Stories are made up events, but a story is larger than the events which comprise it. This will be a guiding principle as you learn to tell your marriage story. You will begin by listing formative events in your life, courtship, and marriage. But telling your life-marriage story is about more than building a chronologically-arranged list of events.

Worksheet One: Sketching Our Marriage Story

Worksheet One (Completed Sample): Marriage Story_Birth to Wedding_SAMPLE

Worksheet Two: Marriage Story_ Present or Future

Events: Begin each worksheet by writing in the key life events which shaped you in the order in which they happened. Questions to prompt you in this part of the exercise are included in each section below. For “Birth to Wedding” general time markers are given to help you outline these events. In the other two, it would be wise to begin by charting the time periods that will divide that segment of your life-marriage story.

Experience: After you list the key events, it is helpful to assess how you experienced those events. A simple “-5” to “+5” scale has been provided. These represent pleasant (peaceful, joyful, excited, etc…) and unpleasant (i.e., angry, anxious, grieving, etc…) responses to each item. From this you should begin to be able to see what the major seasons of your life-marriage have been like: good seasons (+3 to +5), bad seasons (-3 to -5), mixed seasons, and “blah” seasons (-2 to +2).

In this part of the chart place an “x” where that event ranks on the unpleasant-to-pleasant spectrum. Once you have completed the list and rated the experience of each event, connect the dots to give yourself a visual of how that section of your life story has unfolded.

You should begin to notice whether the major shifts (good or bad) in your life have been the result of your choices or situational changes outside your control. You can probably begin to notice where your instincts towards trust or mistrust gained their current force.

Meaning: There is a “comment” box beside each event for you to summarize how you understood the significance of that event upon you. Comments can be serious or playful, but they should accurately represent the way that event actually impacted you at that time.

What were the common themes you used to interpret the pleasant parts of your life? What were the common themes you used to interpret the unpleasant parts of your life? These are probably the same themes that you use to interpret the pleasant and unpleasant events in your marriage today. Until we see that we are interpreters of life, we are slaves to the interpretations that come to us naturally.

You should begin to notice how you responded to things “in the moment” compared with the significance you give them now. Too often we attribute this difference only to the passing of time, but most often it is not time that changes our perspective but a change in perspective (which is just a more common phrase for looking at the same facts from the vantage point of a different “story”).

Birth to Wedding

An exciting, and sometimes unsettling, part of marriage is that two individual stories are becoming one shared story. From the wedding forward you have two individual histories with a shared present and future. The first chart gives clarity about what has been joined together by your marriage covenant and what is being weaved into one by your married life.

What should you include in your life-marriage story?

  • Key events – vacations, accomplishments, tragedies, moves, family changes, secrets
  • Key people – family members, teachers, church leaders, coaches, friends
  • Major interests – hobbies, sports, organizations
  • Significant decisions – good and bad
  • Spiritual markers – good and bad
  • Accomplishments – goals/dreams set, disappointments, points of progress, and completion
  • Jobs – skills developed, key connections established, life-direction determined
  • Maturation markers – personal, emotional, relational
  • Courtship – meeting your spouse, falling in love, obstacles to relationship, learning each other

Wedding to Present

Agreeing on how to divide the major sections of your married life is the first part of telling your wedding-to-present story. How do the “chapters” of your marriage divide? The first year, children, moves, and jobs are common dividers. But you may think of others.

After you think of the key chapters or headings for your married life, begin listing the key events, people, decisions, spiritual markers, and accomplishments for each chapter like you did for your birth-to-wedding story. Mark the ups and downs of each experience and trace the line that is created.

Remember, the point of these exercises is to build unity (emotional and narrative) in your marriage. So talk about the things you write. Reflect on how you see events differently now from when they occurred and consider what that says about what God has done in your life and marriage.

Too often we think of our Christian testimony in exclusively individualistic terms. But if marriage makes us “one flesh” then we should be able to give a marital testimony. This exercise will help you and your spouse feel together in ministry even when you are not doing ministry together. When you have verbalized how your stories have joined, then you can see how you are ever-present in each other’s ministry.

