by Tom Furio
My wife and I had only been married seven years when the stresses of family life began to take a toll. We would walk through the house speaking to our 2-year-old boy but not really to each other—like two roommates who shared a son. We discussed trivial things, but we never connected on a deeper level.
We had come to the point where we chose to just tolerate each other. Imagine the despair of that thought—to tolerate each other for the rest of our lives! But divorce wasn’t an option for either of us. My parents had divorced when I was 7. Because I had lived through the isolation and loneliness of being a child of a divorce, I decided that I would not do that to my son. My wife, Judi, came from a basically grounded Christian family, so she had no desire to break up our marriage either.
Because of my parents’ divorce, I didn’t have the tools or the model to help me navigate through this situation. I really had no idea what a marriage was supposed to look like. Then one day we heard an ad on the radio for an upcoming FamilyLife Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway and decided to give it a try. At the time, our motives were selfish—Judi and I individually wanted happiness but didn’t really care about each other’s happiness. We just wanted more than what we had.
Discovering God’s gift
That first conference was really difficult because we both heard things that neither of us wanted to hear. The most powerful lesson I learned was that my spouse is God’s gift to me. We had been Christians for years, but neither of us had ever understood that our spouse was a gift from God. I thought, Okay, so if she is God’s gift to me, she must have more value than I’ve been giving her. How could I reject God’s gift?
After the conference, over many long and painful nights, we learned to communicate, to get past the words and get down to our feelings. Though it was painful, we finally felt there was light at the end of our relational tunnel.
During the conference, Judi and I had heard about the HomeBuilders Couples Series®, small group Bible studies for couples. We were so excited that we ran out and bought some of the materials.
Later, we asked the leaders at our church to lead the studies, but that didn’t work out—they were in the middle of other studies and didn’t have time. We talked to other people we knew and asked them to lead, but no one was available. So we bought more guides, started calling our friends, and began preparing to lead the group ourselves.
Nothing to offer
There we were—our marriage was on the brink of failure, and we had never led any kind of Bible study before. Judi and I had absolutely nothing to offer anyone, but we were willing and available. We just felt that if one short weekend helped us chip away at the barrier that existed between us for years, the HomeBuilders studies should be able to take us even deeper. Looking back at it now we realize God was leading us and enabling us to move far out of our comfort zone.
God did an amazing work in those groups. He really turned around our marriage, our family life, and our relationship with Him. God used our willing hearts to barrel through the studies, and as a result, we grew, and the other couples grew as well. Over the next few years we led several more HomeBuilders studies, and we even got involved with helping to prepare for the Weekend to Remember conferences by joining the City Ministry Team in Orlando and later in Chicago.
One of the couples from a previous group sought us out at church one Sunday morning. She looked us in the eyes and confessed that if it had not been for the HomeBuilders study, their marriage would have ended in divorce. We were floored! We knew that it was nothing that Judi and I had done, but we were in awe of what God had done through us.