Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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Leslie Basham: Barbara Rainey gives you a picture of what your marriage could be.

Barbara Rainey: Marriage is not about pretending. We don't pretend in marriage. Marriage is for oneness, transparency and openness. We got married for that. Right? So we have to talk about those differences, but in talking about them, we have to do it in a way that is honoring and that respects the way that God has created this person that He has brought into your life.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth for Tuesday, June 7, 2016.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: We're continuing our conversation today on Revive Our Hearts with my long-time friend Barbara Rainey, and if you didn't catch yesterday's program, you will want to go back to ReviveOurHearts.com and listen to that or read the transcript. You will want to listen to it because Barbara's just an easy-to-listen-to friend, and you're going to feel like you're having a conversation with a good friend.

And that's the tone of a new book that she's written that we're talking about this week called Letters to My Daughters: The Art of Being a Wife. It's a conversational book, written in a letter format, and talking about the art of being a wife and how God is wanting to use marriage to make a masterpiece.

Now, your marriage may not feel very much like a masterpiece right now, but I want you to hang in there, and you'll be encouraged to do just that as you hear this continuing conversation with Barbara.

So, Barbara, thank you for joining us again on Revive Our Hearts.

Barbara: I'm delighted to be here. This is fun.

Nancy: I think, when I started reading this, I thought, Barbara and Dennis Rainey—I've known them for years and years—will people really relate to their marriage? You will relate to their marriage. You will see things in their story along the way that you'll say, "Yes, we've been there. We've experienced that." Maybe you're experiencing that right now. It will give you hope that God really can make the difference you need in your marriage.

And speaking of differences, I'd like to talk about differences in marriage.

Barbara: We can talk about differences.

Nancy: It seems like, when you're dating, the differences are the things that . . .

Barbara: Oh, you admire them! You go, "Oh, he's so outgoing, and oh, I like that about him."

Nancy: Because when you were younger, you were quiet and reserved.

Barbara: Yes.

Nancy: And Dennis, was he ever quiet and reserved?

Barbara: I don't think he's ever been quiet and reserved. I don't think he's ever been insecure. I don't think he's ever been shy.

Nancy: He's nodding. So you see these differences.

Barbara: Yes, and that's a nice compliment, and it makes me feel good because he's confident. I'm not, and so you balance one another out. And when you're dating or engaged, those things really feel good. But after you get married, sometimes . . . well, not just sometimes; a lot of times those differences all of a sudden become what we think of as weaknesses.

I remember early in our marriage, this was such a surprise to me. I was so taken back by this, because Dennis is very spontaneous. In fact, I brought a list of our differences. After I wrote the book, I thought, I should have made a list of how many ways we're different. Would you like to hear my list of how different we are?

Nancy: We would.

Barbara: You would? Okay. So, this is how opposite we are. We really, really are very different.

Dennis thinks globally, and I think locally.

He is spontaneous, and I'm a planner.

He's an extrovert, and I'm an introvert.

His mother used to call him "Road Runner" as a nickname, and I thought it was so cute when we were dating, and when we were engaged, I thought, "Aw, isn't that sweet?!" Well, he really IS a road runner, meaning he loves to travel. He loves to go and do and just be on the go constantly. I'm a homebody. (Now, talk about clashing . . . that was a big one.)

Dennis is a people person. I'm a task person.

He loves to hunt and fish in the great outdoors. I like the outdoors, but I'd much rather paint it or look at it or hike in it, and he wants to go out and hunt and fish.

He is a random thinker, and I think sequentially and in order.

His love language is the physical. My love language is words.

He processes information very quickly. I'm a slow processor, more like a crock pot. I think about things for a long time.

And then the last one that I put on the list is: He thinks in the big picture and the general idea of something is good enough, and I tend to be a perfectionist, and I really care about the details.

So, we are about as opposite in every category as could possibly imagine, and that attracted us together, but after we got married, that became a source of conflict. And I've got a story to tell.

When we were first married, I thought the way to have a Christian marriage was to have a Bible study together or to have a quiet time together. I had this prescription in my head. Remember, I like details. I like to do things in a certain order, and my husband is random, just very spontaneous.

So I started noticing all of these things about him, and he wasn't doing things the way I thought it was supposed to be done. So I decided that he must have just missed a few things from his mom along the way, maybe it wasn't his fault, maybe his mom just didn't teach him, and so I should do that. Right?

Nancy: You're his helper. Right?

Barbara: I am his helper. So I thought I'm supposed to help him, and maybe what God wants me to do is help him. So I tried to help him learn some things that I thought he needed to learn and change some behaviors I thought were just poor training. And I began to find out that wasn't such a good recipe for a happy marriage because as I focused on those things that I thought were wrong or that he wasn't doing correctly, that soon began to be all that I ever noticed. It was as if all the things I thought were wrong were written in neon ink on the wall or on his back.

