Marriage, Mess and Merciful Encounters


I like neat things. I was the kid who always coloured inside the lines and preferred colour by numbers so I knew I was colouring in ‘correctly’. Tell me which colour must go where and guarantee me it will look beautiful in the end, I liked those odds. Unfortunately for me life, parenthood and marriage is not like that at all.

Near the end of 2019 my husband and I attended the Marriage Encounter course run by our local church, Joshua Generation Church (find this resource online here: Marriage Encounter). My husband was the one to ask me to sign us up for the weekend, which I did, albeit with a few groans and delays. I tried to convince him that the timing wasn’t ideal. Life was (is) busy and we were both so tired, we’d have to find babysitters for our 1 year old for 3 days in a row etc. I have to admit that I wasn’t jumping up and down to attend the course.

Fortunately, I’m feisty but not totally blindly stubborn, so in the end we signed up and attended the marriage encounter with course leaders Mac and Naudine Adaimi (who also happen to be the couple we walk with in our marriage). Day 1 and Day 2 were really good, day 3 was so good too…well until three quarters into the day when during one of the discussion times we hit a major wall. It felt like ‘all hell broke loose’. There we were, almost at the finish line, I was so ready to put a neat little tick next to ‘attended marriage encounter’ and move on…and here we were in a full blown fight.

Our course leaders saw us struggling and gently encouraged us to ‘shelve’ the stand off until we could fully discuss it and keep going with the group activities. Neither my husband nor myself were cool headed enough in the moment to see that option as a reasonable one. My husband, ever the honesty bringer, very swiftly said to them ‘I’m not faking it…I’m leaving’. I was mortified, most of the conflict had been due to my bad attitude and now my ‘sins’ were catching up with me, publicly. All the other couples appeared to be sweetly enriching their marriages and there we were about to physically walk out of the session before it was done. With my ‘people pleasing’ weakness, this was my worst nightmare. I wanted the ground to swallow me up right then and there. “Please Lord, come back NOW”, was my heart’s cry.

Not only was I embarrassed but I was also upset that this marriage enrichment weekend was now ‘messed up’, this was not my idea of colouring inside the lines and I was ready throw the entire weekend’s learning away and start planning when we’d re-do the course so we could get it right second time around .

The truth was that the encounter time had done what it needed to do. It had forced us to STOP and start scratching beneath the surface of our marriage and busy stage of life. The ‘problem’ was my expectations and the reality of what God was allowing to happen, were poles apart. Things were getting messy, and I wanted to run from the mess.

Despite my shame and panic, I knew I loved my husband and I loved Jesus…so I could either keep running or I could face the mess and allow God to use this weekend and our very patient course leaders to help me find a better space in our marriage.

It took a few hours, prayer and deep honesty with God and myself BUT God began to open my eyes to different areas of our marriage that I’d been neglecting or down right messing up in. A big one of those areas being submission and respect for my husband. I repented and then with much humility (that wasn’t easy to be honest) I apologized to my husband. We spent a long-time talking things through and by God’s grace the messy day ended with us feeling so much more connected and more on ‘the same page’ than we’d felt for a long while.

So was the Marriage Encounter what I expected? No. Was it tidy? No. Did it come at a cost? Yes. Could I have navigated what God was doing through the course in a less messy way? Probably. But the point is God worked through the course anyway. The most important step was us just showing up, being there and allowing God to help us both.

Sometimes in church life I put off participating in things because all my ‘ducks aren’t in a row’ or because I’m scared it may get messy. The thing is that if we don’t show up, if we don’t open ourselves up to the unknown…we don’t give God the opportunity to meet us at our point of need, often when we need it most.

So I really encourage you when you’re next afforded the opportunity to, to sign up, to do ‘that course’, attend that equip, sign up for that conference. The training times and courses we’re invited to across Four12 are such incredible tools God uses to bring us into the more, yes sometimes amidst the ‘mess’ of life or our own brokenness, but God is so faithful He will meet us there in the mess if it means bringing us into more beautiful, open spaces.

Juliet, also known as Jewels, is a member of the Four12 admin team. Jewels is very happily married to her most favourite face, together they are adventuring through life with their little teammate Roddy, intent on loving Jesus and His Church.

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