Revive Our Hearts Podcast

How to Follow When He Won't Lead

Leslie Basham: Early in her marriage, Denise Glenn made a lot of the decisions in her family. Then she became convinced that she needed to step back and let her husband lead.

Denise Glenn: He told me, “I don't want to make those decisions. That's too heavy for me. No.” He had learned some passive behaviors, and he was like, “Nuh-uh!”

Leslie: We're about to find out about how Denise tried to follow a man who didn't want to lead. This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Tuesday, July 12.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Well, if you missed yesterday's program of Revive Our Hearts, you've got to back to the website, ReviveOurHearts.com, and get the archived program—the audio version or the transcript. We heard the first part of a powerful testimony of God's amazing grace and intervention in a marriage that was hopelessly messed up and dysfunctional. Hopelessly, I say, as far as man is concerned. As far as God is concerned, there are no hopeless cases.

Our guest this week is Denise Glenn, who is the founder of a wonderful mentoring ministry called MotherWise. Denise, thank you for joining us on Revive Our Hearts, and thank you for sharing out of your life journey with us.

Denise: Nancy, thank you for having me on the program. It's my joy to be here.

Nancy: We want to pick up with your story where we left off yesterday. For those who weren't able to hear the program, just give us a minute nutshell of where you have come to this point in your marriage. Then we're going to pick up with how God began to redeem that situation.

Denise: We were very young when we got married—both Christians, both going to church every Sunday, got married while we were in the university. I thought our marriage would be perfect. I cried myself to sleep, however, on the third night of marriage because our expectations were completely different. We began criticizing each other and arguing.

By our seventh wedding anniversary, I was ready to leave the relationship. In fact, I looked across the table at my handsome husband and said, “I am packing up the children tomorrow. I'm out of here.” That night, God intervened. My husband didn't take no for an answer. My husband said, “You're not leaving me. We're going to go home and get down beside our bed and we're going to pray a one word prayer: 'Help!'”

Nancy, God answered that heart's cry. When we finally came to a point of brokenness and humbled ourselves at the foot of the cross. God heard our cry for help. The way He did that in our experience was to bring some older women into my life who lived out Titus 2. They started a prayer meeting and invited me to come. When I told them I had three babies age four and under, they said, “We'll come to your house.”

They came to my house every week at naptime, once a week on Mondays. That sat in my living room, brought their great big, fat Bibles. The very first week—I'll never forget it—they said in their very sweet, saintly voices, “Denise, what is your prayer request?” I said, “Well, I hate my husband!” They went, “Oh! Well, that's a good place to start.”

Bless them. They could have just laid it on me and hit me over the head with their Bibles, but they didn’t. They loved me to Jesus.

Nancy: So, they didn't know that there had been this issue forming in your marriage.

Denise: No.

Nancy: How long was this after you had prayed that prayer for help.

Denise: It was literally days later after we cried for help. I was one little student, Timothy, with five Pauls. I was such a tough case. God assigned me five mentoring moms.

Nancy: Why did they come to you?

Denise: I have no idea except that we all know that it was orchestrated by the Lord Jesus. He caused these women to invite me to join them. They said, “We are going before the Lord in conversational prayer.” I had never even heard of that. I didn't know what conversational prayer was. I thought you prayed, “Dear heavenly Father” and filled in a few blanks of your shopping list of what you wanted and you ended with “in Jesus name, amen.”

These women would spend two hours in conversational prayer—reading Scripture back to God over our families. So when I expressed this desperation over our marriage, they opened the book of Ephesians and literally prayed verse by verse the entire six chapters over our family. God began a powerful work of transformation.

Nancy: Was that the first time you had ever shared honestly with anyone that there was an issue in your marriage, when you said to those women, “I hate my husband”?

Denise: It was the very first time I’d ever verbalized it to anyone besides David and myself. I know that honesty and transparency—now I know the word for it is transparency—and vulnerability came the night we humbled ourselves before the Lord. So by the time they asked me to the prayer meeting, I was broken. I was ready to be vulnerable and humble. They asked me, and I just blurted it out. I was kind of shocked at myself.

They realized instantly that this was a divine appointment between all of us. They poured into our lives the Word of God.

