Merry and I just returned from a Weekend to Remember® marriage conference at the Gaylord Texan resort in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. When you stay at the Gaylord Texan, it’s hard not to rave about the incredible setting; the hotel’s huge atrium is a wonderland of streams, vegetation, and winding paths evoking different regions of Texas.

But the real wonder of the weekend was the conference itself. We were just two of more than 3,500 people who spent the weekend working to improve their marriage relationship. As one speaker said, “Anything you hope will last a lifetime needs regular maintenance.” And of course, some couples got much more than a tune-up. One person wrote on an evaluation form, “This was an S.O.S. and we were rescued. A new life was breathed inside our spirit. The tears of relief flow like the Jordan River.”

One of the most amazing sights was that of hundreds of couples spread throughout the hotel—on lawns, on benches, in restaurants, sitting on floors—working on projects together. In the faces of the wives I saw the joy of having their husbands all to themselves for an entire weekend (even in the midst of college basketball’s March Madness) to talk and have fun together. It was encouraging to overhear bits of conversation like, “And the speaker said I’m supposed to respect you and encourage you!”

Merry and I attended the alumni sessions on the “Peacemaker Marriage: Living Above Marital Conflict.” And, naturally, we got the opportunity to immediately practice the principles we learned, for it seemed as if several different issues we’ve argued about over the last few months popped to the surface unexpectedly!

Over and over I was struck by the thought that the marriage relationship is a reflection of Christ’s relationship with each of us. For example, our speaker, Dave Sunde, told us that, “Marriage will call forth from you more forgiveness than you ever thought you were capable of giving.” When we forgive each other, we model the forgiveness that God gives us through Christ. As Ephesians 4:32 tells us, “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”

One of the key principles of the conference is that couples naturally drift toward isolation in their relationship. It is through weekends like this that couples work against that drift—and build the oneness that makes a marriage flourish.