This blog is written by friends of the ministry, Will and Cindy Goff.
In our previous blog, we acknowledged that navigating a new life as empty nesters requires intentionality - choices. When the children are off on their own, a couple will experience a new rhythm of life. This can be difficult. Changing a couple’s pace of life often results in the fuzzy thinking that family activities are now unnecessary. They are still necessary but not the same. God’s precepts for us all remain. We still pray for our kids, perhaps even more! We still need to communicate effectively with them and be available. However, the new rhythm affects our marriage as well.
Our Vertical Relationship with God
As empty nesters and soon thereafter retired, we needed to review the choices we had previously made. When we did, we realized that the essential choices, the good choices, were permanent. Practicing Godly precepts was still necessary. Maintaining a vibrant marriage still required a vibrant relationship with Christ. We still needed direction from the Holy Spirit. As we alluded to in our previous blog, our marriage did not always reflect what God intended it to be. The first ten years of our marriage were full of turmoil and ended in divorce. For three years we were apart. Through events too numerous to discuss in this blog, we both encountered God through miraculous works of the Holy Spirit and we each unknowingly accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior on the same day, 1500 miles apart. As a result, we reconciled.
The next few years involved strengthening our personal relationship with God, receiving Godly marriage counsel and learning what fruit would result in making wise choices. It has taken years for us to understand, but our marriage relationship is as vibrant as our relationship is to God. As our Creator has taught us through His word, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. Acknowledge me and I will make your paths straight”. Proverbs 3: 5,6. Although we reconciled, it was God who restored the marriage relationship. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we experienced a new level of intimacy and realized that the “two can become one” when we trusted God and began to focus on our faith rather than performance (which still tries to creep into our minds).
Our Horizontal Relationship with Each Other
So, what choices did we begin to make, and still use, to maintain a vibrant marriage? Each year we established goals for the various areas in our marriage. We no longer wanted to wander aimlessly. In our 40’s still raising kids, we would get away for a weekend once a year and allocate a day to pray. We would then write down the goals we believed God was directing. Finally, we would enjoy a nice dinner or picnic and celebrate what God had placed on our hearts. Of course, these goals were written with the understanding that God would orchestrate our steps. This required grace and some detours from time to time!
The areas we addressed were: Spiritual, Relational, Recreational, Financial and Social. We would share our individual needs and then together write a goal which would reflect where we would hope to see our marriage in the next year. This can be a fun exercise! At home we (Cindy) would transfer them onto a poster board and place them where we could see them and periodically refer to them. Not use them for target dart practice! You can see how being intentional in your marriage brings unity and strength. The fruit which comes from this exercise also applies to empty nesters. Retiring comes with choices as well. You can choose to sit in a chair watching old movie reruns day after day. However, God has a new, or perhaps continuing, vocation for us all. Why not make a wise choice and discover what it may be.
Prayerfully consider among the following:
- Join a small group with other marriage couples at your local church, attend a Two Becoming One study (see Christian Family Life for details), attend a marriage retreat.
- Read materials or listen to podcasts which focus on the emotional/relational aspects of marriage. (Christian Family Life - podcasts/blogs)
- Participate together in a recreational activity. We understand couples often have different interests, but this is a time to explore new territories!
- Participate together reviewing your financial status, both should be involved even though one may pay the bills.
- Interact with like-minded couples. Explore new activities and grow in new relationships.
- Here is the big one: Improve your communication skills. Learn how respectful communication will enhance the vibrancy of your (our) marriage.
“To everything there is a season, a time for purpose under heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1