Sometimes in life it’s easy to allow our individual or family cultural values and beliefs to affect and define the way we do things – or the way we think things should be.
This can be good in certain instances, but not all the time. And I’ve come to see that marriage is one of the institutions where the cultural values of people can at times be overbearing, unhelpful and at its worst: detrimental to the marriage.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for the bride kneeling down to feed her husband a piece of their wedding cake on their wedding day as part of the Nigerian tradition… It’s what I did and I was proud to do so. I wanted my husband’s family to know that this “oyinbo” wife was indeed raised right by her parents lol.
But that’s part of what I mean. Kneeling down to feed your husband a piece of your wedding cake on your wedding day may show “good training” in certain cultures, but it’s an aspect of “culture” that will not save your marriage if he’s committing adultery, or can’t manage the finances, or can’t control his temper… Whatever the trial may be… any more so than if you hadn’t knelt down to feed your husband during such a ceremonious display of cake cutting.
As you can see, this isn’t about cake or even kneeling down lol. But it’s just to emphasise the fact that sometimes we allow culture to determine certain things in our marriage and relationships which may or may not be beneficial.
Either way, Mr B and I wanted to have an experience of learning more about God’s design for Marriage, straight Bible style without any extra cultural ingredients being added to the mix. In May last year we went on our first Marriage retreat run by our church, which was great. We went again in May this year and again it was great.
However, with my church being comprised of a rather predominately Nigerian population, I couldn’t help but wonder if some aspects of discussion would have been different with a more diverse group of people. I wanted Mr B and I to have a “different” kind of experience and thus we booked a marriage prayer retreat with Time For Marriage.
I found them online and their website states:
“Time for Marriage are a network of couples from many different denominations and backgrounds who believe in being authentic, vulnerable and full of faith for our marriages. We believe in God’s plan for renewed marriages, and we pray that God will transform marriages and families in the UK and beyond. We are committed to being part of the answer to that prayer.”
I was intrigued and so glad to see the fact that the couples who make up the organisation are from many different backgrounds and denominations. That meant it was going to be an educational study as well as a spiritual exploration of God’s design for marriage without any added “cultural extras or doctrines”…Straight Bible… No Culture.
I spoke to Mr B about it and booked it. He was a bit apprehensive because he didn’t think we should book something the weekend before travelling to Nigeria as we may need to use that weekend to do last minute errands for the trip etc… But I was so determined that we were not going to miss this. And plus… I explained to him that if we plan and manage our time properly… Then we wouldn’t need to do any last minute errands. He couldn’t really argue with that kind of reasoning and thus we set off that weekend to the Penhurst Retreat Centre in East Sussex.
The venue was one of sublime beauty, in the heart of the countryside and the rooms were just perfect – with a vintage flare – which is my ultimate favourite decorative style.
Even the room we were in was interesting. The leaders had prayed about each couple before meeting us and asked God to place them in the rooms that would be best for them. Lo and behold: We were placed in a room called The Samuel Crowther Room. Each room was named after a missionary from the past. We later discovered that Samuel Crowther was in fact a Nigerian missionary in London during the 1800s who went on to become the first Anglian Bishop in Africa. (I guess some culture still had to come into it lol).
Being in a place like this and being amongst other Christian couples with such warm and kind hearts was simply the perfect environment to spend time in fellowship with others, discussing and reflecting on our marriages in such peace and tranquility. The Executive Directors of Time For Marriage, Andy and Fiona Banes, were also leading some of the seminars and workshops and they were so kind and honest and open.
Mr B and I had a chance to really discuss aspects of our marriage and our relationship with God in a way that we hadn’t before. Learning more about God’s design for marriage helped us to realise how much we had grown as husband and wife in the past two years and how much more God has planned for us.
One of the things I learnt was that when we first got married, Mr B’s goal was to just make sure I was happy all the time. But then that meant he was always making sacrifices for me instead of us thinking about what’s the best outcome for both of us the way God would want it. We had to consider different situations and scenarios in our lives and in our marriages and the way we would deal with them. In each situation we learnt we had to ask ourselves:
Is it me winning?
Or is it my husband/wife winning?
Or is it God winning?
Where can we compromise in a healthy way so that the outcome is always “It’s God winning”?
Another thing we learnt more about was the marriage triangle. I had always known about it and assumed that Mr B and I were following the path of the triangle well. But when we had to discuss certain things and actually physically draw the triangle, it was clear that our triangle wasn’t a perfect equilateral triangle. We then had to reflect and look into why this was the case and how to rectify it.
It came to light that the marriage ministry that God had promised we would have, was a significant aspect of the imbalance of our triangle. The key thing was that God said we were both to be involved, even if it’s primarily through me. After praying, we made the decision to get Mr B more involved. I still didn’t know how because Mr B can be quite reserved but as God would have it – he was more than happy to be part of the Q&A session at the relationship seminar we held in Nigeria later that month – and he was able to give young women insight about forming godly relationships from a male perspective.
It reminds me of a time when I was worried that Mr B was not as involved as I thought he should be, in church life and church activities after his conversion – and God intervened with that too…But that’s a story for another day lol. Maybe I’ll do a video about it… And maybe he’ll even join me so we can do the husband tag. Let me know if you’d like to see that.
One of the things I loved about Time For Marriage was that the leaders actually met and prayed with each couple individually, so it had a personal touch to it as opposed to being like a training seminar.
Fellowship is so key in God’s Kingdom and this was so beautifully displayed throughout the whole weekend. It was an awesome experience getting to know other Christian couples, especially outside of your own race, age and typical social group. Despite being the youngest couple on the course, we were able to form good friendships and we were able learn and grow through fellowship.
The last night was topped off with the most beautiful of dinners. A 5* quality 3 course meal. And with my new healthy eating regime it fit perfectly because the food was healthy and delicious and the desert was just out of this world…and not fattening lol.
Before heading back home on the last day, the leaders prayed for each couple and other couples were free to join in with the prayers as the spirit lead them. This really touched me as Mr B and I had just received some bad news before we went on the marriage weekend away, which I’ll share one day in the future. But the prayers really soothed my soul. And as Andy and Fiona were praying for Mr B and I, Fiona said she could see a light upon us like the light from a light house, and that our marriage is like a beacon to lead others to Christ.
One of the things Mr B and I took away from the retreat was to actively invest more time in ourselves as a married couple. We decided to pick a day and designate it as our marriage day, where we both pray and fast for our marriage on that day, share Holy Communion, have Bible study and date night. It sounds like a lot lol but it’s SO worth it.
MARRIAGE is worth it!
Someone once questioned if it’s even necessary to have a marriage ministry. And I feel… No, not feel… I BELIEVE…and I KNOW that it most definitely is! The world needs to know what God’s true intent for marriage is, especially in the world we live in today – where that view of the true beauty of marriage has been so disastrously distorted.
And I believe that the vision of Time for Marriage most definitely propels such a view into the hearts of all that come on their retreats. They clearly show how Jesus has come to restore and heal everything that has been broken in this world… Especially the very institution that is to be a reflection of His love for the church.
In no way am I dismissing the power, necessity or importance of culture in our lives or even in our marriages. It contributes to our characters and to who we are, what we enjoy doing for fun, how we discipline, and how we teach and train future generations to come. And I am proud of my rich Nigerian culture. I love it and couldn’t imagine being from anywhere else. (Imagine a life without jollof rice…God forbid! Lol)
But sometimes… Actually … All the time… As much as culture does have a place in our lives and in our marriages, we must remember that it should always FIRST be, Marriage: Straight Bible…Just Jesus.
Faith, Hope and Love,
Mrs B Xx