Renee Scifo, originally from Germany was temporarily living in Sydney, was studying at bible college when she met her now husband, Tristan, at a church dance in 2009.
“It was quite clear, probably the second time I met her, that I knew that I was going to marry her,” the 29-year-old Tristan Scifo tells SBS. “It was really strange.”
Both Tristan and Renee had a strong faith in common. But as Renee was a first year bible college student, she had restrictions to consider before plunging into the relationship. “In the first year of bible college, at the time, you had to make a commitment to not seek out relationships, and in place of that to seek an intimate relationship with the Lord,” Tristan explains.
“When I found out Renee was in first year, it was a bit of a disappointment, but I realised that if she had made that commitment to seek the Lord as number one, then it’s probably a really good baseline for our relationship that I should seek him first as well.”
“In the first year of bible college, at the time, you had to make a commitment to not seek out relationships, and in place of that to seek an intimate relationship with the Lord.”
Renee, who is now 31-years-old, resisted the idea of a relationship at first, though Tristan was clear with his intent to be together. “I didn’t like Tristan in that way yet, he was just a friend who had impressed me but for some reason I just knew that if I would jump I wouldn’t fall and get hurt. I knew that if Tristan couldn’t catch me, God would.”
During their courtship, the couple observed the Christian principle of chastity. After hearing another couple at a Christian conference talk about their experience, Tristan was moved to define things further. “I was inspired for us to draw a boundary in terms of physical intimacy, to not kiss until we got married.”
Though not completely on board with the idea at first, once Tristan explained that he wanted to be the purest he could for her Renee was impressed. “It’s what changed my mind and I said sure let’s do this. We didn’t kiss at all until our wedding day”.
They were challenged by friends who joked about test driving a car before you buy it, but it was an easy decision for the pair. Renee says: “it was never something that we based our relationship on. We thought that later on whatever would need improvement could be worked on. It was way more of a heart connection”.
“To balance it, we also had a really lovely intimate relationship before we got married. Setting healthy boundaries meant that we were able to explore [each other], even just by nuzzling, like lions do, was one of the most beautiful things.
“In the process, we were learning to communicate through this beautiful dynamic and as a result we get to know each-other quite a lot, which is what sexuality is all about. Getting to know the others identity I think and sharing that identity. And on the flip side of marriage, it’s been a really awesome, awkward learning journey together, both learning along the way,” Tristan adds.
In their marriage together both have decided to observe healthy lifestyle as set out in the bible. “We drink red wine on occasion but we are careful. In the bible it says that we should always be in ‘our sharp mind’.”
Tristan adds that he isn’t a fan of mind-altering drugs at all. “I really don’t like the coffee fad that the world has, especially even in the Christian circles. I think it’s robbing people of a lot of things because I see that we place our value and identity in external things so easily, we lean on things.”
“We drink red wine on occasion but we are careful. In the bible it says that we should always be in ‘our sharp mind’.”
The couple are committed to self-awareness and personal growth and intend to one day both start their own ministry where they help others overcome addiction, and also hope to have children and wish to raise them within the faith as well.
They live in an intentional ‘community’ style household with a few others where sharing meals, resources and life is central to their way of life and also love giving back to the church. They have been questioned over giving part of their wage to the church which Renee responds with, “…I would never give someone money just because they say I should give it to them”.
“It has to be something that is meaningful to me and I actually do see it as a seed. The church that we enjoy now exists because other people had given previously and I’m just amazed at what they do, what goes back in to Sydney or in to projects in Africa, orphanages all over the world.
“The (church) did so much for the refugee relief in Aleppo. There is a huge moving machinery which does need to run on money and to me I want to be part of that because it’s much bigger than what only I could do.”
“A lot of the time I don’t’ feel that I have the strength in myself to choose love, I really do feel I have to rely on the Lord for that."
Tristan says though marriage has been the most difficult thing it’s also been the most rewarding “We’ve been married four and a half-years now and it’s not been easy. It’s taught me the most about love and my faith. You choose every day to love the person you are with.
“A lot of the time I don’t’ feel that I have the strength in myself to choose love, I really do feel I have to rely on the Lord for that.
"It’s not Renee first or Tristan first and if we both choose that, it’s going to bring us closer together as we are pressing closer to him.”
Renee adds: ”And we are not relying on each other for fulfilment because if the other one can’t fulfil, we can still expand because we are rooted in God, not in the other person.”