Gospel as the “Grand Narrative”

Most people are unable to talk about the gospel as the theme of their life because they have never thought through their life as a story. Hopefully your work in the previous sections has removed this obstacle for

you and your spouse. This section moves the three story exercises from merely reflective-relational exercises to tracing the hand of God through your life, marriage, fears, and dreams.

“Many of us didn’t marry because we had a grand vision of becoming more like Jesus. But for now, if you don’t find this motivating at least accept that this is what God’s Word clearly teaches (p. 70)… Jesus isn’t a consolation prize for the unhappily married. He’s the grand prize for the married and unmarried alike (p. 71).” Winston Smith in Marriage Matters

The gospel doesn’t rewrite your story; it reinterprets your story. The facts of your life will not change, but the significance of those facts has (or, at least, can) change significantly. For this reason it is suggested that you use color, more than words, to identify where the core themes of the gospel appear in your life-marriage story. The “x’s” and line will not move, but they will become three dimensional and multi-colored.

The chart below contains the major themes of the gospel and a color-coding system. Use these colors to trace the line that runs through your charts. In some areas the colors may stack like a rainbow as you see multiple themes surrounding the same event.




God’s Faithfulness

The gospel begins with God’s faithfulness. Before, during, and after our sin and its affects God is faithful. That is our hope. As the King of Kings (purple for royalty), we can count on God to be faithful. Where do you see God’s faithfulness in your story?


Sin & Suffering

The gospel is needed because of the marring affects of sin and suffering upon our lives. We are born corrupted by sin. We live in a broken world with people who will hurt us. Our lives are marred (black like spilled ink on a work of art) by these realities. Where do you see sin and suffering in your story?


Undeserved Love

We could not fix ourselves or make up for the wrongs we had done. We deserved punishment and rejection, but Christ lived the perfect life necessary to merit heaven and died the death we deserved (red represents his blood) in order to demonstrate the depth of God great love for us. Where do see God’s love and grace in your story?


Faith / Hope

A story filled with sin and suffering should be a dark story. Whenever we experience faith and hope (yellow like the breaking of the morning sun) it is intended to be a reminder that our story has been invaded by Someone greater than our sin and suffering. Where do you see the themes of faith and hope in your story?



Laughter is the privilege of those who feel safe. Soldiers in battle don’t make jokes. Pleasure and joy are common-grace tastes of what God intends for His people and meant to remind us of the home, Heaven, God provides for those who accept His gift of grace (orange for warm and inviting). Where do you see the theme of joy in your story?



Without the gospel we live in a context of limited time, love, and resources. Before we experience the gospel, life is about getting as much of “it” (whatever you value most) as you can. Once we are filled with God’s love we are freed to be generous (green represents money, which is commonly associated with generosity). Where do you see the theme of generosity (in yourself and others) in your story?



We are saved by grace through faith intoa community called the church. This is how we realize that our life is about more than ourselves (blue to indicate the breadth of God’s body, like the sky). Where do you see the theme of Christian community in your story?



By the gospel God forgives our sin (justification) and shapes our character (sanctification). Character shaping is the process by which God makes us like Jesus (brown for steady, solid growth like a tree). Where do you see the theme of perseverance in your story?



Because of the truths of the gospel we are able to trust God with the unexpected and God rarely works as we expect Him (asterisk to represent something out of the ordinary). Where do you see God’s unexpected hand guiding your story?


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Sample Worksheet Completed: Marriage Story_Birth to Wedding_SAMPLE

Now that you have completed tracing the gospel themes through your story, examine what you wrote as the significance or meaning of each event in the “comments” column. What did you learn, re-learn, or unlearn about God, the gospel, and your story?

Creating a Gospel-Centered Marriage: Foundations
Dates: June 23 and 30, 2012
Time: 4:00 to 6:00 pm
Location: The Summit Church, Brier Creek South Venue
Address: 2415 Presidential Drive; Durham, NC 27703
Cost: Free