Creating Shared Meaning Webinar


Again, welcome and thank you. We are together here at the ACCFS office. Kaleb Beyer, our marriage and family therapist is here, Matt Kaufmann is in the background as well. And then I am Arlan Miller, here at ACCFS and today we’re gonna talk about the topic of creating shared meaning in marriage.

A very relevant topic, a very important topic. A topic, Kaleb, I guess when I heard the title and thought about the title, part of it made like sense to me right away. And then part of me is like, there’s a little bit more probably there than I realize. And so, Kaleb, just give us a little bit of a background here with your experience as a marriage and family therapist.

Why did this topic come to your mind and why is this a relevant topic for us to be talking about today in this webinar? So, it’s good to be with you here. So, I think the topic is relevant specifically, even as I think about the pandemic that we’re going through, Arlan, it’s interesting, we had no intention of placing this in the midst of this pandemic, but when you think about how our world has been disrupted, and even as you think about our calendar schedule. I know for me it’s been week after week taking things off of the calendar that we had planned out here and purposefully planned to do. And now it’s being taken off the calendar.

And so, the way I think about this topic is, you have heard the analogy of the forest, seeing the forest for the trees getting in the midst of the trees and missing the forest. And I think this is a topic that helped that first of all, asks us to zoom out and see the overall landscape in the forest.

And then from that perspective we make decisions about how to get into the day to day lives and what that means to be purposeful and meaningful about interactions that we have that create a sense of shared experiences and connections as believers, as couples, as we move through life.

Yeah, so that’s helpful, Kaleb. Right. So what we’re talking about here a little bit is this idea of shared connections. Shared experiences, what goes underneath the surface of a marriage that makes it a little bit deeper. If we could use that as a fair word to say, a little bit more deep in its understanding and its purpose.

Yes. That’s correct. It is about, and I think that’s a fundamental question we all wrestle with at some level, right? What is the meaning of life? What’s the purpose? And certainly believers that is foundational to who we are. And I think the same is true, is bringing that question into marriage.

What is the purpose? What is the meaning of marriage? Is it just about paying bills? Is it just, certainly those are part of it. But what is it about? And so that’s really what this question, and that’s what we’re hoping to dive in today and to try to unpack and understand what is it, and then how can we practically put some of these into place that create that meaningful connection in our relationships as married couples.

So, great thought there, Kaleb, as we get started. We have a series of slides that we are gonna walk through. These slides will be available on the website afterwards as a handout as well as a take home assignment that we’re gonna talk through towards the tail end of the hour that we have together.

But let’s go ahead and get started and into this. As you think about this, Kaleb, meaninglessness to meaning, help us understand that what’s in your mindset as you think about that? Yeah, as a general concept. Yep. As a general concept. So I thought it’d be helpful just to start from the perspective just as individuals and then move into marriage.

And I think the first piece here, Arlan, is we know from Ecclesiastes and the writings there, as it says here in Ecclesiastes 1:2 vanity of vanities, saith the preacher vanity of vanities, all is vanity. And Solomon had everything at his fingertips. He had the pleasure he wanted, he had the power he wanted, he had the riches.

And yet at the end of that, it’s like there’s this sense of that there’s emptiness in just that. And if you look at the Hebrew word there, as you can see on the slide for vanity, it’s havel. I’m not sure if that’s pronounced correctly, but it means emptiness, futility, or vapor. And so that image on the screen really signifies if you think about it.

So I have kids and when they were younger we used to blow bubbles and you try to catch ’em right on your fingers. Great game. Yes, and if you gone for hours that way yeah, that’s right. The how that bubble would pop so frequently and when it popped, there was nothing left. It was gone. There was no substance. And I think that’s what, as I think about Solomon as he sought for all of these things, there was in the end of just vanity, just vapor, just gone. There was no meaning in it, and yet he also, that’s not what the Scripture calls us to though, right?

And so as you move through Ecclesiastes, and I just put one another verse in there, 2:24, it says, there’s nothing better for a man than that he should eat and drink and that he should make his soul enjoy good in his labor. This also, I saw that it is from the hand of God. And even in the New Testament, Paul speaks in 1 Corinthians 15, therefore my beloved brethren be ye steadfast and unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord. For as much as you know that your labor is not in vain. There is meaning, there is purpose in what you’re doing in the Lord, in Christ. And so from that perspective, there’s even meaning going to work. There’s meaning in relationship. It’s the foundation of our meaning. And so it’s from that place that it’s no longer just a vapor, but that’s our grounding for making meaning out of life, out of work. Sure. Out of relationships.

