Before we came to Sandals we were attending a very conservative church. Bryan and I were dating when we decided to try out another church. When people found out we were leaving, most of the congregation simply stopped talking to us. It was very hard. I felt like my relationship with these people was only based on what church I went to and not on God. Not to mention my dad passed away around the same time. I felt abandoned by people.
When we started attending Sandals about six months later I was desperate to have community again, but also scared to open myself to new hurts. I didn’t want our previous experiences to hinder Bryan and I from a relationship with God.
We signed up for a premarital class about a year before we found our group. I was hoping that the class would help our relationship and help us get more involved. During our class someone gave us the contact information for a couple that they thought might help guide us. I wrote down their information, but we never contacted them. Fast forward about six months and Sandals was offering these short term marriage classes, so we signed up. We were the only engaged couple in the group. Once the class ended, (the hosts) extended the invitation for any couple to join their small group.
SAVING A MARRIAGE
We ended up being the only couple that joined. I remember the first night we went to group. At that time Bryan and I were engaged and were really struggling with staying pure before our wedding that was just around the corner. I don’t remember how it happened, but we ended up sharing our struggle with everyone that first night.
It was the first time meeting most of them, and it was crazy how we just opened up like that. I just had a feeling these people were different. I didn’t feel judged at all. It was still super scary, but awesome at the same time.
Community group has helped my marriage in more ways than I can count. My husband has struggled with porn for many years and naturally that affected our marriage. We both had trust issues with each other from the past and there were times I thought, “I don’t know if I can do this anymore.” During those times our community rallied around us.
I remember when Bryan decided to ask for accountability for his addiction.
It was on a Sunday where Tim Timberlake was a guest speaker at Sandals Church. Bryan was nervous and scared to be completely open with the guys. This sin has haunted him most of his life. I remember Tim said in his sermon, “The only way out is through.” That line just clicked with both of us.
We both knew God was speaking through Tim. That night Bryan emailed some of the guys in our group and asked them to be his accountability partners. We downloaded a software called “Covenant Eyes” that sends a report of all your online activity to anyone you appoint an accountability partner. The men in the group embraced it and I can’t thank them enough for lifting my husband up in that way.
God was definitely something I wanted to pursue, but after going to our previous church it was hard to trust in the Body of Christ. Trying to find a church to call home was a challenge and joining any type of intimate group was the last thing on my mind. Controlling, is the first thing I thought of whenever the word church was brought up which only added to the strain of my relationship with my girlfriend (now my wife) and God. Not to mention, Cassie and I were on the brink of just ending our relationship altogether with the amount of stress we were dealing with due to the death of her father, leaving our previous church, and the major relational baggage I carried with me.
All I remember is going up to Pastor Matt after a sermon during the sex series that moved me.
After a brief conversation, Pastor Matt told me that I absolutely need to be in small group with community to overcome the obstacles I was facing.
Listening to those words really spurred me to want to join a group and God has definitely done some work in our lives since then.
I am an introvert by default and being a 5 on the enneagram, you can guess how quiet I can be. I have to say God has worked in my heart through my group by helping me to not only overcome my insecurities with being completely open about my life, but they have helped me overcome an addiction to porn that I COULD NOT do on my own. I, like many other men, was introduced to porn at a young age (8-years-old to be exact), and I turned to it for literally everything. I am actually disgusted to say this, but porn was my best friend who I turned to when I was depressed, anxious, lonely and isolated.
I have been to counseling, read books and even subscribed to XXX church to combat my terrible habit. It wasn’t until I started being completely open with our group that I was truly able to start overcoming my addiction. People have always talked about bringing sin into the light, but I never understood the impact that had until actually bringing my own darkest sin out in the open.
Don’t get me wrong, I am still a sinner and am tempted from time to time, but I have been porn free for about two months now and I cannot describe how much of a victory that is for me. From being someone that would frequent porn as much as three times a day to nothing for two months is absolutely incredible. I owe it to the community group God brought us to seven years ago that has stuck by our side through so much. I literally would not be where I am without them.
Not only has our community lifted Bryan up, they have lifted our marriage up. I had a very hard time after I had my son two years ago. Newborns are hard! These women (in our group), who had families of their own, took time out of their busy schedules to come and help a tired new mama. During that time they taught me how to be selfless. Having that mama support from them carried me through those first few months. I will never forget that.
Most recently I feel like God has put it on our hearts to help other couples going through marriage struggles. There was a time when our group realized we needed more support and that’s when we got paired with our marriage mentors. Though they were not in our community group, they had been through our same struggles and made it to the other side. Having them walk beside us was so encouraging. Marriage mentoring helped us uncover a lot of our past hurts that we never truly addressed. That’s when we decided to also do marriage counseling with a professional.
After six months of counseling it was like we were in a different marriage, and even though we continue to work on things, I feel like we’ve made it to the other side.
We want to help other couples get there too. After we finished counseling, our counselor (who also attends Sandals) told us he wanted us to sign up and be marriage guides. I thought he was crazy! That is something I never thought we would be doing. So a few months ago we signed up for soul care to be marriage guides. We are actually meeting our first couple this weekend. I never thought God would use us in this way.
I truly believe God will put the right people in your life at just the right time. There are some pretty awesome people out there. Find the people you want to do life with, it’s worth the risk!
To find your place to be real, go to move.sc/groups.