A Hurting Couple Finds True Hope, with LeRoy & Kimberly WagnerA Husband's Crisis of Faith
Leslie Basham: Early in ministry, LeRoy Wagner was a sincere pastor and a discouraged husband.
LeRoy Wagner: You can’t share the gospel when things are not as they should be in the home. The more difficult our relationship became, it created more difficulty, of course, in ministry.
Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Monday, September 10.
"Kim Wagner's video crushed by heart." That's what a pastor's wife said after one of the True Woman conferences in 2010. This pastor's wife saw a video that told the story of Kim Wagner's marriage. Why would the story crush her heart? You'll find out as we hear the story over the next few days.
Nancy Leigh DeMoss is talking with Kim and LeRoy Wagner. LeRoy begins by explaining how this couple first met.
LeRoy: Well, we were both college students. I was a preacher boy, a ministerial student. I noticed Kim, of course—who could keep but from noticing her radiant beauty?—but the inner beauty. I mean, she was just an incredible person. Just seeing her from afar, I could tell that. She was in my Greek class. I think there were thirty-two preacher boys, mostly, and there were two young ladies. She was one of the young ladies. So, of course, she caught my attention.
I think it was probably a couple of weeks into the semester after we’d had several classes when I finally got up enough nerve, courage . . . I’m nervous now just thinking about it. It was very nerve-racking because I thought, “I don’t have a shot at this girl. She is way out of my league.” And I still believe that to this day. She is way out of my league. Like most men, I over-married.
I thought I would follow her to the lunch room after class, because the Greek class was right before lunch. So (not as a stalker), I kind of kept my distance, but I followed her to the lunch room. Then I got behind her. I wasn’t a lady’s man. I didn’t have any cool lines or moves or anything like that. I really didn’t know what to say, and I really didn’t think about it beforehand.
I just said to her, my first question was . . .
Kim: Okay, we’ve never spoken before in our lives.
LeRoy: No. And she’s never seen me. She didn’t know I existed.
Kim: His opening question to me actually triggered something very revealing that should have been a clue to him automatically, something that was pretty much my attitude toward men, that “anything you can do, I can do better.” So your smooth opening line to me—we’ve never even spoken—and this was his question:
LeRoy: “So, why are you in Greek class?”
Kim: No. You had one question before that.
LeRoy: Oh, I did? (Laughter)
Nancy: Let’s get this straightened out.
Kim: You said, “Do you mind if I ask you a personal question?”
LeRoy: Yes, sorry about that. That showed the dork in me. “Do you mind if I ask you a personal question?” Which, now looking back, that was probably not a good question to ask. And she looked at me just like she’s looking now . . .
Kim: And I said, “No. I guess not.”
LeRoy: “Why are you in Greek class?” I thought that was a perfectly reasonable question to start a conversation. I wasn’t meaning anything, trying to infer anything negative. But it triggered a statement that revealed what was in her heart.
Kim: When he said that, I thought, “Well, what a male chauvinist. Why can’t I be in Greek class?” I looked at him, and without batting an eye, without changing expression, I looked dead in his eyes, and I said, “I’m in Greek class because I want to study and read and learn the original language for myself—the original language of the New Testament—so that I can better prepare myself to pastor and shepherd my flock.
LeRoy: With that, she turned around from me, with her back to me, like she was ending the conversation with that, and I thought, “Hmmm. She is very, very beautiful. But I think being a pastor, a Baptist pastor, I probably do not need a preacher woman for a wife, so I have to go in a different direction from that.”
Kim: I let him think that all the way through the long lunch line. As I picked up my tray and was about to exit the cafeteria line, I turned around, and I looked at him—because I was convicted by the Holy Spirit that I have to be truthful—and I said, “No. Truthfully the reason I’m in Greek class is because I grew up in a church that was very moderate, and the pastor was always saying things like, ‘The Bible doesn’t really mean this, and if you could read the original language . . .’ That triggered in my heart just a desire to know what the Word of God says and be able to study it and know it for myself in order to be able to grow in the Lord.”
LeRoy: I was very impressed with that answer. She had my attention again.
Nancy: And she was so beautiful.
LeRoy: Oh, still beautiful. Absolutely. I was intrigued by that approach to Scripture because I valued Scripture so highly, and I’d observed so many young men and women who did not. So for a young lady to take that approach, well she became even more intriguing and more attractive to me. So I was hooked at that point.