I can appreciate that, Kaleb, but just a base level, right? It is calling us to a depth or to a deeper point than just this surface level go through the motions type existence that we can come into. And now I’m guessing that applies to the marriage level too, right? We can find ourselves just going through the motions, but what I’m hearing you say is that we’re gonna call ourselves to a little bit of a deeper level there.

There’s a, I read, actually a couple weeks ago, a story, maybe you’ve heard this before, Arlan, but this individual walked upon these three individuals who were breaking boulders into small rocks, and he asked them what they were doing, and the first one replied, You know what? I’m breaking boulders into small rocks. I’m just hammering them down. The next one replied and said, I’m feeding my family. And the final one said, I’m building a cathedral. And so when you think about that, the third response, building a cathedral, he is tying his day to day interactions in what he’s doing to this place, this sacred place that’s being built.

It certainly contains the second response of feeding family that’s included in that. And that’s very purposeful and meaningful. And so I think what this is, is about tying our day to day work into a bigger story, a bigger context, God’s story ultimately.

So, and I’m guessing this applies not just to marriage, right? This, as we said before, this applies as believers, right? We can read in the Scripture that we are to have the mind of Christ. That’s a meaning that we can have together. And you have a couple other Scriptures here, Kaleb, that speaks about shared reality, shared hope. Speak to those briefly so we have a bigger cradle to put this concept into.

Ere it is that we’re joining so the meaning part right of life, and that as believers, we have shared experiences together. And so God calls us into a community, a body of believers, and this is part of the sharedness.

And as we move through life, those shared interactions is what connects us together. So whether it’s the meaning, the mind of Christ that he’s called us into be transformed, that our minds are renewed in him, or the reality, the lens that we put on as believers, we share that we’re not alone in that.

So there’s a community. And then finally the hope. And really, if you think about as we’ll get into number of the way, as a church, as a body of believers, think of how many things we do are about sharing together, whether it’s communion or worship or fellowship, or all of these things are about shared experiences that connect us as individuals to a greater body or community.

So then let’s take that, that makes a lot of sense to me, Kaleb. So let’s take that then to the marriage level. One of the most intimate relationships that we are called into in this life. What does that look like at a marriage level? What is shared meaning at a marriage point. So give us some thoughts here. I mean, you have a great quote here. I’d like you to break that down for us just a little bit here.

So, even just think about for all of us, if someone were to come ask you, and maybe even someone who isn’t married, what is marriage all about? How would you respond? What would you communicate with them? What comes up for you? And certainly you can see the left of the slide, there’s a number of things. Owning a house, doing dishes, paying bills, right? All of those are components that is just part of living and life. But in the end, is that really what marriage is about?

And I think we’d all say, No, of course not. And those are important and they need to be addressed. But there’s something more meaningful and purposeful about marriage that if we get stuck on those things, we’ve missed something. So, this quote, I appreciated this. This quote says, A crucial goal of any marriage, therefore, is to create an atmosphere that encourages each person to talk honestly about his or her convictions.

The more you speak candidly and respectfully with each other, the more likely there is to be a blending of your sense of meaning. And so, as that’s true, as believers, that’s also true as a couple, that part of meaning I think, Arlan, as couples is moving below the surface in our conversations to how we’re making meaning out of, for example, the stumbles in life or the mountaintops in life.

I think part of that is having those discussions as couples, and moving to that level. And I’m guessing, I don’t know, it seems like, at least in my marriage, as I think about that, cuz that does make sense. I mean the left hand side, they’re the logistical side of marriage. I mean that can consume us. Right? Those things have to happen somewhat. Right. They happen because that’s what everything pressures us into. The right hand side, this idea of, I like that last phrase there, speaking candidly and respectfully with each other. The more we do that, the more it blends together. That doesn’t happen very easily, usually. Right. Is that kind of the experience personally that maybe that you see and then that you see also in other marriages as you consider this?

Yes, you’re absolutely correct. It doesn’t happen easily. It takes intentionality. And I would also say, Arlan, that these discussions, if you think about it, of meaning this goes deep to our core about who we are and experiences we’ve had. And so if our relationship, if we have difficult having conversation about even logistical, maybe conversation about just day to day things, we’re gonna really have a difficulty moving into this deeper layer, if you will.

That’s really helpful there, Kaleb. So let me make sure I have that correct. So, part of this, I mean, this is tied around the idea of communication. Communication is an essential kind of first step. So are you saying, if I’m hearing you right, there are times when couples need to actually just focus on just basic communication skills first before they try get the icing on the cake, so to speak, of shared meaning?

