do return and do invite others …
“My husband and I cannot begin to tell you how grateful we are for having taken The Marriage Course … During that time we learned about the importance of respecting each other, and not taking each other for granted. Most importantly, we learned that despite our busy, sometime chaotic lives, we need to make time to re-connect with one another. When we found out that we had the opportunity to take this course again, we jumped on it! This time around we knew that we were getting some very valuable tools. The Marriage Course has provided my husband and I with the skills to “fill each others’ love tanks.” ~ K & P (Seekers)
We would encourage you to consider blessing your community through one of these Relationship Central Courses. Perhaps begin with The Marriage Course or The Marriage Preparation Course. If you are interested in hosting a course, we would be glad to offer any assistance you require. We are regional Relationship Central coaches for Alpha Canada and it would be a pleasure and joy to serve you with a conversation, and, if needed, training later on.
Blessings, Lawrence & Suling Yuen