Nancy: I know as you all dated and moved ultimately toward marriage that you both had a conviction that if you were to marry, if God was to have you for each other, that it would be so that He could be glorified through your marriage. You weren’t just looking for a great human marriage; you were looking for a relationship that would really honor the Lord. You were heading toward the pastorate, LeRoy, so you started out your marriage, it sounds like, with some really good foundational goals and objectives.
LeRoy, as you moved toward marriage, what was it that gave you the assurance that this was God’s time, this was God’s person? I know that she was beautiful, but what else was it that made you say, “This is the woman I want to live my life with?”
LeRoy: Well, the Lord worked in our relationship from a very early point and showed us in many personal ways, confirming to us. We shared so many values, desires, and goals from Scripture that we wanted to bring glory to God with our lives. We wanted to share in ministry together, and just the desire of our heart was so closely knit together. We both believed that God had placed us together to live for Him and to bring glory to His name.
So we entered into the marriage with the highest of goals, the best of intentions, with two hearts coming together as one to burn for Jesus so others would know Him and to serve Him, and, of course, we were committed to marriage, committed to the truthfulness of Scripture.
I knew early on that I was in way over my head. I mean by that, that she’s so intelligent and so dynamic and so passionate about life, and such an intense person, that I knew I had my hands full in that regard. But it was a great challenge for me, and I thought, probably like many men do going into marriage when they’re very young and immature, “Well, I’m a great guy, and I’ll do great in marriage, and any woman would be glad to have me. So as far as I am over my head and over-marrying, I think this is going to be great.”
I thought it would require little or no effort since we were both believers, both loved the Lord, both loved the Word. It was just going to be a great marriage. We were just going to enter into it, and it’s going to be great from that point on.
Nancy: And they all lived happily ever after.
LeRoy: And they all lived happily ever after. That’s right.
Kim: On the third night of our honeymoon, I cried myself to sleep. He was asleep before me. He was asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow, and I thought, “Oh, wait a minute. This is the third night of our honeymoon. I thought when you got married you’re supposed to talk way into the night and be romantic with each other just all the time.” Kind of like a lady I heard recently who said that she was so young and immature when she got married, she thought she was just going on a fifty-year date. (Laughter)
That is pretty much where I was. I thought, “He fell asleep on me!”
LeRoy: It wasn’t the last time that happened in our marriage either. (Laughter) Like the man that said, “Honey, it’s three o’clock now. Can I go to sleep?”
Kim: I know what God meant for it to do was for me to place my expectations on the Lord and my dependency on the Lord, but at that point in my life, instead, what I did was I went into self-pity and had unrealistic expectations of him.
I would even voice many times those unrealistic expectations in words like this: I would say, “Well, you must not really love me because if you really loved me, you would stay up all night talking to me, or you would know what I needed you to do without me even having to tell you just because you love me, and you know what I’m like.”
LeRoy: So, like most young couples, we entered in with unrealistic expectations of one another, of marriage. In fact, Christian couples, couples who know the Lord and have a heart for God, but also come from very different backgrounds—very different—and also very different personality types . . . And, as God will often do, the perfect storm was coming together in our marriage. It wasn’t the perfect storm to destroy—and it could have—but it was the perfect storm of God’s purifying and refining grace. We didn’t know it then, but we can look back now . . . and we’re still allowing Him to work in our lives.
Nancy: So, LeRoy, you were asleep when she had her first crying spell. What was the first clue you had that all was not happily ever after?
LeRoy: Well, it started on our honeymoon, Nancy. Even though I was asleep through that first episode.
Kim: He had a clue by the next morning! (Laughter)
LeRoy: Yes, I did. She was "kind" enough to let me know her feelings and emotions at that point, and pretty much the rest of the trip.
Kim: And we had a few good times going along there. But what was so sad was, as a woman, we as women (well maybe you all don’t), but I would get my feelings hurt because I felt like, “He’s not showing love or attention to me.” I would get my feelings hurt, and so then I was determined, “I’m going to hurt him back, and I’m going to let him know how much that hurt me. I’m going to punish him so that then he will learn how to behave, and he won’t want to treat me like that anymore.” But it really backfires.
