“We’re not supposed to be sleeping together, are we?”
By Ken B. Dyck
Alex is 37 and earns his living as a professional groundskeeper at a local golf course. He’s attended our church for just under a year and also enrolled in Freedom Session along with his wife…sort of. Alex and Cindy weren’t technically married…or legally married…or really married in anyone’s eyes except their own. Alex wasn’t anti-marriage; he just didn’t see the point. He wasn’t embarrassed about living common-law, but at church it just seemed safer to call each other husband and wife. Alex and Cindy had been together for seven years. They owned a house together. Cindy had two children from a previous relationship and Alex was the only real dad they knew.
I met Alex because I had dropped in to teach Freedom Session #9 live. Freedom Session is a 20-week healing-discipleship program that deals with the unhealthy behaviours (control, anger outbursts, pornography, withdrawal, perfectionism, over-eating, TV/social media binging, alcohol, etc.) we use to escape pain and avoid conflict. At the end of the night Alex came up to meet me to thank me for the insights he was learning at FS. In my personal quiet times with Jesus, I had been asking that my heart would be more sensitive to His leading and, particularly, towards those who didn’t personally know Jesus. As Alex was leaving, I sensed the Spirit asking me to pray for him so I asked him if that would be okay.
He mentioned that he and Cindy were experiencing some conflict in their relationship. And so I prayed. The next morning I felt the Spirit, again, asking me to reach out to Alex and spend some time with him. I sought out his contact information and invited him to meet me for dinner. That’s when I heard his story…and that is when I began to feel a strong affection for this man – I know that’s a strange word but I can’t think of a better one. I am convinced that the primary reason the church leads so few people into a relationship with Jesus is because so few of us have meaningful friendships with non-Christians. If we would, knowing what we believe about life after death and the judgement facing each of us, we would have no other option than to share the reason for the hope that is within us with our non-Christian friends.
I learned that Alex wasn’t a Christian even though he thought he was. He definitely wanted to follow Jesus – he just didn’t know how. His parents were hostile towards the church – and each other. They had been indifferent towards him and he was primarily raised by his grandparents and rarely saw either of his parents growing up. His only discipleship experience was being taken to church by his grandfather and that was years ago. So we started talking about our relationships and experiences with God the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. About what it means to make Jesus the leader of our lives, rather than merely Saviour. He confessed that Cindy was a much stronger Christian than he was, at least for the most part. That’s when he leaned over the table and whispered, “But we’re not supposed to be sleeping together, are we?”
That was the best and most authentic discussion I had all week. The irony was that Alex was the non-Christian and Cindy the Christian. In my earlier years as a pastor (when I had everything figured out in black and white) I would have immediately reinforced the proper behaviour of someone who professed to be a Christian. Fortunately, I’m a bit wiser now. I smiled and said, “Well, if you want to lead spiritually in the home and follow Jesus with all your heart, no, you probably shouldn’t be sleeping together. So why don’t you ask her to marry you?”
It’s a much longer story…and a bit messier than reading it in print. Alex moved downstairs in their home, tensions escalated and he began to look for his own place. Alex and Cindy were breaking up. About the same time, Cindy hit the forgiveness section of Freedom Session and forgave a number of people who’d hurt her or let her down in life…including Alex. In her own words, “Through Freedom Session, God softened my heart to be able to forgive, dream again and be tender. Through this I was able to see Alex’s tender heart and his vulnerability I always knew was there but never could see.” I married Alex and Cindy on their front lawn on July 28.
An excerpt from Alex’s vows: “I promise to lead you and this family, putting God first in our lives and decisions, and then your needs and desires above mine. I will lead with kindness, caring with an open heart to everyone’s needs, not just my own. With God’s help, I know this is possible.”
An excerpt from Cindy’s vows: “I see your heart for wanting to honour God and the process you are on to grow deeper in your relationship with God. Likewise, I want to honour God and make our relationship right before Him. And I want my children to know what it looks like to do right before God.”
It was one of my most memorable and most meaningful weddings. And when I relive the event and, especially when I recall the glowing smile on the faces of the children, my eyesight immediately blurs.
Alex and Cindy aren’t the only ‘Alex and Cindy’ in this world. There are thousands of people around us who have broken lives, complicated relationships, unhealthy coping mechanisms and decimated dreams. These people desperately need Jesus. And churches desperately need to offer hope, relationships and practical teaching from the Bible that addresses the issues they are facing.
I’m not sure the answer is a one-size-fits-all response. Freedom Session is a critical ingredient of our discipleship strategy. Churches and individuals need to offer something that ministers healing and freedom to the people who attend their churches. Most of us could use a deeper measure of freedom and healing ourselves – are we as honest as Alex?
Maybe it’s time that changed…like this fall. Maybe it’s time your church considers offering Freedom Session. Maybe it’s time you attend yourself.
Ken B Dyck is the author, founder and Executive Director of Freedom Session International and currently serves as Pastor of Discipleship and Leadership Development at Village Church. www.freedomsession.com. (names have been changed to respect confidentiality)