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Marriage conference deemed relationship-building adventure


RIDGECREST, N.C. (BP)–The romantic hike through the lush Pisgah National Forest in the pristine Blue Ridge Mountains was just a prelude to what was to come.

A mad-cap, rollicking splash down Sliding Rock — a natural water slide that plunges riders down a smooth rock formation into an icy mountain pool — screamed romance for Kevin and Laura Naugle of Carlinville, Ill.

“The water was so cold, my feet went numb. It took my breath away. We were laughing [and] gasping for air. The water was seven feet deep,” Laura Naugle said.

The Naugles went to LifeWay Ridgecrest Conference Center in North Carolina Aug. 12-14 for Marriage Impact Weekend expecting adventure but didn’t expect the biggest challenges to take place away from the great outdoors.

The true adventure unfolded as conference participants explored the “plunge” they took when they got married, and searched for a deeper level of intimacy that God wants them to have with their spouses.

“The goal for this weekend is for you to understand something about your marriage that you did not know before,” said conference leader Ric Cadle, associate pastor of Graceland Baptist Church in New Albany, Ind.

Cadle’s “Extreme Marriage Makeover” presentation focused on keeping Jesus Christ at the center of the relationships He has ordained, better communication through avoiding “marriage destroyers” and learning about what makes spouses feel loved.

“One of the most frequent comments I hear at marriage conferences is, ‘I do not believe my spouse can change,’” Cadle said. But, he reminded them, people do change all the time and become new again in Jesus Christ.

WORK TO CHANGE

“I can’t change my spouse. What I’ve learned is I’ve got plenty of work to do on myself,” Cadle added.

Stepping outside of comfort zones, exposing themselves to the natural elements, and revealing their true feelings to their spouses made for a memorable, possibly relationship-changing experience, Laura Naugle said.

“I finally feel like he wants to work on it,” she said, describing their 18-year marriage as full of hardships.

Kevin Naugle, his tail bone a bit sore from the couple’s comical excursion down Sliding Rock, was surprised at what he learned about his wife.

As Cadle outlined the five love languages, Naugle knew precisely which areas appealed to his wife and suddenly realized he had never made an effort to be sensitive to them.

“At least we started learning how to communicate,” he said. “Now that I know it means a lot to her, I expect this will make things better.”

Couples who came expecting a lighthearted weekend of physical challenges and outdoor entertainment were amazed at the intensity of the workshops and the insight they gained into their partner’s needs. Cadle encouraged the 20 couples present to pray out loud together and about each other, and not just at the dinner table, as most people do.

“When your spouse hears you say something to God, that’s powerful,” even though it seems awkward at first, Cadle said.

FIND GOD’S PLAN

Even after nearly 30 years of marriage and several LifeWay marriage conferences, Gary and Joan Bowden of Upatoi, Ga., said there is always something to learn about each other. The pair went on their first whitewater rafting trip, enjoying the beautiful mountains rising up around them.

Many people have storybook expectations of what marriage should look like, Cadle said, and are disappointed when their own marriages don’t measure up.

What they fail to recognize is that the plan God has for them as a couple far exceeds any fantasy they ever dreamed up on their own. It is no accident that they undoubtedly ended up with a spouse who is their opposite. This, Cadle said, is God’s way of helping each of them grow in areas where they are weak.

“Guys, we were not taught the language that women know,” Cadle said, particularly when it comes to understanding intimacy.

“I thought intimacy was physical. What I found out is that it is spiritual. It’s not even candlelight. If you want really good sex, you’ve got to have spiritual intimacy,” Cadle said during a session called “Incredible Intimacy & Meaningful Touch.”

He said society has so warped the meaning of touch so that couples need to re-learn how to touch each other in a non-sexual way.

“I believe that the Bible is the most practical guide of what a marriage is supposed to look like,” Cadle said.

“In your marriage, God has put two people together that can be a beautiful thing if you include one thing — God. This three stranded cord is not easily broken.”

At the close of the retreat, the couples — some with tears and some with giggles that gave way to deep emotion — held hands as Cadle instructed them to tell each other that they look forward to spending their lives with each other.

“Embrace your destiny together,” he said, before sending them out on the next phase of the adventure called married life.

LifeWay Christian Resources hosts numerous Marriage Impact conferences throughout the year. For more information, visit www.lifeway.com.
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    About the Author

  • Andrea Higgins