Yes. I think that idea of understanding, validation and we often use the term, safety so that I can express what I’m feeling, thinking, and it doesn’t mean you agree with it, but you’ll receive it with respect and love. Because when we move into some of these, meaning, again, that’s closer to my what I really endear. And if I share that with you and you somehow ignore it or are flippant about it, that’s much more painful than you ignoring me about picking up the kids next Thursday or, logistical conversation.

So that basic level, and we’ve talked about that before in other webinars that we’ve done, building emotional intimacy, is thinking through this idea of understanding our emotions, being able to navigate those, communicate those together. And those webinars are on our website recorded and out there. You would recommend somewhat, Kaleb, and if I’m hearing you right, that sometimes couples need to start there before we go to this deeper level of understanding intimacy.

Right. I would, Arlan, I think, and maybe even this isn’t like linear, there’s sometimes in life we need to move back and spend some time on building emotional intimacy. And then moving into this space, it’s not quite that linear. I mean, this is sure not like a Monopoly board, where you just keep going around there. Right. There’s times when you get sent back to start and you have to start over.

I think if we step into some of these conversation and we’re discouraged, that’s okay. That’s information that says, you know what, maybe we need to spend some time in the area of building emotional intimacy and then come back to this is what I would say.

Building that safety and going on the next slide. I really like this graphic that you laid out here, right? Two become one marriage and the gospel, I’m mindful of Ephesians, where it speaks about the idea that there is something deeper about marriage. So there’s that connection that takes place of marriage. That’s a mystery, right? It’s something that’s not fully understood. It reveals a deeper truth. And I think that aspect of what we’re talking about here, probably correct, with this graphic here?

Correct, yes it is. And I like that graphic as well. And one of the things you’ll notice about that graphic, Arlan, is that there are two individuals, but in the center there is a blending. And one of the things that I think about, as Paul talks in Corinthians as new creations in Christ, I also see that our marriage is also a new creation in the sense that, Right.

So for myself and Ang, this isn’t about building Angie’s family. This isn’t about building my family. This is about, God is creating a mixture, right? And, between the two of us, and that’s where you see in this graphic, the center part is this new creation that is in Christ that’s grounded in him. And it is a mystery. We don’t fully understand it. But it’s a new creation. Right.

And so this middle part here, this is the sharedness, right? This is the shared meaning, the shared creation, the depth that goes beyond the surface of the logistics and gets to this idea of who am I and who are you and how are we together? How you create, right? Okay. So how do we do that? So that’s good information. That’s good motivation actually, cuz there’s a richness there, I think, that can really draw us there. But, next part, let’s walk into this. Okay. So how do we actually start to build this or create this shared meeting?

So there’s four areas to focus on. Four pillars, if you will, would be one way to think about this. And so as you see there, they’re on the screen and we can walk through each of these and break them down, but rituals, roles, goals, and values. And so, when you think about creating shared meaning, it’s a blend of each of these. And it’s about, I think, one of the things, and we can talk about this later, but as we think about creating shared meaning, it is again, takes intentionality and time. But engaging, meaningful discussion with vulnerability around these areas. So these are the four areas I think, would be good for us to spend a little bit more time on.

And do they go in order or are they all distinct or how would you view these in your experience? Yep. They are distinct and there’s not necessarily any order to them. I would say of all of these I probably use the most in working with couples, rituals, what I, spend quite a bit of time on. And really if you, as we talk about rituals, you can lace in things like goals and values into those activities that you do together. But they are separate. It’s not any typical order as far as the way you walk through them.

Well, let’s start there then if rituals a good place to start. Let’s just start walking through this. So, Kaleb, what is a ritual, and what does that mean in a marriage context?

So, again, as we’re talking through this, Arlan, I’m mindful of the reality of where we’re at in our world today. And one of the things that has disrupted is just a sense of consistency in the way that we move through the week or the days. I find myself, like, what day is it? Because our markers even of Sundays have been disrupted. I’m thankful with technology we still have the opportunity to gather on Wednesday night and Sundays through technology. But those rhythms or rituals that we had in life have really been disrupted. And so rituals are this, as it says, are a routine or event that strengthens us. It’s about us together doing things. And really, if you think about throughout Scripture, God calls his people to ritual in the Old Testament, the New Testament, meaning these are events that we consistently celebrate. In the Old Testament, he talked about seven annual feasts that they did together, and they were intentional about, and there was meaning in. The same is true for us as couples is there are these areas of our life, there’s routines that, by engaging them regularly, they connect us together. Right? There’s meaning in not just this one activity, but the many that we engage in over time.