I thought about everything that was wrong with him from my perspective, and it wasn't even wrong. None of this was sin. None of this was rebellion. None of this was unloving. It was just different from me. It was a completely different approach to life, and I mistakenly viewed it as the wrong view to life, where it was just different.

We have this wonderful thing that Dennis has said to me for years, and I now say it too, because he's absolutely right: Different isn't wrong. Different is just different.

You've heard there are two ways to load a dishwasher. Right? No, there are not? I'm more like you! There are different ways to live life, different ways to approach life. And they're not wrong. They're just different.

And marriage is learning how to continue to accept one another in our differences and figure out how those blend, how those complement, because that is why we got married in the first place.

Nancy: So, talk about the laundry issue. You talk about dealing with the differences. 

Barbara: Yes.

Nancy: How do you deal with those differences? That's one that doesn't seem like it would be that major, but it was one that was a long time in your marriage.

Barbara: It was a big deal for me. When we first got married, part of what I thought was my job was to do the laundry. Now, that isn't always the way it happens in marriages today. The division of labor, so to speak, in a marriage can be whatever you choose it to be. It's not biblical or unbiblical who does the laundry or who does the cooking. Right? But I decided that was part of what I wanted to do, and I didn't mind doing it. So I started from the very beginning doing all of our laundry, and I still do all of our combined laundry.

Early on, I noticed that Dennis always had his tee-shirt and his socks inside out. And so somewhere along the way, I thought, I'm just going to ask him to change that, because it was just taking me extra steps to make everything right-side out. So I asked him, "Could you change that?"

And he said, "Well, why? It's the way I've always done it." And it wasn't flippant. It wasn't mean. He just didn't understand what the extra work meant to me.

And so I just went, "Well, okay, whatever." And so I just continued to do it. He didn't change, and I just continued to do what I'd always been doing.

I write in my book: "It never occurred to me to say, 'Well, then, you do your own laundry.'" That just didn't even occur to me. We could have maybe discussed that, and maybe it would have been a solution. I don't know, but that's not what I did. What I did was I just continued to do laundry as I'd always done laundry and turn all of his things that were inside out right-side out, and fold them, and put them away.

Then probably about ten years later, by then we'd had six kids (or maybe almost six, because we had six in ten years, and the last one may not have been born) I was still doing laundry, but now it was for eight people, not just two people. And I was thinking through, if I didn't have to turn all this stuff right-side out, that would save me some time—not a lot of time, but in that season of my life, even a couple of minutes meant a whole lot to me.

So I went to Dennis again, and I said, "You know, it would really help me a lot, with all the laundry I've got to do, and all the stuff I have to do, if you wouldn't mind taking your socks and all of that stuff off right-side out. It would save me time and steps. Would you mind doing that?"

And he said, "Well, sure, why not?"

It was no big deal when I asked later on. Part of it was the context of our lives, he really understood at that season of life how much work I was carrying, how much responsibility I was carrying. Early in our marriage, he didn't have the maturity or the time to ever appreciate the work that I was doing. So we were in different places.

What I learned from that is change can happen, behavioral change can happen in all of our lives, but oftentimes it does take time, and we need to be patient and willing to trust God's timing to work in our lives according to His timing and not our own.

Nancy: And to realize that sometimes the change isn't going to take place. There are still going to be differences no matter how long you've been married. I assume you and Dennis are still different.

Barbara: We're very different. He still thinks randomly. I still think sequentially. He's still impulsive and spontaneous, and I'm still a planner. And we still run into this.

When we go on a road trip by car, I want to line the suitcases up in the back of the car, and he thinks, Who cares? Just throw them in there any old way.

So we still are going to be the people we were when we married. Those personality differences, those genetic predispositions to certain things are going to be with us for life, and it's learning to live with those and accept those and accept God's design in the other person. And its' also to know that change can happen, and when we trust God, and when we wait and we pray, God can also produce change. So it's a mix of both that God works into our lives over a course of decades of marriage.

Nancy: Don't you think those differences expose things about us in terms of how we need to change and our responses? When you're reacting to something, it's usually not the something that is the issue. It's something that's being exposed inside of our own heart.

Barbara: Yes. It's usually something in here because, initially in our marriage, and even today, when I see something I don't like, it's because it's inconvenient for me, it interrupts me. It's just not something I want, which is a very selfish perspective to have. So it usually reveals what's in our heart; that's what those differences bring out.

Nancy: So, early in your marriage, as you think about that, is it okay to talk about those differences, to address them? And how do you do that in a way that is encouraging rather than deflating?

Barbara: I think you have to talk about those differences because to not talk about them is to pretend they don't exist. And marriage is not about pretending. We don't pretend in marriage. Marriage is for oneness and transparency and openness. We got married for that. Right? So we have to talk about those differences, but in talking about them, we need to do it in a way that is honoring and that it respects the way that God created this person that He has brought into your life.

