IN 1999, AS OUR SONS WENT off to college and we became empty nesters, Ed announced that it was a good time for us to get involved in church ministry. This was amazing on so many levels. For many years, although Ed professed God as his Creator, and Jesus as his Savior, he had very little to show that he had wholeheartedly made Christ Lord of his life. I had prayed for nearly eighteen years for Ed to take his role as the spiritual leader of our family more seriously. I had also prayed for him to be more understanding and supportive of my desire to be involved in Bible studies and women’s ministry, for it seemed like my involvement caused more friction than spirituality in our relationship. So I was shocked when Ed announced that day that we should explore ministries. But I shouldn’t have been. Ed had been showing signs of spiritual growth by attending church more regularly and encouraging us to get baptized as a family. I had so resigned myself to the idea that Ed was not going to take his role as the spiritual leader more seriously that I was blind to how God had been working on his heart.
At that time we were attending Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, which was pastored by Dr. Rick Warren. Kathy Jo Stones, the new Director of Pastoral Care, had recently started a premarital counseling ministry. With her passion for building strong marriages, Kathy Jo masterfully crafted a unique premarital counseling program in which mature Christian married couples mentored engaged couples for six weeks.
We thought it would be fun to engage in a ministry we could do together, so we attended one of the earliest training classes Kathy Jo taught. She had compiled materials from numerous resources. As great as the program was, the materials were a little cumbersome and confusing. They did not complement the outstanding program she had launched. Ed has great organizational and business skills, so a few months later, he approached Kathy Jo and offered our services to research and write material tailored to the program format. He envisioned making it concise and friendly, yet still comprehensive. We read, researched, and keenly observed everything we could for a year in order to produce the curriculum that Saddleback Church has used since 2002. We have since taken the program independent as Marriage by God. God has opened doors for our premarital program to spread abroad to the Philippines, China, India, Singapore, New Zealand, Argentina, and Russia.
For 18 years I prayed for my husband to become the spiritual leader. God answered that prayer, monumentally bigger than I prayed. Counseling others on the principles of living a Christ-centered marriage has blessed our marriage beyond what we ever imagined. And we are not alone. The other Marriage by God counselors experience this same blessing in their own marriages. This is what ultimately prompted us to write a marriage mentoring program too. We want every marriage to be blessed with the special oneness God desires!