This past weekend, Massimo and I had the joy of attending a simulcast presentation of XO Marriage Today Conference. It was surprising, deep, and life-giving to hear the truth of God’s word being preached over two days from some of the most intelligent, thoughtful speakers I’ve ever heard. Here, I want to break down the why, what, and how of the conference, and encourage you to attend this conference in the future!
Why did you go to a marriage conference?
To be honest, I was against attending at first. When the first announcements happened in church, I told Massimo I would go if he wanted to, but let’s be real – I was hoping he was as uninterested as I was.
Then, a few days before the conference, Massimo asked me if I wanted to go. I had a list ready to go of all the reasons – good ones, too – not to go: it costs money, it costs time (precious weekend time), we don’t have big issues in our marriage, we already talk about marriage all the time together, and (the biggest one) I’m afraid it will be cheesy, shallow, and emphasize complementarian theology.
They were good reasons, no one is denying, but after talking about it some more, and quieting my fears, we decided that we should go. Turns out, there were very good reasons to go:
1. Any time invested in marriage is time well spent, even if it means taking away from sleeping in.
2. It wasn’t that much money, and my fears about spending money are often out of proportion with reality.
3. We went to the first day of the conference last year, and they didn’t talk at all about complementarian theology, so there was a good chance that would be the case as well this year.
4. We need to support marriage ministry in our church. By attending conferences we may or may not love, we are showing those investing their time and energy into these events that there is an interest, and then they may end up doing something we do love next time.
And so, we decided that no matter how tired we were, or how many other things we could do Friday night and Saturday morning, we would still go to the conference.
What happened at the conference?
The simulcast conference was streamed live from Texas, from 8-10:30 pm Friday, and from 10-12:30 pm Saturday. There were several lecture sessions each day, with breaks (and delicious snacks) in between. For a former grad student like myself, it was so natural to be taking notes and listening to a teacher again.
The speakers were Jimmy Evans, Dr. Henry Cloud, and John Gray. Each speaker was unique, but each was also apologetically preaching! Every speaker weaved scripture seamlessly into his messages. Every speaker was counter-cultural, and straight forward. They preached the truth and were unconcerned about how you might take it. All throughout the conference, I was thinking, “These people really care about marriage, and they are all obviously in the Word all the time.” It was beautiful and life-giving.
The other gorgeous thing that happened at the conference was that they didn’t base their teaching on gender stereotypes and narrow boxes. There were occasional jokes about her not knowing what to wear, and his just wanting to watch the Superbowl without interruption, but when things got serious, they were not messing around with any tropes: they emphasized our unity, equality, and common needs. I can’t even tell you how refreshing I found this, especially since I expected the complete opposite coming in.
How did the conference help you?
If nothing else, it was a wonderful time spent together as husband and wife, listening to the same teachers, and actively participating in focusing on our marriage. It’s important to talk about marriage one-on-one, but to both be sitting side-by-side, being fed the same truth – it’s really uniting and strengthening. And since we were there together, we’ve been talking about some of the messages together practically non-stop since the conference.
I learned a lot over the few days (including that there are good marriage conferences out there); these are just a few of the quick takeaways:
- Marriage was created for intimacy; that’s how things were in the Garden of Eden, and that’s what God wants in our marriages. Intimacy is not automatic; it must be built and jealously protected. Intimacy is for every marriage, and can be found even after all hope seems to be lost.
- All humans need connection. In the beginning, we were perfectly connected to each other and to God, but now that connection has been broken. Marriage is the process of re-connecting to each other, and to God. It can be painful, but the sacrifice is well worth it.
- Marriage is a miracle. Jesus’ first miracle was at a wedding, and he’s working miracles every day that a marriage stays alive. The covenant of marriage is sealed and signed through physical intimacy, and breaks curses of generations past. Marriage belongs to God, not our government.
- Physical intimacy is special and spiritual. It connects two people like nothing else can, and represents the covenant of marriage like nothing else can.
The bottom line is this: there are no quick-fixes in marriage. Culture likes to sell short cuts, but God has a process (he can accelerate that process, but there is still a process), and the result is so worth the effort! This conference did not try to sell short-cuts: they looked in the Bible, saw the goal, and gave you encouragement to press on!
I can’t say that our marriage will be radically different, or that were in a dark place and it was saved by this conference. But attending the conference was such an honor. I was blown away by how much different it was than what I was afraid it would be. Please go to a conference like this when you have a chance – you might be surprised, too!