So, it's getting our hearts right when we talk about them, and we didn't always have our hearts right, and we still don't always have our hearts right, but when we realize our hearts are not right, we ask for forgiveness, and we get that restoration going, and then we talk about, "How can I not do this that is making life uncomfortable for you or is making life unpleasant for you?"

What we're dealing with right now in our relationship is that now that we don't have kids (and this is common for a lot of women now that the children are all grown and gone) . . . For years, all of my attention was on fixing them, helping them, training them, coaching them, making sure they said "please and thank you," and all of those things that moms do. Well, now that the children are gone, all of that energy, all of that training experience I have tends to get focused on my husband. 

Nancy: And I bet he loves that!

Barbara: Oh, he loves that! I have to remember that I'm not his mother, which I already know, but that can kind of creep into the relationship. And when I realize that I'm becoming critical or I'm being picky and pointing out things that really don't matter, then I have to recognize that (either he says something to me, or the Spirit convicts me) and say, "I'm sorry. I mean, it really doesn't matter. It's really fine."

We all have these things that are going to be with us for life that we're going to succumb to, be challenged by, struggle with, and it's having a heart that responds to the Holy Spirit and is quick to forgive. We are so much quicker to forgive one another than we used to be because we know it doesn't matter. Most of these things just don't matter. So we're much, much quicker to forgive one another than we were in our early days of marriage. And that really is a joy and a delight.

Nancy: You were really pretty honest in the book about how your natural DNA is to be more critical, more perfectionist, and it's something you had modeled in your home while growing up.

Barbara: Right.

Nancy: You talked about how women often are more high control.

Barbara: We are.

Nancy: "This is the way it has to be. This is what it looks like." And maybe it does come with this mothering instinct to train, and how God uses marriage to deal with that in our own lives.

Barbara: Yes.

Nancy: How have you seen God use differences in your marriage to sanctify you in those areas?

Barbara: Well, as I mentioned earlier, I've learned that differences are okay, and initially I felt like differences were not okay. I felt like they were wrong, and I felt like my responsibility was to correct and fix. But I've come to see the beauty of what God has created in our differences and in making us so unique as individuals. And, of course, I see it up close and personal in my marriage with my husband, but I'm learning to appreciate that about all of us.

I think it's growing to appreciate the beautiful complexity that God has built in all of us who are made in His image, and that's why it's such a beautiful reflection of who God is because He has built those unique differences in each one of us to reflect who He is to the world.

Nancy: Think about a woman. I think sometimes we get into these patterns that we don't realize we have.

Barbara: Yes, we do.

Nancy: You've got somebody who's been married ten, fifteen, twenty years, and there's just a pattern of seeing things through negative eyes, through negative glasses, and she's stuck there, and the marriage is stuck. So there's friction. There's not harmony. There's not oneness. How do you change the dance step? You're the wife. You can't change your husband.

Barbara: Right.

Nancy: Maybe that's one of the first things to realize. But, practically, how do you start to make a difference in how you deal with those differences?

Barbara: I think the first thing has to be taking your heart to the Lord and saying, "What am I not seeing? What are the blind spots in my life?"

I talk in the book about "marriage is like dancing." We will probably get to that more later on. But it's a beautiful picture of how God designed marriage, and my responsibility as a wife is to follow my husband's leadership. Maybe I'm trying to lead, maybe I'm trying to dictate the flow of our relationship by my criticism or by my high control. All of us women can be high control. It is partly because we're moms, a lot of us, but it's also because I think the home is our domain, and we kind of want to control it. We want it to be ours, and we want it to be the way we want it to be.

I think that we do have that weakness to be that way, but it has to start with surrendering our hearts and saying, "Lord, You made marriage. You made me the way You wanted me to be. You made my husband the way You wanted him. You're the one that knows how to make this work. If I'm being critical, if my heart is not right, I need You to show me."

You have to be willing to ask that. And there are times, for a lot of us, where we haven't been willing. I haven't been willing because I didn't want to be wrong. I wanted to be right, and I wanted him to be wrong.

But it's deciding that what God believes is more important than what I believe and what I want, and sometimes that takes a while to get to that conclusion for us as women.

Nancy: So there were points where you just had to say in your own heart, "I'm letting this go. I'm just not going to let this . . . I'm going to let it go. It's okay that this difference remains"?

Barbara: Right. Well, I remember, as I was saying earlier, when I started seeing all these differences in my husband, I prayed for a long time that God would change all these things. And it became obvious that God was not going to change those things. He was not going to transform his personality into somebody else. And I'm so glad.

Nancy: In praying that way, then you found yourself fixating on the negative, or what you thought were negatives.