Nancy: That illustrates what I think is such an important point. When we talk about brokenness here at Revive Our Hearts, I’ve often reminded our listeners—and I got this from someone else—that brokenness goes two directions. There is a vertical aspect. If you think of our lives like a house, the vertical being broken toward God is the roof coming off. We're being honest and transparent with God.

But then there is that horizontal aspect of brokenness that is with others. We let the walls down. It's important in a marriage. It's important in parent-child relationships. It's important in mentoring and discipling relationships.

It's not enough just to cry out to the Lord—although that certainly is the starting place, to humble ourselves before Him. Then we need to go and be willing to humble ourselves before others and say, "I've got a need." Otherwise, we're just playing church.

You said you used to go on Sunday morning after being up half the night on Saturday fighting. Everybody goes to church and puts on their “I'm a good Christian” pin. I think the power of how God began to work in your life was your willingness to let the roof off and let the walls down.

Not that you should go out and start telling people, “I hate my husband.” The goal wasn't to bash your husband. The goal was to find out, "How can I be restored in that relationship." What a wise thing that God gave you courage to do, to say to those women when you could have just given them some respectable answer. “Oh, just pray I'll be a better mother.” But you got honest. That's a huge starting place for personal revival.

Denise: Just recently somebody told me that when we are in church and tell each other we're fine, that actually means fearful, insecure, neurotic, and emotional.

Nancy: I've heard that. There's something to be said about that.

Denise: At that point in my life, Nancy, I was ready for the walls to come down and so desperate for God to help. God had been moving in our hearts over those few days that we had been finally honest with Him. I was seeking and looking for answers. I was ready for somebody to invest in my life. I knew instantly that I could trust these women.

I think that is another important element of mentoring. I knew I could trust them not to go spread our marriage problems all throughout our church, that what I shared in that prayer meeting was in a vault, and these women were going to take me and our problems to the Word of God. They were going to begin to invest in us the prayer, discipling, and the Word that we needed to get healing.

God began to work through them. By their teaching me how to pray, they began to teach me to take God's Word and read it back to Him. They kept saying, “Denise, God will answer your prayers when they line up with His Word. Of course He's going to answer prayers that come from His Word.”

As I began to learn to pray, and then just take His Word and practically live it out, God began to teach me three gifts that I needed to give my husband.

Nancy: As you began to give your husband those three gifts, the transformation took place in your marriage. So I know our listeners want to know what were those gifts. Start with number one.

Denise: Okay. The first one came from Ephesians 5. Of course, it's kind of a miracle. I still had that page in my Bible, that I hadn't torn it out. I actually still did have Ephesians 5:22. It clearly says, “Wives submit to your husbands as to the Lord.” Simple, not rocket science. But Nancy, I had been in church all of my life but never had the revelation that that actually meant me. "Oh, me? I have to actually let my husband take the lead and follow him."

My personality is as strong as garlic. I mean, I am a leader. God made me that way because I have a women's ministry. I need to lead the women in my ministry, but I don’t need to lead my husband.

So I was taking all of this leadership thing inside of me and applying it at home.

Nancy: What did that look like?

Denise: Telling David what to do all of the time, making decisions—especially making decisions way out ahead of him—and then asking him to join the decisions and get excited about the decisions I was making. Everything from the way to spend money, to putting the children in school, to where we're going to go on vacation—every kind of decision. I'm a quick decision maker. I'm decisive. I set my course, and I know where I want to go. I can make decisions quickly.

I'm married to a Geophysicist—whatever that means. He is a scientist, so he analyzes data, and he makes decisions slowly. By running out ahead of my husband and making decisions, I was not allowing him to be the leader and the head of my home.

So what God taught me in this first gift is that I had to give him the gift of being the head of my home, let him be the leader and actually submit to him, follow him, come under his authority. For me personally, that meant waiting on a man who takes two weeks to make a decision I can make in ten minutes, and letting him go through the process.

David makes fabulous decisions. He is right on as a man filled with wisdom. But he takes his time, and he does it right. Over these thirty-seven years—I tell people I’ve had thirty-seven years and have had thirty good ones—learning to allow my husband to take the lead has not put me in bondage. It's actually set me free.

Nancy: Was this a gift he was wanting? Was it bothering him that you were taking the lead, or was he just happy to let you do that?

Denise: That is a great question, because I am married to a man who had a very powerful and verbal father, and he learned passive behavior patterns. Stay out of dad's way. He loved his dad, but just stay out of dad's way because he had a strong, powerful father.