LeRoy: It doesn’t work. It may work in some cases, but it’s not a biblical antidote to the problem. With me, I’m very non-combative, and I run from conflict. As a lot of men had, in their fallen DNA, their sin nature, they’re passive when they should stand up and take leadership. I could tell what was happening from very early on, but I was no match for her intensity. I don’t say that as an excuse. There is no excuse for my part. But instead of us working together and rising to the challenges of our different personalities, I began just to recede from that point on, even in our honeymoon, to retreat further and further into kind of a protective mode.
There’s no way—I tried a couple of times just arguing with her or trying to match her emotional intensity. I couldn’t do it. She was raised in a family that was just full of discussion. Everything was a discussion. It sounded like a full-blown argument to me when I was exposed to it, but that was just how they talked, that was normal daily life. Everything was a major ordeal, and they all were involved in the debate. So consequently, she was a professional at that, and I wasn’t even a rookie.
I wasn’t even in the league because in my family there was no discussion. What my father said, that’s the way it was. There was no debate, no discussion. So I had absolutely no experience on the great art of “debating” even in a Christian way.
I was thinking the whole time, even when she was expressing her concerns, I was thinking, “What’s the matter? I’m a great guy. I’m a Christian guy. I love the Lord. I’m committed to Him. What’s the deal here? Why am I . . .” So that began this whole process of her pressing with intensity, pushing me to be what she wanted me to be, her image, her thoughts of me, her expectations; and me, instead of reacting in a positive way, in responding and being what she wanted me to be, I began to retreat further and further and further and further inward.
Kim: It was a destructive cycle. It really was. I think it’s a fairly common pattern in marriages where you have a strongly opinionated woman, or maybe just a woman that really just has ideas of what she wants a husband to be like, and her husband is expressing love in a different way than what communicates love to her. So she tries to, she thinks (this is at least what I did), I thought, “My biblical role here is to be the helper. So I’m going to help him become the man I want him to be.” What I was doing was, I was controlling him and manipulating him through how I treated him.
I remember one of the worst years of our life was after Bible college. We moved back to the city where my parents lived, and he went to work for my dad. You would think working for my dad might be a cush job, but he actually had to travel and stay out of town sometimes three weeks at a time. We were only five years into our marriage, and I hated it. I didn’t think we’d make it through that year.
He would call in from the road, and you would think that he’s probably expecting, “Well, she’s probably really missing me. We haven’t talked in a couple of days.” He would finally find a phone booth (that was before we had cell phones), and he would call in, and I would answer the phone. “Hi.”
I was so cold and mean because I thought, “I’m going to let him know how bad I’m hurting. He doesn’t need to think I’m happy here. He needs to know how miserable he’s making my life.” I was punishing him. It was so cruel, but I thought, “This is for his good. I’m helping him. He needs to know. If I don’t act this way, he won’t know how truly miserable I am.”
Nancy: Of course, that made you want to jump in the car and head right home, right?
LeRoy: Not quite, Nancy. (Laughter)
Kim: That is a great statement. That is the total opposite.
LeRoy: What began to develop in my heart was literally a crisis of faith because that which I’d held so dear all of my life—saved as a very young boy, surrendered to preach as a young man—began to just crush me. The weight of all that I held dear and all that brought freedom in Christ actually began to crush me.
I take full responsibility for that, but commitment to stay in marriage, commitment to the wife that I was joined to, commitment to the gospel, commitment to the Word of God . . . I felt like it was not getting better. It was getting worse. I’d pray and pray and pray. I didn’t know how to deal with it. All of my feeble attempts to deal with it had been unsuccessful, and I thought that there was no escape, that I must just continue to bear this and somehow do the best I could. At the same time there was a great conflict because I had a commitment to preach the gospel and to pastor.
So that which I had loved also became a great burden because there was this gulf. You can’t share the gospel when things are not as they should be in the home. Yet I was committed to doing that, but the more difficult our relationship became, it created more difficulty, of course, in ministry.
Nancy: We’ve been hearing from my dear friends LeRoy and Kim Wagner. That’s just the first part of a testimony we’re going to be sharing with you for the next several days.
Their story illustrates the power of a woman’s words. I think you know that a woman can use her words to build up her marriage and her home, or she can use her words to tear down her husband, as we’ve heard from Kim today.