So like the patterns of behavior that we just find ourselves falling into or continuing in and out of our time.

So maybe it’d be helpful to talk just about some examples with that. And these can be formal rituals. Like for example, a formal ritual may be for our anniversary. Every year we go and do such and such, or we go to such and such place. Right. That’s a formal kind of, we’re remembering our anniversary together and there’s a certain way that we like to do that. And so we look forward to it. It can be informal. Rituals can be the way that we leave the house in the morning or the way that we arrive at the end of the day. Or the fact that we pray together at the end of the day as a couple together. So they can be fairly informal and short. They can be very formal and more extensive. But the purpose of it is a time to be together without, as it says, their logistical conversation, planning. It’s just about sharing in life together.

But it’s meaningful because, one of the things, even as families, that I think it’s good for us to do, and I remember when we were going through college, that one of the meaningful rituals that we appreciated as a family was going to Sonic. They had a park by Sonic, and during happy hour you get half price slushies. And the kids loved it. We loved it. It was great. And it’s simple. It didn’t cost a lot, but it was a connecting experience. And to this day, they still talk about it. So it didn’t cost a lot of money. It actually didn’t take a lot of time. But it was something that, it was a time that we shared in those experiences and we looked forward to.

Sure. So to go back to, I like that example. Cuz it could go back to your original analogy of the forest and the trees. So what I’m hearing you say is that these rituals are an example where kind of the trees emerge where the tree is that we went to Sonic at a certain time during happy hour or whatever and sat in the park and did those type of things, but there became a much deeper meaning, or the forest kind of emerged from that, Right? And that deeper shared meaning as a marriage emerges as we walk through these different things. Yes. That’s really important. Now, your second or third bullet point there is a good check for myself, right? Cuz I instantly went to like, one of my rituals is that when I’m on my way home from work, I’ll call my wife and I’ll wanna just talk about the day and kind of square away the logisticals for the evening.

Right? That’s not really what we’re talking about here necessarily. I mean, that’s a pattern we fall into, Right? But that’s more about getting things done than about hearing and understanding each other. Yes. Am I correct in thinking about that?

You are. Yep. These, this is more about a time intentionally set aside where actually those things don’t happen. Sure. Right? And so even, maybe it’s one night a week. You and your spouse decide maybe it’s Thursday night at 9:30, you sit down together for 20 to 30 minutes and the focus is on just things like, what is God doing in your heart? What’s he calling you to right now? Or what’s a struggle, a stress, what’s a joy, a victory? Those sorts of engagement. But the other thing about rituals is it’s not just engaging in dialogue, it’s making it special to you as a couple. Right. Whether that’s popcorn or pop or simple things. But it’s the experience that we share in together.

And again, I think of us as believers, how many of those things are true, whether it be eating a meal or other things. But, so it’s more than just the dialogue that happens. It is the dialogue that happens, but it’s an experience that we have together. Does that make sense?

It does. It does. And I think there’s also just the discipline of making sure those things happen. Another example comes to my mind, it’s a little bit more on the informal side, and I like some of the questions you have here about just having that discussion as a couple, and say, what rituals do you see in our lives and would you like to start some?

One of the ones that Katie and I have fallen into is that we roughly get up about the same time of day, and it’s usually assuming things are going well, usually before the kids get up. And we don’t necessarily do like devotion time together, but I’m in one room, she’s next door in the other room. We can see each other and we’re present together even though we’re not having a lot of that conversation. It’s a ritual though. I can tell when the days when that’s happened and the days when it’s not, for whatever reason. That’s helpful. So, we have rituals, so these routines. What was the next one then as we walk into this next one. Okay. So roles. So let’s talk about that a little bit. What do roles mean and what’s this topic about here?

So roles. So I guess it’s we think through roles, a couple different things come to mind. One is certainly we have the roles as we think about in our own family growing up. One of the things that I often walk through with premarital couples is an exercise that asks them, who did the laundry? Who took care of the finances? Those are certain types of roles and responsibilities that come with navigating married life together. And those are important. But as you think about your roles in life, and so for me, a father, a husband, a son of God, right?

Those different roles, there’s certain responsibilities come with that, and those are helpful. But here, when we’re talking about supporting roles, it’s that next question, what does it mean to be a father, a mother, a spouse, employee. So in other words, starting by identifying the roles that I have in my life or the different things that I’m called to, but not just about the responsibilities of it, but what does it mean for me to be a father?

