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Pre-Marital Counseling: 3 times Zones, 1 focus – What IS marriage?


Now that I had the DRESS, the next most important part (or arguably THEE most important part) was to choose WHO would marry us. This may sounds funny to some…as I already found the most IMPORTANT WHO in the entire equation – MY GROOM – however, I knew whoever we selected to officiate our ceremony would play an important role in our future.

In fact, I didn’t realize HOW important.

As a Christian, I’ve gotten guidance, wisdom & spiritual counsel from lots of men & women over the years. I’ve been blessed to spend a great number of years in 3 different states – New York, Florida & California – and in each & every one of them, not only do I have great friends & family, but awesome pastors and teachers. So many names started to go through my mind…


-Pastor Ken, my childhood pastor in New York – who laid a strong foundation for my parents when they first became Christians in the early 1990s


-Pastor Randy, also from New York & the man who I credit to showing me and my family what living for Jesus was really about, and showed me as a young teen, just how “cool” following Christ could be


-Pastor Matthew Barnett, my pastor in my formative years in Los Angeles – this man, from the moment I first met him in 2011, stood out to me with his great sense of humor & passion for the less fortunate & lost. He showed me what it’s like to be the hands & feet of Jesus, what a privilege it is to SERVE others, and how to LOVE others with no conditions….

and then there was…


Pastor Armando – he was the newest spiritual leader in my life. During the time I’d spent  living with my parents in San Diego, I re-connected with him & the church family where he lead & taught at. I remember one occasion when my dad & I were at the beach over the summer & my dad found Armando praying by the sand (as he does weekly) – right on the very beach only a few months later he would marry Kim & I on.

After thinking of the location of our wedding (in the San Diego area), and knowing there are no coincidences in life, but God-ordained appointments, I shared with Kim I felt lead to ask Armando if he would marry us.

When I made the call to Armando – I am not going to lie – I WAS NERVOUS AND ANXIOUS.

WHY? Because, from my perspective & many who may be reading this – I was about to ask a Pastor to do something that I KNEW I could expect a NO – to MARRY a Christian to a non-Christian.

For those of you who are non-Christians, you may not understand the gravity or seriousness of this idea. In the Bible, which as a Christian I believe to be the actual living, breathing, truthful Word of God, it shares how we are to be yoked (or married) to fellow Believers of the faith.

Up until this point, Kim & I had had hours and hours of discussions of my faith, who Jesus was to me, and what my beliefs were. He knew where I stood. I also knew where he did.

In fact, what intrigued Kim about marriage to me in general was my belief in what marriage actually was…and my belief and understanding came directly from the Bible.

I’ll never forget the moment I first mentioned “covenant marriage” to Kim. His ears INSTANTLY perked up and I felt his “soul” lean in. THIS was a new concept to him.


Marriage that actually MEANT…FOREVER. Marriage that wasn’t based on status, money, selfishness…but a contract that was based on a promise, a vow, of eternal commitment, trust, honesty and love between God and the other person?

Christian marriage is, at its core, a beautiful reflection of Christ’s relationship to HIS Bride, the “church” (or body of believers). The example we are given in marriage to freely give ourselves to our spouses, to unconditionally love them, to sacrifice at all cost – is the example of how Jesus loved us when He went to the Cross and how He continually loves us and seeks us out today.

I continually prayed for Kim & our relationship, as he openly, humbly & honestly sought out his own answers, and trusted God, as I always have, that He would guide us and make a way, where there seemed to be no way. Faith…the size of a mustard seed. Faith the size of a wedding ring.

With this faith, I asked Pastor Armando – and without hesitation, he said it would be his HONOR to marry Kim and I. I had been sharing with Armando for a few weeks at this point about Kim & I, what God was doing, and asked for him to be praying for us.


Another BIG part of most covenant marriages, in which we miraculously journeyed into , despite the obstacles stacked against us, was pre-marital counseling.

Kim & I, as we LOVE to dive deeper & have intense conversations, were excited to go through this challenging & sometimes painful process. That’s what happens when iron sharpens iron – it’s a GOOD hurt, though!


So, even though we were on 3 different time zones – Armando in San Diego, I in New York & Kim in Belgium – we ended up meeting 4-5 times through Skype & began digging deep into what marriage really is and what Christianity is all about.

Armando, right away, while gracious, kind & funny, didn’t pull any punches! He immediately went for some hard questions & gave us some tough homework. His perspective was that he didn’t feel his job was to just MARRY us, but get us to our 50th wedding anniversary. He was thinking long-term…and so were we.


To help get us there and focused in the same direction, Pastor Armando sent us a sermon entitled, “The Meaning of Marriage” by Timothy Keller. I had heard of Tim Keller in the past, but had never had the chance to listen to any of his talks or read any of his books.


If I haven’t said it enough yet, I will say it again now – THANK YOU ARMANDO – as THIS talk changed mine & Kim’s lives – and it STILL is to this day!

After finishing the talk, which I believe we BOTH listened to several times, we discovered it was based off of a book, by the same name, and we immediately took to Amazon to get it!


The moment we both began to dig in – we realized this wisdom and insight was PURE GOLD! Every page was filled with such intentional, thoughtful, well-researched & practical wisdom for us as a couple, and also individually on our own spiritual journeys.

In the beginning, Kim & I would read a chapter, and then discuss it with one another the next night when we had our FaceTime date. The first couple of chapters were tough – we discussed what our biggest failures were, our biggest flaws and what our expectations were for marriage and our spouses. We spent hours diving deep, listening to one another, and even shedding a few vulnerable tears.

Very soon, Kim & I began recording ourselves reading from the book to one another…it was another way we could love each other, serve one another, and “spend time” together even while miles apart. I often would record myself before going to bed at night, so Kim would wake up & listen to the teachings the next morning on his way to work.


The book continues to be TRANSFORMATIONAL for us – we have finally made it to the final chapter, and as we find ourselves thousands of miles away from one another, we are again reading it to each other through audio messages.


With my next few posts, I’d love to share more specifically about some of the KEY LESSONS we’ve taken away from the book – as we both agree, this wisdom has laid a strong foundation for us to build upon for YEARS to come.


Thank you ALL for continuing to follow our journey! Within the next week, I’ll be writing about our EPIC reunion in NYC, meeting my families, getting engaged in Niagara Falls AND our cross country road trip! Subscribe above so you don’t miss out!


Mrs. Cleyman


*Wedding Photos courtesy of: Melissa McCornick –

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