Carolyn and I got married on December 20, 1970.We were in our early twenties when we exchanged vows, and I can assure you that we knew very little about developing and leading a lifelong partnership.
However, approximately ten years and two children later, we discovered something that has become the best single investment we have ever made in our marriage. It helps reconnect us when busyness robs us of emotional closeness. When the pace of life drains our strength and causes confusion, it re-energizes our partnership and helps clarify our vision as a couple. Our secret is simple: we schedule time to leave town—just the two of us—escaping from all the pressures at work, demands of people, and the responsibilities of home life.We call it getting away to get it together!
These retreats are diverse.We may relax at a friend’s lake house, camp at a state park, or book a resort condominium in the off-season. But wherever we stay, God has continued to teach us to step off life’s treadmill and examine the health of our relationship.When we evaluate where we are heading, we reap a fabulous return on investment.
Sure, there have been seasons when we missed “getting out of Dodge,” but overall, our bi-annual retreats for two nights or more have consistently re-energized and enriched our togetherness.
Of course, the idea of retreating to put things into perspective is not original to us. In fact, Jesus was the master of getting away to get it together. I find several examples in the Bible of the Savior escaping the demands of the multitudes in favor of resting and refocusing alone. I share this because He is a wonderful model to imitate if you want your times away to be meaningful and worthwhile. Carolyn and I have included a few personal examples of our attempts at following in our Savior’s footsteps (see The Master at Getting Away, page 4). It is our prayer that you enjoy your getaway experiences as much as we have. May God richly bless your relationship as you honor Him by making your marriage a priority.
Jesus was the master at getting away to put things into perspective. Even at the pinnacle of miraculous ministry with the multitudes, He would call for a time-out in favor of refocusing with His Father alone. If you want your times away to be meaningful and worthwhile, follow His examples of getting away to get it together.
First, I see Him getting away for times of personal prayer. After feeding the multitudes with five fish and two loaves of bread—no small undertaking— Matthew reports that “after He had sent the crowds away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray; and when it was evening, He was there alone” (Matthew 14:23, NASB).
Dr. Luke adds that during a time when “large crowds were gathering to hear Him and to be healed of their sicknesses ... Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray” (Luke 5:15-16).
One of my biggest getaway needs is for time all alone with the Lord. In fact, it is my first priority.
After a relaxing dinner together and a good night’s sleep, I meet privately with the Lord. I take my Bible and journal in search of a quiet place for a personal quiet time.
It is important for me to feel in touch with my heavenly Father and to be in a right frame of mind before meeting with Bill later in the day. I begin with praise and adoration for who God is. Then, in a time of confession, I ask Him to reveal my sin to me. As I wait quietly, He reminds me of areas that need my repentance. I name these to Him and ask for forgiveness. This cleansing process ushers in a period of grateful thanksgiving for God’s grace and mercy.
Then, I ask the Lord to reveal Himself to me in His Word. I read a chapter from the Bible, making notes of the highlights He shows me. As the passage dictates, I either pray the verses back to God for my life or identify a specific application in my life for that day.
Having pursued the mind of Christ, I feel spiritually refreshed and ready to join Bill for our lunchtime conversations.
Second, the Scriptures teach us that Jesus got away to make major decisions. A case in point was His choosing of the twelve disciples. The Bible says, “It was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God. And when day came, He called His disciples to Him and chose twelve of them, whom He also named as apostles” (Luke 6:12-13).
A perfect opportunity for a getaway retreat arose one summer when I was invited to do some consulting in South Carolina. Following my work, Carolyn and I spent several days just across the border in the small community of Brevard, North Carolina, with its spectacular views of the Smoky Mountains.We did our share of sight-seeing and spent time walking in a secluded area to talk and pray together each morning.
It was during this getaway that the Lord gave us unity about selling our home of twenty-four years and downsizing for our future. Carolyn and I had prayed about this matter and discussed it for years without resolving the issue. Because we did not agree on the timing, we decided upon waiting to make a move.While I had been ready to move earlier, Carolyn understandably wanted to raise all our children through their high school years in our family home. It was filled with memories and located very conveniently to our friends, our church, and our children’s school.
Now at this point, our children were grown. Two were married with children of their own and a third was living on his own while working full-time and finishing college. It was as if God knew we were truly ready to move and dream about fresh possibilities for a new living situation in our new season of life.
During this getaway, we agreed to trust God to sell our home, which He did upon our return to Little Rock.We then took the next bold step and moved into an apartment (our “second honeymoon” love nest!) while shopping for the best location and layout of our new home. A major decision was finalized, and we were excited about our direction.
Third, the Savior got away to intercede for the benefit of others. Just before Jesus tells Peter that he will deny Him three times, we are told that the Lord said to him, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:31-32).
While I enjoy resting, relaxing, and connecting with Bill emotionally, my favorite reason to get away is to pray for those I love. I cherish how this time allows me to bring the needs of family and friends before the Lord without interruption. Too often the pace of my daily life limits this practice. So I relish the satisfaction that comes from an undistracted, extended time with my heavenly Father.
I enjoy getting on my knees when I seek God’s face on behalf of loved ones. This posture reminds me of who is in control of all the issues I present. Often, I pray verses of Scripture for those for whom I am interceding. I especially like the apostle Paul’s prayers from Ephesians 1:17-19, Philippians 1:9-11, and Colossians 1:9-11. Still other times, I sit quietly allowing the Holy Spirit to guide my prayers for others.
There are several good prayer helps that I have discovered over the years. Two include Praying God’s Will by Beth Moore and The Power of Praying for Your Husband by Stormie Omartian. (The same author has also written about praying for your wife and children.)
I also keep a journal of my intercessory prayer requests to review on future getaways. I’ve found that God does not answer every prayer immediately, and I continue to intercede for those requests. But as I read my journal, I recognize the many prayers that have been answered. I share these with Bill and we rejoice in God’s love and provision.
Finally, the Bible reveals that Jesus got away to address an unwanted circumstance in His life. Our Savior’s experience in the Garden of Gethsemane illustrates this vividly:
Over the years, Carolyn and I have faced a number of unwanted circumstances in our marriage. These include the premature loss of our fathers and my mother, conflict between us or with a close friend, financial pressure, vocational frustration, a miscarriage, child-raising difficulties, kidney stones, etc.
However, the unwanted circumstance that shook us the most was when Carolyn’s doctor told us she had cancer. I have never been more surprised and unprepared in my entire life. Fear of the future took hold, with overwhelming “what if ” and “why” questions flooding our minds. It felt as though everything else in our lives stopped, and all of our time and attention focused on this disease.
Surgery followed by chemotherapy and various challenging side effects made life unpleasant, uncomfortable, and even lonely at times. We asked God, “Why us?”We wanted Him to “remove this cup” from us. We were distressed and troubled. For months we addressed this difficult situation on a daily basis, having no control over the disease. We were utterly dependent on God’s healing power over our enemy.
Over time and by God’s grace, our attitudes began to shift from “not what I will” to “Thy will be done.” And that is when freedom arrived. Our peace began to grow because our perspective began to change.
God is greater than any unwanted circumstance. He is our only hope, our refuge, and our strength. And He continues to help us address our unwanted circumstances today.
God taught us much about life during this difficult season. Following chemotherapy, we celebrated together on an unforgettable getaway retreat in Maui. And I am pleased to report that Carolyn is free from cancer.