Because, one of the things that we find is it’s out of that meaning that our expectations flow. So expectations for myself or for my wife as a mother. I have meanings of what a mother should look like or what that includes and having discussions when my expectations are different from hers.

Right. That’s really an important point. I wanna just jump in there for a second and think about this. Check my thinking here. I was a teacher for a number of years, as you know, and sometimes you would give an assignment to the classroom and the students just wouldn’t do very well globally, you know?

And, at that point, I always went back and pushed back on myself and reflected, and often you would find that maybe the directions weren’t very clear or the expectations weren’t understood. I didn’t explain it well or something like that. And I could usually tell when the expectations were clear and when they weren’t on what came back to me.

I’m hearing the same type of logic here, a little bit, that as we go through life as a couple and in a marriage type relationship, that if we’re not clear on what it means to be a father or a mother, or a husband or a wife, or a spiritual leader or a supporter, we can set ourselves up for failure because we’re not communicating about that, right?

Yes, absolutely. And one example I might share with that related to marriage often comes up is spiritual leadership. What does spiritual leadership mean and what does that look like? And I know early in our relationship when we had young kids, and it was a time we had four under five. And so my mental picture of spiritual leadership was that each night at the supper table, we needed to have 15 to 20 minutes of devotion.

And I remember the point how that, how’d that work out for you? It just didn’t work. It did not work. Ang is like, she had come to a point that this is just not an environment and a space to do that. And, in fact their family had different experiences because she grew up and they were an agricultural community. But the point being is the meaning of spiritual leadership that I was in, the expectation I had was we needed to do that at that time. Now we’re in a different stage, and so it looks different now, but the point being is, okay, I think about spiritual leadership. There’s some meaning I have under that the expectations flow from that.

And sometimes those expectations aren’t overt and communicated about. And that’s really what’s helpful and healthy for us as couples to have conversations about.

So talk it through as a couple put that on the table. And this is probably more of a 2.0 type conversation. This isn’t an initial conversation. I’m guessing this gets into some more difficult things to talk about at times. So you need to have safety and all of that built up there, but be able to lay that out there and say to each other, this is what this role means to me. This is what it means to me. And try to come together with that shared understanding. The last point, there’s support too, right? So it isn’t just pressure upon someone, it’s more that question of how do I support you to live up to these expectations, so to speak, right?

Yes. It’s not just the awareness and understanding of how the meaning my spouse makes out of that, but how can I support them in that particular role, mother, wife, whatever that looks like. And I would say too, Arlan, I would view this as ongoing discussions, not like a point in time that we sit down. Okay, let’s talk about the meaning of mother, because just like life shapes us, God brings trials, he brings different, and I view parenting differently now than I did when they were in the seven to two range.

It just looks different. So I don’t think this is a point in time conversation as much as it is these are ongoing dialogues, if you will, that as we go through life and all that it brings at us and things that happen that these are conversations that we are having, that we’re actively, intentionally having.

And that could be, I mean, that’s a great, that’s a great point. And, sometimes if we’re sensing conflict or difficulty in our marriage relationship, this could be a starting point in the sense of the expectations, the roles, what’s going on there and how are we communicating that or not communicating that and holding the unspoken standard in front of our spouse.

Let’s go on to the next one then. Goals, sharing and supporting and goals. So, what’s this about? How is this a little bit different than this idea of roles here?

So goals, as we think about goals and, some of us just based on our personality, may be more goal oriented than others. So I think most of us, we understand what goals are. It’s this idea that there’s this destination that we wanna go to. Okay. We identify it, and then it’s how do we move and ultimately reach or arrive at that specific goal? So goals are destination focused, if you will. So we do that in work. We think about that in our spiritual walk, in our marriage relationships the same. But one of the things that’s really important here is, again, back to we are one flesh. And what that means is being intentional about understanding what is, for me, my wife’s aspirations, her heart, her hopes, her dreams. Whether it’s for next week or for five years from. Okay. And so that calls me in not just an independent life of I’m headed on this path, but there’s sharedness in that there’s awareness and understanding of what she is aspiring to and moving towards, and then how I can help and support her in that direction or path.

So I’m seeing a commonality here a little bit with roles in the sense that this is about communication with each other and then supporting each other as we go towards that. It’s similar to roles, whereas rituals is maybe more about what we do together or some of just those patterns of life we fall into.

This is about let’s talk through what, where do you wanna go with what is your goals out there? And you would recommend, almost you have down here a yearly activity or just this idea that you have safety to talk through these aspirations together. And what have you seen work in that regard? Is it couple dependent or have you seen some general things that are really helpful for couples to consider?