I wonder if you resonate with any of this story. How would you evaluate the way you’ve been using your words with your husband?
Proverbs tell us that both life and death are in the power of the tongue. So let me ask you: When you feel that your husband or perhaps someone else in your life is doing something wrong,
- Do you tend to lash out at them in anger?
- Do you shame or belittle them?
- Or do you go to them and talk prayerfully and meekly in a spirit of love?
Now, as God convicts your heart in this area, don’t let the enemy discourage or defeat you. Know that there is hope as you learn to let God’s Spirit control your tongue.
To help you learn how to glorify God through your words, we’d like to send you the new book by Kim Wagner, called Fierce Women: The Power of a Soft Warrior.
Kim speaks from her experience and from God’s Word to show you how to use your powerful influence in ways that display biblical femininity. I think this book is going to be a powerful tool and resource to women all across this country as they seek to honor God in their marriages.
We’d like to send you a copy of Fierce Women when you donate any amount to Revive Our Hearts. And we’ll include the booklet, 30 Days of Encouraging Your Husband.
This booklet describes a challenge I’ve often given to women. It has a negative side and a positive side.
The negative side is, for the next 30 days, purpose not to say anything negative about your husband, either to him or to others about him.
And here’s the positive part: Every day for the next 30 days, tell your husband something that you admire or appreciate about him, something you’re grateful for, and tell somebody else what you appreciate about your husband as well.
Over the years, countless of women have written to share with me how God has used this challenge to breathe new life into a tired marriage. Here’s one of those emails from a woman in Texas. She said,
I decided to take the 30-Day Husband Encouragement Challenge. I’m on day ten, and I’m so excited that I still have twenty days to go. It’s going great so far, and I know it will only get better from here.
My husband and I have only been married three-and-a-half years. We have a really good marriage, but I decided to take this challenge because I know I struggle with the things a lot of women struggle with. Sometimes (too often) he asks me not to treat him like a child. Or I find myself nagging about something I know I should commit to the Lord in prayer. The Holy Spirit is capable of and will make my husband the man he is supposed to be if I will just get out of the way and pray for him.
I’ve found in the first ten days of the challenge, there has been a peace that the Lord has poured on our marriage, and a peace that is in my heart toward my husband. He even surprised me with a dozen roses on the evening of day eight. Thank you, Revive Our Hearts, for the challenge to become a better wife and servant of the Lord, and thank you for the encouragement you’re giving along the way.
I can’t promise that if you take the 30-Day Husband Encouragement Challenge that your husband will send you flowers on day eight, but you never know how God may use your encouragement to help him become more of the man and the husband that God created him to be.
The booklet, 30 Days of Encouraging Your Husband will walk you through this powerful challenge and give you some practical help on how to encourage your husband. When you support Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any size, we’ll send you the booklet on the 30-day challenge, along with Kim Wagner’s new book, Fierce Women.
When you call with your donation, ask for Fierce Women and 30 Days of Encouraging Your Husband. The number is 1-800-569-5959, or if you prefer, you can visit us online at ReviveOurHearts.com.
I’ve known Kim and LeRoy Wagner for many years now, and the story of God’s grace in their lives is one of great hope. We hear tomorrow about a turning point that came in Kim’s life and ultimately in their marriage. So please be back tomorrow for Revive Our Hearts.
Kim: I would fight and say, "Lord, don't you remember him? He's the one that needs to change! He's not been the spiritual leader. He hardly ever prays with me. He doesn't lead me spiritually." I started listing all of his failures. "He is not living out biblical manhood to me."
And God kept taking me back to the fact that I was blaspheming the Word of God in how I was treating my husband. He didn't let me bring up all the excuses and justifications of how my husband was treating me. But He kept bringing me to, "What are you doing? Where are you?"
He began changing my heart.
Nancy: Please be back tomorrow for Revive Our Hearts.
Revive Our Hearts is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.Offers available only during the broadcast of the radio series.
|An Angry Heart Turns||Sept. 11, 2012|
|Do You Intimidate Your Husband?||Sept. 12, 2012|
|Crying Out to God for Your Marriage||Sept. 13, 2012|
|Restoring Broken Relationships||Sept. 14, 2012|
|Within Your Four Walls||Sept. 17, 2012|
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