Font Size » + | -The Collins family: Frank, Renita, Frank III, and Raina Faith. One incident early on in our marriage is forever burned in my mind. I was downstairs in our basement office working on the computer when Renita, my wife, popped in the door to ask me something. Focused on my work, I replied curtly without even looking up at her. With a catch in her throat, she replied, “Okay … I’m going upstairs now.” The tremble in her voice caused me to look up from my work. Her beautiful brown eyes began to well up with tears. What had I said? … You ninny! I thought. You’ve crushed your gift given to you by God. I quickly apologized and we kissed and made up. Nonetheless, I had been unkind to God’s daughter and it caused my heart to feel pain. How many times do we say things to our spouses and excuse it with, “Oh, that’s just the way I speak!”? We crush the most precious thing given to us by God. When one considers the view of present-day marriage, one has to wonder: Is marriage still sacred, or has it gone the way of the buggy whip, nice to look at but not very useful? The usefulness of a practice is affected by how one views it before its use. By the time I met Renita in 1998, her parents had been divorced 16 years. My parents had been married for 59 years, but their marriage was marred by incidents of adultery. Renita and I had both experienced the impact left by others in our lives who had once committed to the institution of marriage. We wanted more. Once we agreed to date to determine if we should get married, we agreed the guiding principles of our dating relationship – and marriage, if that should happen – would be the Word of God. For us marriage is the holiest relationship that two people can have and is not to be entered into lightly. We knew marriage would be hard work, and the proper Christian marriage would mirror the relationship between Jesus Christ and the Church. We purposed in our hearts to treat marriage as sacred before God. That said, our inability to obtain premarital counseling (because of the pastor’s schedule) turned out to be a godsend. To make up for our lack of premarital counseling and for our marriage educational development, we started attending marriage classes at Windsor Christian Fellowship across the Detroit River in Windsor, Ontario. (WCF is the lead church for Open Bible Faith Fellowship of Canada.) We also attended two seminars to prep us for marriage. On the spiritual development side, we read, learned, and prepared to put into practice the principles found in Ephesians 5. This chapter covered our behavior toward each other before and after marriage. We remained celibate until our wedding night. No fornication here, we decided. Our goal was to keep our hearts clean before God (Matthew 15:19-20). Under Dr. Robert Rohm, president of Personality Insights, we both became certified DISC trainers and presenters. This helped us immensely as DISC personality profiles are useful in teaching people how to communicate with and relate to others based on their individual personality traits. A vital part of having a holy marriage is the ability to “know” each other. DISC training helped us understand our differences and learn how to appreciate and celebrate these differences. We read many books on relationships – spiritual and secular. We were about to get into the “game” and we wanted to be the best “players” we could be. More than anything we prayed a lot together. Prayer changes things. God is holy and we should be too. We held marriage so sacred that we prepared for it in every way we knew how. Maybe that’s why we get invited to do so many marriage seminars today. From all of our classes, trainings, and seminars we learned the three biggest destroyers of marriages are (and not necessarily in this order): money, communication, and sex. Here is a glimpse into the entity know as “Team Collins.” Money Matters Before Renita and I married, I owned a house. I had a car and a minivan with no payments. The only debt I had was my home. Renita lived in a rented apartment. She had a car and furniture, both with payments. Renita liked my idea living debt free. So now on Monday mornings we hold a family business meeting, where we discuss our schedules for the week, month, and year. We coordinate our calendars and go over our financials. I taught Renita my method of paying the bills and then turned the responsibility over to her after a few years so I, as my elderly parents’ legal guardian, could take care of their personal business. Like the woman in Proverbs 31:10-12, Renita has excelled admirably. In our Monday morning meetings, which begin with prayer to God for wisdom, financially speaking, there are three “pots” or accounts. All of our income from the prior week goes into the house account, out of which we dole out our tithes, bills, savings, college fund contributions, personal allowances, vacation funds, etc. We encourage couples to buy and use a budget book to track their finances so they can see where their money is going. From then on they can make the necessary “mid-course corrections” financially, if they have to. We recently started giving our two children, Frank III and Raina Faith, allowances to teach them the value of and how to handle money. The word of God speaks plenty about money and how to make, save, and give it away. We wanted to be able to do all three. In this age of consumerism, we have practiced delayed gratification as much as we can. We have stayed away from major debt. Why? Proverbs 22:7 states, “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.” We wanted to be no one’s slave, financially or otherwise. We are presently considering which financial curricula we will introduce to our church this fall. Communication After that experience early on in our marriage where I spoke sharply to my wife, I realized I needed to work on my communication skills. Proverbs 15:1 states, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” When we reach an impasse in a discussion, I’ve learned to ask myself, “Is this the hill I want to die on?” Most things people argue over won’t matter five years from now. Learn to let go and let God. Sex We were completely honest with each other before marriage about our expectations regarding sex, fidelity being the key. We read the book of Solomon and discussed what our sex lives would look like. We truly believe our wedding night and honeymoon was something special because we had not “sampled” each other before being married. I believe that’s one of the reasons we trust each other implicitly. Over the years we have gotten to know each other better than we ever thought we could. We are still growing and changing sexually. We never, never deprive each other of sexual intimacy except for times of prayer and or fasting (sickness also being an exception). Being married to your best friend is really special. Just as we present our bodies to one another in marriage, we also present them to God (Romans 12:1). Mirroring a holy God and keeping one’s marriage sacred takes work, but I have never regretted this kind of work. It is an adventure and a journey all at the same time, and we all are masterpieces in progress.