It is somewhat couple dependent. There is a couple, the Ferrells, maybe you’ve heard of them, that they have what they call a yearly planning. And so what they do is they walk through, for example, it’s a time, it’s a yearly time that they go through. They reflect on the past year. So there’s a reflection both in understanding what worked, how God was working. But then they look forward to the next year. And one of the things that I really appreciated is they pick out a theme. They pick out a theme verse, right? And a theme kind of goal as a couple.

And they do it as a family as well. But then they just walk through questions, both individually focused on specifically, if there’s certain things that they wanna accomplish this year. That’s a goal, that’s a destination. And so for them it’s a very formal time where they sit down and maybe it’s at a time when they’re away when they can talk about it. And they can assess and start to identify theme verse, the theme for the year, and then specific goals underneath that. To them it’s very formal. Other couples, it’s not as a formal sit down conversation, but they can more do it in conversations, whether that’s weekly at these rituals. That’s where I talked about earlier, how they can be integrated into even some rituals that you have together.

So, really what it is as I think about it, is it’s this idea of aligning your paths together there, right? And thinking through this idea that you’re going together down that path. You never wanna get in a spot, whereas a couple, you’re veering off there, right? This is about and whether that is a more formal activity or whether that’s a more informal day to day type thing or week to week. I can see there’s difference there based upon personalities. We had somebody in church gave us actually just at the, New Year’s is always that time of like goals, right?

I mean, it’s that time of thinking through life I guess. And they gave us a goal sheet, right? Just to fill out as a family, it’s kind of fun, I mean, they had a couple fun questions and a couple like, what do you wanna do next year? And that kind of stuff. And it was meant for the whole family, right? So we did it all. I mean, my five year old, my 10 year old, Katie and I, we all did it. And, I was actually kinda surprised how well it went. That’s like my cup of tea. I think about that all the time, right? Sure. That is not prone to the others in my family. But it was a healthy exercise because now we can look back at that and we can kind of say, are we supporting each other do what we wanna do? My 10 year old wanted to learn to play the piano, something like that, cuz that was important to her. And how am I supporting that? Bring it to a marriage context. You’re thinking about, there’s goals that my wife has, there’s goals that I have that we wanna encourage and support each other on that destination for them.

And whether that’s, I think that’s a good example of the playing the piano or learning a musical instrument and you can support them by providing childcare at certain times of the week or when they’re practicing. So it’s about coming in and supporting them in moving in that direction in different ways, but it begins with a discussion and awareness of what’s on their heart and what they really are aspiring to.

It builds that team concept. It’s a we instead of an I as we’re supporting together. Good. Let’s go on to the next one, Kaleb. Then the last one, the last pillar that we had, is values and symbols. So, help us understand how values are a little bit different than goals. And what does this whole symbol piece that comes in here with this?

The language maybe is a bit abstract. But think of it, so first the difference between goals and values. Goal is like a destination that I’m wanting to reach and a value is what I engage along the way, how I go about it, right? So, for example, if I had a goal of reading through the Bible in one year, my goal is reached at the end of the year if I read through the whole Bible in one year. It’s a point in time, point A to point B, the value is how I go about reading it. Curiously? Or, what is the value I wanna embrace while I’m moving on this path?

And so for values, it’s not a destination as much as it’s a way of living, a way of moving through life. So as couples then it’s important for us to share, understand the values that we want us to be living in, as a couple. And oftentimes these values are connected with symbols. So again, think about the Old Testament and think about the imagery in the tabernacle with the candlestick and the table for the bread. Like these are symbols that had deep and rich meaning and hold values for those individuals, for God’s people, and the same is true in our relationship as couples.

What are those things? We often joke, actually, I think, Arlan, you and I were talking about this prior to the webinar, is saving some cake from the wedding cake there. Don’t do that for flavor. But what are the symbols and whether it’s a Bible that was given, that’s sitting on the nightstand or there’s certain symbols that they have rich meaning to us. To other people, they may have no clue or idea, but when we look at that particular thing on our nightstand, we, without saying anything, we are connecting on what that means, the deep richness of the value that it holds because of experiences that we’ve had that have flowed out of that.

So, questions there, how do we want to share, how do you want to share your life together? What values, and again, there’s a number of exercises that individuals can go through where it’s just picking out for this year three values that you wanna focus on intentionally about. And what are those, and what does that look like to live that out as a couple? It can be as simple as that.

