4.1 The Skill

Ours is a culture that wants to go directly from A to Z with no waiting or sweat in between. But on a deep level we all know that every path is made up of many steps, taken over time.

Invite couples to talk together and to make a joint decision to work on their marriage and increase their relational stamina. You could say it this way:

Create a goal for the two of you. It could be to spend fifteen minutes a day walking together. The effort you give to your physical muscles is a good parallel to increasing the strength and circulation in your marriage too. Some people skip the talking and just share an ipod with favorite music and one set of earplugs. Hold hands, not necessarily because you are already feeling affectionate, but as an invitation to those feelings to return. It could be to smile more often, or hug a little longer. Perhaps it will be to spend time doing something you both enjoy, but have forgotten to remember.

Notice that it may be hard to get started, or to keep going. Have a plan for getting over those bumps. You could write little encouraging messages to each other, to stuff in your pockets and take out when you need them. You could bring yummy things to offer to each other on the way.

Then come back as a whole group to talk about it.


4.2 Quote

Trust in the LORD, and do good;
         Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness.
 Delight yourself also in the LORD,
         And He shall give you the desires of your heart.
 Commit your way to the LORD,
         Trust also in Him,
         And He shall bring it to pass.
  He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light,
         And your justice as the noonday.
  Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for Him;
         Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way,
         Because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass.
 Cease from anger, and forsake wrath;
         Do not fret—it only causes harm.

Psalm 37


4.3 The Story


A  friend recently wrote to announce that she had completed her first Ironman. I wasn't sure which amazed me more... the fact that Terry finished the course in seventeen grueling hours or the reality that she had trained for a year leading up to it.

The event began at the dawn's early light with a five mile swim in the nippy waters of Lake Placid. Without stopping to celebrate everyone leaped on to bicycles and pedaled 112 hilly miles of countryside which were breathtaking in more ways than one.

Then as if that weren't enough of an excursion for one day Terry and 1800 other die hards finished off with a marathon.

As someone who doesn't get to the local park on my own steam, I am impressed. I have even become one of those wimpy adults I scoffed at in my childhood that swims without getting my hair wet. As for my biking credentials, I did once come in second in a race, but I must confess there were only four contestants.

One element that intrigues me is the fact that the race took seventeen hours but the sun only shone for thirteen. There was an elaborate system of high powered lights set up to guide weary runners those last long miles.

Volunteers were sprinkled throughout the course to offer encouragement, small comforts and sustenance. Terry described the finale as a triumphant climax. She swooshed down a long slide into a crowd of wildly cheering friends who had all traveled great distances and stayed up way past their bedtimes to shower her with their collective love and energy.

The support she felt during her training and the race carried her along like a tradewind. Her husband danced along next to her for the final few miles, coaxing her to go just a little faster. He was afraid that she might not make the cut off and would eagerly have scooped her up in his arms and carried her across the finish.

I asked Terry what kind of shape she was in when she began.

" A year ago I could barely run a mile."


Now Terry had prepared for this Ironman. She saw it coming, knew the parameters, built up her stamina and gathered her resources. Her angel daughter's picture was perched on the handle bars, her husband and son were poised at every pit stop for kisses and hugs, along with carefully chosen snacks.

If only marriage's endurance tests came with such advance notice. If only we could get our hands on the script and find out when things were going to get sweaty. But too many Ironmans come without warning... a screech of brakes, a diagnosis, a phone call. And there we are, left swimming without a wet suit in water that chills to the bone. Somehow we stay afloat, if partly off course. But when we reach land we are told to mount a bicycle and keep going. Can it be true? Haven't we endured enough already? So we lock into a rhythm of pedalpushing, fueled by desperation and a fear of stopping. And even that test does not suffice, for waiting at the end is a marathon. So we run, plod, crawl, in what feels like a relentless line as we deal with the loss, the disease, the death.

But it doesn't have to be like that. We can prepare. For Terry the Ironman was less of a torture and more of a triumph. It's not that she didn't ache. She did. When she paused to sit in a folding chair it felt like a throne.

Still the tenacity had been etched into her thighs over months of pounding the pavement. Her blood had increased its capacity to carry oxygen from countless breaths drawn on misty mornings when no clock was ticking. She met the task head on.

We too can surround our marriages with the support of people and angels who want to see us cross the finish line. We can gather wisdom to light our way in the valley of shadow. We can walk in the paths of righteousness so often that it becomes a worn and familiar stride. We can draw our inspiration from the Word, and multiply the truth coursing through our veins.

Because as Terry observed, this was her first Ironman.


4.4 Activity with Your Children

Children can have boundless energy for new things. It is in some ways an untapped natural resource comparable to wind, solar and geothermal.

Make a chart with your kids about some way to improve family life. It could be as simple as three lists, one for kind comments, one for neutral and one for negative. I did this with my kids back when rudeness was threatening to take over and was astonished at the transformation. I did not even offer any prizes, but when the marks in the negative column started adding up for all to see, kids began flinging compliments and appreciations like there was no tomorrow. It was playful and brought new energy to our home.


4.5 Prayer

Oh Lord,

I am weak but You are strong. I forget that and depend on myself and then cannot figure out why I am exhausted. It is like getting mad when the batteries run out on my electric toothbrush and I blame the toothbrush for slowing down.

Help me remember to plug into your power, to feel the strength and endurance coursing through me.

It feels much better than exhaustion.



4.6 Ideas

You may enjoy watching a movie together. Fireproof is one of the most inspiring stories on my list of marriage friendly movies, which is on this website under Ideas for Mentors. Watch together and hold hands. And don't forget the popcorn.