In our marriage, he was happy for me to make those decisions. "Just go ahead." But as soon as I would make a decision, he would come behind me and criticize me. God actually made him to be the leader of our home. That was his God-given role. But as long as he was being passive and I was being aggressive, we set ourselves up. I was dominating, but he was being critical. So we were just destroying our marriage from the inside.

When I put my husband in a position of leadership—and I did that simply by asking questions, instead of telling him what to do. “Sweetheart, where should the children go to school?” “How much do you think we should spend on the furniture?” “Do we need to go to this church or that church?” “Should I be a Sunday school teacher or not?” “Should I go to that women's conference or not?”

Nancy: It sounds like you were turning over all of the decision making to him, and you were now no longer putting any thinking or ideas or input into the marriage. Is that what you're saying?

Denise: Absolutely not. I always told him my opinion. I've got strong opinions. He began to teach me how to take my time on decisions. But as I would come to him and say, “Okay sweetheart, I really want to do this at church” or “I really want the children to do this and this is why. I've done my research, and this is why.” But, as I began to learn to lay that decision at his feet, back off, and keep my mouth shut—which was huge—that allowed my husband to take that leadership position.

I think there are so many women listening to us right now who say, “I'm the spiritual head of my home because my husband won't take that leadership position.” So I just begin to ask them questions.

  • Are you allowing him to take that leadership position?
  • Can you quiet yourself, tell him what you think, give him the benefit of your own wisdom and your own opinions? He needs that as a part of his decision-making process.
  • Can you step back and let him take that place and pray for your husband to be the spiritual leader?

Nancy: Did he make some decisions that you thought were wrong ones?

Denise: Absolutely. Of course. He's made out of earth. The Lord made man out of the dust of the earth, so sometimes they act like dirt. Of course he's not perfect. There are all sorts of decisions—things that we bought that were not the best or a vacation—all sorts of decisions that were not perfect.

Nancy: Did you find yourself then criticizing or making him feel bad about those decisions?

Denise: I don't remember feeling like I need tear him down or shoot him down. I am sure that was probably a temptation sometimes. Nothing is coming to mind. When these women began discipling me, I started getting excited about God's Word. I was getting up in the morning having a quiet time. I was reading. I was studying. I was drinking in prayer times and worship.

David was just playing basketball, tennis, and showing up on Sunday dusting off his Bible, but he wasn't the spiritual leader at home. His testimony is that when I started submitting to him, I literally taped a Post-it note to our telephone that said, “Ask David first,” because people would ask me to do things.

When I let him lead and make decisions, David felt compelled to pray and compelled to go to the Word. It's his testimony that it started his quiet time because he said, “I don't have enough wisdom to make these decisions. I don't know what I'm doing. Don't make me make these decisions.”

I said, “Babe, you are the spiritual leader of the home. I'm right behind you. I'm with you. Whatever you decide, I'm with you and I'm behind you. I'm going to support you in that. But it's you who is going to stand before God for the decisions that are made for this family. I'm going to back you up."

Nancy: The pressure was on for him to get God's wisdom.

Denise: It was. David's five minute a day quiet time, just reading a few psalms and saying a few prayers—that time has now grown to forty-five minutes to an hour before his very early work day. He's on his knees daily praying for our family. David is an intercessor for our family.

Back in those early days, Nancy, I never would have believed David Glenn would be the spiritual giant and the spiritual leader for me and our family. God worked that miracle, but this didn't happen overnight. It took three years of two steps forward and ten steps back and two forward and ten back. That's a long time to change what we've done in damaging each other for seven years.

Nancy: So there was patience required to say this is not going to happen overnight. Really, during that time and always through the course of a marriage, your trust was having to be in the Lord to work in your husband's heart and to make changes that you couldn't make yourself.

Denise: Absolutely. In the beginning of our process of learning how for David to take the leadership and for me to be quiet, I got so frustrated with myself. I really would condemn myself when I would blurt out or be disrespectful toward him. I would just go home and beat myself. Now I know the Word of God, so I could just beat myself with it.

God really began to teach me to learn to be patient with myself and for us to grow in this. Not to have Cinderella expectations about our marriage. You know, “Presto, bingo, everything is going to be fine.” We had to flesh this out and work this out. There were times David didn't do it right and times I didn't do it right. But the shift had occurred, and we began moving toward each other instead of moving apart. There were walls between us that had to come down.