And keep each other accountable to that. Right. This is an opportunity where the couple and love and safety can help the sanctification process or just that accountability process of growing in these areas. I can totally see how it could be a fairly valuable activity. When you talked about the symbols, one thought that came to my mind actually this morning was this idea of, we visited a couple, a long time ago when we were early married, a friend couple of ours, and on the wall of their house, they had created what they called an Ebeneezer Wall, where they would put up like a picture or a statement or a symbol or something that would represent different moments in their life where God had helped them through something. And I really like that concept. We have something a little bit different, but with the same idea a little bit in one of the walls in our house where it’s a conversation place but also a remembrance place for us as we think about those experiences we went through in the past and those symbols that remind us of, in that case, God’s faithfulness. And I think that could be a really powerful opportunity to build these values and symbols together and remind ourselves of those things.

Yeah, that’s a great idea. I like that that example and just how the family together can share in it, and you can walk by it and you’re capturing a lot of meaning through that wall, a lot of experiences.

So, I wanna give a little bit of time for questions if questions have emerged. I haven’t seen anything chatted in, necessarily. And Matt, I’m gonna open it up to you in just a minute to ask any questions that have emerged that you’ve seen. But Kaleb, let’s talk about this just as a transition. How does a couple get into this space? How do they begin? What would you recommend for them to begin to think about shared meaning in their marriage. We’ve offered some discussion aid, which we’ll share out again, on the website afterwards with just a series of questions, that are gonna just pop through a lot of these different columns here. But in general, how does the couple go into that? What do they, how should we consider that?

Well, I think a couple thoughts that come to mind, Arlan. One is it does take quality time. It takes time. It takes commitment to sit down and have dialogue in this way. I think is the first thing that, the reality is, these are conversations and dialogue that don’t just emerge to the surface in day to day life.

They just don’t. And not because we don’t want them to, but because of we’re pulled in different directions. And, so I think it takes that commitment and that quality time together. The other thing it takes as we’re talking through this, is vulnerability. This means that for me as a spouse, I need to be vulnerable in sharing some of these perspectives, these ideas, these beliefs that are deep and important.

But there needs, and we’ve talked about safety in the relational sense. These conversations require us to be vulnerable, right, to step into sharing and expressing, and going deep with our beliefs and meaning. And these questions that we wrestle with, we don’t have the answers to, but we do think about and wrestle with. And then I think the other thing is, I would say is just perseverance. Meaning, this is not something again that we do without being consistent and persistent over time. But I do think specifically of rituals, I do think there’s a richness in engaging this over time.

There’s a quote that you maybe have heard the book of the Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Couples, and there’s a quote that I really appreciated. Says this, Highly happy couples aren’t just spending time together because they are happy. A big part of the reason they’re so happy is that they’re spending time together.

And so if we wait, the idea is, right, if we wait until it’s the ideal time or we’re at a good place, or the premise of spending time together that we’re happy, it will never happen in that sense. Sure, it’s the over time. These times that we spend together, sometimes they feel like flops, other times are great, meaningful, rich, but it’s the culmination that creates that connection that is rich and meaningful even outside of those rituals.

Sure. So there’s a little bit of a discipline of actually persevering through it or continuing with it, even if it maybe doesn’t go as well or it’s harder at certain seasons of life. That makes sense. I was mindful when you shared that quote of what I think Jesus says at one point in the Scriptures, when he is talking to disciples, he says, if you know these things happy are ye, if you do them. I mean, a little bit of that same concept that the happiness comes as we do the things we know we’re supposed to do.

We don’t expect the happiness to be there first and then we do them. But it comes the feelings, the emotions come as we engage in that as we’re supposed to which I’m really appreciative of. Thankful of. So time, vulnerability, perseverance. And then walking through some of these things intentionally.

And like I said, we’re gonna have a discussion aid. A lot of the questions you saw on the PowerPoint, we put them together into one page document, which we’ll share out on our website that just, if it’s helpful, could be used as a couple walks through some of these things together. And has these conversations. Matt, any observations or thoughts come to your mind as you’ve been listening in the background here, or any questions that you’ve seen emerge?

I was curious, Kaleb, can you give us a few examples of shared values? Get us thinking about that. I’m sold on the idea, but I’m not creative, and so the ideas are dying. So if you could breathe some life and some ideas on what values could be shared.

So a couple ideas come to mind, Matt. So first, one of the values that for us is one of curiosity. Okay. So that’s a value again, and the distinction between a goal and a value is, a goal is a destination. I arrive. A value isn’t about arriving, it’s about a way of living. So what does it look like for us to be curious? It means not drawing conclusions too quickly, whether that’s the way we engage Scripture or the way we engage our kids curious about their experience, not making quick assumptions or a value could be one of adventure. Maybe you’re a couple that appreciates and enjoys adventure, so if that’s a value you hold as a couple, that might mean what are activities that flow out of that value that we can engage together, that we can share in, around this value of adventure? Does that make sense?

