I went to a marriage conference last weekend.
I totally did.
On Valentine’s Day.
Here’s the thing about me: I love marriage. And not only did I love being married, but I truly love the institution of marriage. I love seeing my friends and family who are married. I love seeing senior citizens walking hand-in-hand. I love celebrating new marriages. And I would fight tooth and nail for any marriage to survive.
So don’t feel bad for me. It was completely my choice to go. I’m not looking for any sympathy here.
To me, there is nothing better on this earth than marriage. It is the closest representation of the relationship Christ has with His bride (the “capital ‘c'” Church). I also believe it is the greatest testimony of God’s love for us in a world of people who doubt that God even exists.
So, I went to a marriage conference. And not just any marriage conference, but one put on by my favorite author, Gary Thomas, and based on my favorite book on the subject of marriage – Sacred Marriage. If you haven’t read it, I strongly recommend it. (And I don’t strongly recommend things to the general public because any form of art is going to touch people as differently as each person is different.) But I’m just saying: you should read it.
I walked in the doors to my church towards the welcome table. The woman behind the table had two name tags in her hand ready to give to the next couple who came up. I took one. And I wrote my name. While I placed the tag on my shirt, she asks, “Just one?”
Not quite sure what to say, I just said, “Yes. Just one.” In my head, all I’m thinking about is how I clearly walked in unaccompanied and deliberately grabbed only one name tag and filled it out. You would hope that my wife would have been with me if she was coming along. But so be it.
“Yes. Just one.”
“Okay. Here’s a program. Did you only need one?”
Umm… should we really go over this again? Tell you what. Maybe she’s here. Maybe there was another “just one” who came in before me. Did you see her? Could you tell her I’m here now. Actually, now that I think about it, Gary Thomas is an ordained minister. I’m sure we can remedy this status of mine right here and now. She can be my “plus one” so we’re both no longer “just one.” Then I can take your two programs you had ready. And the extra name tag. We can take care of this “just one” thing so it’s less complicated.
Actually, I bet there’s a discount for married couples! If I find my “plus one,” can we still cash in on that discount?
To be fair, I’m sure she wasn’t expecting a widower to waltz up to her table. Likely, she took time beforehand to pair off name tags and programs because she knew the majority of the attendees would be paired off as well.
“Yes. Just one.”
Next time, so that it’s obvious, I’ll walk up to the table waving around my ringless left hand straight in front of me.
I didn’t really much consider that I was a single guy in a sea of married couples finding out how to better their marriage. I was just there so that I can better the marriage I intend on having someday. While sitting in the front row, I turned around at one point and very much realized how I was in the vast minority. It felt weird for a second, but I just smiled and started taking notes again.
And let me just say that the conference was awesome! I loved every minute of it. And as if there wasn’t enough for me to love during the “marriage” portion, he even had a bonus session for people who are dating or who know someone who is dating. (It was based on another fabulous book, Sacred Search. Consequently, I highly recommend any singles out there to read it.) I think I fit into that category. “Just one” was the clear winner in that crowd.
I’m sorry to say I didn’t get to walk back up to the table to request that extra program and name tag. But, this conference was my favorite thing I could have done with my time. It is so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.*
I was, of course, so thrilled to get to talk to Mr. Thomas for a few minutes after the event. “Thank you for what you’re doing. I’m widowed, and just love marriage and look forward to cultivating another marriage based on the biblical principles you put forth in your book. Can I give you a hug?” (Oh yes, I did. And I gave him a hug. He also signed my 10-year-old copy of Sacred Marriage.)
*Name that movie