Even David's trusting of me, trusting me to be quiet and not to go ahead of him, trusting me not to spend money I wasn't supposed to be spending. We had to build a trust level between each other. I had to trust him with my heart. I had built walls around my heart that said, "You're not hurting me anymore." I had to take those walls down and trust him to lead me. That was a huge leap of faith for me, because what if he leads me in the wrong direction.

One of the scariest things for me was letting him lead my ministry. I was like, “God called me.” Now I was learning all these things from Lord and from other women, and I wanted to share with other women my spiritual gift of teaching. Allowing David to take the leadership role over my ministry to say, “Yes, you can go speak there,” or “No, you can't go speak there," or “Now it's time for you," or "I know God wants for you to write. No more speaking for awhile. Stay home, be quiet, and write.”

Oh my goodness! It was a huge leap of faith. But the blessings God has brought to our personal relationship—Nancy, we're madly in love. We're crazy. I mean just ridiculously in love. We still go on picnics and bike rides. We're grandparents. We're goo-goo in love. I never thought that would be possible on our seventh anniversary, or even our eighth or ninth anniversary. I never believed it was possible. By our tenth anniversary, we were in love. In our thirty-seventh anniversary, it just gets better.

Nancy: Praise the Lord for that. What a story of God's redeeming grace. You know, as I am listening to you Denise, I am thinking it's often fear that keeps us from being able to surrender to God in any area of His truth. I can imagine some listeners who are back where you were five, six, seven, eight years into your marriage just being afraid to lose control, afraid that somebody will just take advantage of them, afraid in their marriage that their heart will get hurt.

Can you encourage a woman who is struggling with that fear that is in every woman's heart at some level?

Denise: I was afraid. What I would love to speak into the hearts of the listeners who are tuned in today is that as you put your faith and your trust into the love of the Lord Jesus—that's where your faith and trust goes—your faith and your trust is invested in the Lord Jesus. You park your heart with the Lord Jesus. Then ask Him to fill you with His life as you serve your husband. Actually being connected to the vine-life of Jesus. Jesus says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you'll remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; [but] apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5 NIV).

I had to learn to let go and let God fill me with His life and His love for my husband and trust the Lord to work that out and work through my husband to take care of me. When the Word of God said for a wife to be submissive to her husband, I had to put my faith in Jesus and my trust in the authority of God's word, and let God work out the circumstances.

In fact, I remember telling God on David sometimes, “God, look at him.” Just telling God on him. I'm sure he was telling God on me. God began to change the heart of my husband and change the heart of me and make me more submissive. I'm still learning this. But I chose as an act of will to submit myself to the authority God's Word, and God blessed it. He blessed it in bringing us together.

Nancy: Well, we've touched on one of the three gifts. What a gift that is for a wife to give her husband. To acknowledge him as what God says he is, and that is the head of the wife, to submit her will to his. It's not that he is making all of the decisions, it's that she is coming behind and supporting his leadership in that marriage and in that home.

I believe God has been speaking to many of our listeners today and saying that's the gift that you need to give your mate. If it is, just say, “Yes, Lord.” Surrender your heart first to the Lord, because that where submission starts. Then say, “Lord I will, by Your grace, give that gift of reverent submission to my husband for Your glory.” Then watch God start to work in amazing ways in that marriage.

Be sure to join us in the next edition of Revive Our Hearts to hear about two other gifts that you can give your husband, as Denise has learned that in her marriage.

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been talking with Denise Glenn about an important gift wives can give their husbands.

You can get a copy of a workbook Denise wrote called, Wisdom for Mothers. It will show you practical ways to invest in your children and train and discipline them. But, this study isn't just for moms. All women will get a lot out of it. You'll discover how to establish your life on God's Word and accept His priorities. You'll learn more about the marriage topics we heard today.

It's an eight-week study that you can tackle individually or in a group. I think you'll find it helpful as you center your life on a biblical picture of womanhood.

We'll send you Wisdom for Mothers when you make a contribution of any size to Revive Our Hearts. Ask for it when call us at 1-800-569-5959, or donate at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Tomorrow, Denise Glenn will talk about how physical intimacy is more important in marriage than most wives realize. That's tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.