Yeah, that does make sense. I think that’s helpful. And as I look at these four pillars of sorts, I’m just gonna make an observation. The first and the last one, rituals and values are shared in the sense of blending. The middle two, however, roles and goals, are divergent. They’re distinctive, they’re elevating the distinction of each individual. The first and the last are blending. And, I would guess that’s probably by design and important. Cuz I could see roles and goals maybe going to unhealthy places. I’m curious what kind of cautions you would have. And let me just make this point and then I’d like you to respond to it because we do see marriages in secular culture becoming annulled because, well, my goals aren’t being met and I can’t help, and this person’s goal is being met, and so we’re gonna cordially disconnect. And so what kind of precautions, how do we carry this important notion and not get in a bad spot?

That’s a really good observation, Matt, and I think, so part of this, I think about the gospel message that one of, even as we think about in marriage, is one of serving and honoring. So when we think about roles and goals in the middle, they are certainly distinctive to the individual. But as believers we’re called into share in that, right? So what that means is, I think the sharing part is about what does it look like to honor, to serve even as a husband. So as I think about a husband and I think about serving as Christ served and washing the disciples feet. What does it look like for me to love as Christ loved and love my wife in that way?

And, that means knowing and understanding, but also getting excited. If I’m not getting excited or if I’m not, just getting excited about what God is doing in Angie’s heart or what he has put on her heart. Those are questions that I need to start asking, that I need to reflect on. And so, I dunno if I’m answering your question there, Matt, but I do think this is about us understanding and knowing each other in that. And then what does it look like for me to serve and support my spouse?

Well, what I’m hearing is a little bit of you start with the assumption or the presupposition that this is a team and we’re together. And how does my role complement and encourage that husband, wife team type status, or how does my goals encourage those things? Whereas you could also start with the presupposition of, I’m going to fulfill myself, or I’m going to be self-actualized or whatever terminology you wanna use. And then that’s gonna drive even more divergent versus this idea of how do we push ourselves towards a common union is maybe a little bit of a good precursor to put in place there, which, Arlan, is the value, right?

And that’s where I think that’s so important that value undergirds all of these things, cuz really what you just expressed, there was a shared value that we have that makes roles and goals flourish. But I do think that there’s something really intriguing here with roles and goals coming from a standpoint of a we mentality. What does it look like for me to have a goal for myself, but have my wife very present in that goal? And what does it look like for her to have a goal for herself, but have me very present in that goal? Again, that comes out from a value that you just mentioned very well, Arlan, that we are a we with our goals and roles, which I, anyway, so as I listen here, my thoughts are really spurred to think about that, which I think is exciting, to think about roles and goals in that new way.

Thanks for that thought, Matt. I just wanna be mindful of time. There’s just a couple minutes left. I’m not sure if anybody out there who has been listening has a question they’d like to ask. Feel free to unmute yourself and ask the question. We’ll wait just a little bit for that, and, if not, that’s totally fine. At that point we’ll bring this to a close and with a few final thoughts.

Well, thank you for joining us today, and thank you for sharing together on this important topic. Any last thoughts, Kaleb, or any last comments as we bring this to a close?

No, I just, thanks for joining us and being with us, and I think it is an abstract topic, in a sense, but I think it’s a really important topic but challenging and I just would encourage, I think the discussion questions, that follow up really try to dive a little bit more deeply into some of these things and make it personal. So appreciate your time and it’s been a privilege to be with you for sure.

Well, thank you, Kaleb, for your expertise and wisdom as we walk through this. It is a great topic and it really is one for marriages as we go from the shallow end to a little bit of the deeper end, so to speak, if you can use that analogy. And, we did put some questions together in a handout, which will be on the website on the web article, where this recording will be housed, as well as a copy of this PowerPoint. And, we’ll share that out shortly to our email list as soon as we get everything developed and posted.

Again, so thank you for joining us. We do these webinars every so often. And, you can see those on our website at the upcoming webinars page on our website. And we really appreciate each and every one of you taking time out of your day to be with us. So blessings and we wish you well.

In this webinar, Kaleb Beyer walks through the richness that shared meaning and purpose can create in a marriage relationship. He discusses practical ways we all can build this shared meaning through rituals, roles, goals, and values. Learn more as you watch the webinar recording. A copy of the PowerPoint handout and a Discussion Guide for couples are included as resources below.