Barbara: Oh, all the time. What I thought were negatives, and they weren't negatives. But the great lesson for me in those early years, and that I've continued to apply throughout our marriage, is: God made him the way He made him. God is in control. And if He wants to change him, He can change him. And, as you said, I let it go.

I literally let it go. I said, "All right, God, if You want to change any of these things, that's Your business. It's not mine. I'm going to let it go and accept him as he is and trust You that this is big enough for You to handle. And You can handle it. And if You don't want to handle it, I'm going to trust You with that, too."

So there is a sense in which there is a lot of resigning to God in saying, "You can do this. You can fix it if You want to fix it. And if You don't, I'm going to continue to trust You." Because God's got greater plans than we could ever imagine.

If God had answered my prayers, I would have been miserable because He would have changed my husband in a way that wouldn't have been good for me. I didn't know what I was asking for. So often, I think, when we pray, we don't know what we're asking for. But God knows better, and it's learning to submit to God and trust Him as our heavenly Father, as our Creator, as the designer of marriage, as the one who called us together. He called me and my husband together. So He can make it work.

And so it's keeping that surrender to Christ as the first and foremost thing in our lives.

Nancy: And there are times when you do need to talk about these differences?

Barbara: Oh, absolutely.

Nancy: And one of the real practical things you gave was what you called the "bookend recipe" or the "bookend principle." Can you share that with us?

Barbara: Yes. I'd love to. This is something Dennis and I started years ago. So when you have a difficult conversation, or you know you're getting ready to talk about one, one of the things that we have practiced in our marriage all these decades is we say when we're sort of starting into a difficult conversation, "Now, I just want you to know I need to talk to you about something that's probably not going to be fun, but I'm committed to you, and I'm not going anywhere."

So then we have the conversation. And sometimes the conversation will last ten minutes, sometimes it will last hours, sometimes it spills over into a couple of days. But, at the end of all of these difficult conversations, we always put the other bookend which says, "I love you. I'm committed to you, and I'm not going anywhere. I would marry you all over again."

And those two bookends, that principle of restating your commitment to one another during difficult conversations, at the beginning, and especially at the end, puts that rock back in the ground that says, "We are one. We're going to get through this, and we're going to trust God to do it, and we're not going anywhere."

In this culture of divorce and marriages that just come and go, we really, really need that more than ever. We need that anchor, that stability, of reminding one another, "I chose you. I love you. I'm not going anywhere." And say it over and over and over again.

We say the pledge of allegiance multiple times throughout our lives, don't we? Do we think anything about repeating that? How much more important is it to repeat our promises in marriage. We should be saying those every day. "I love you. I chose you. I'm committed to you. I'm not going anywhere."

That's the anchor. That's what keeps us rooted to one another when life just feels impossible—and life will get that way. We will all go through seasons where it feels impossible, multiple times. We need that anchor. We need that stability that commitment provides when we state that to one another.

Nancy: And so maybe God is speaking to you right now about an area of difference in your marriage, or maybe just the fact that there are differences, and you've been making them hurdles and obstacles and barriers. What does God want you to do with those differences? How does He want you to adjust your thinking? How does He want you to approach them differently? How does He want you to pray differently? You didn't stop praying for Dennis?

Barbara: No. I prayed differently. I started praying for him that God would work positive character qualities into his life. So instead of praying that God would change all of these things I thought were wrong, I began to pray that God would build godliness into his life.

I used men of the Bible as my model. In different seasons, I would use a different one. At one point, I was doing a study on Daniel in my Bible study group, and I was so impressed with Daniel's life, and I thought, I want those qualities in my husband, and I know God does, too. So I began to pray that the qualities I was learning in Daniel's life would be evident in my husband's life.

In another season, I was studying Joseph, and so I prayed those qualities for my husband, too, that God would develop those in his life as a man because God wants all of our men who know Him and belong to Him to have those qualities, that He lifts up in His Word.

So I changed from praying, "God, change these things," to "God, develop these things that I know are Your will on his life."

Nancy: Lots more on differences in the chapter in Barbara's book called, "Marriage Is Like Fine Cuisine." She develops that in a beautiful and creative way. The book is called, Letters to My Daughters: The Art of Being a Wife.

We're making that available to anyone who sends a gift of any amount to support the ministry of Revive Our Hearts this week. It's our way of saying, "Thank you for supporting this ministry so that we can keep bringing this kind of teaching, this kind of help and hope into the lives and marriages of women."

Barbara says in this chapter, "God takes two people and uses them both in each other's lives to grow the other into a more complete picture of what He intended."

And the differences are the ingredients He uses to make a beautiful meal, a feast—not only for you and your mate, but also that others can be blessed and can enjoy the work of the Creator as He works through your marriage.

Be sure and join us again tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts as we continue this conversation with Barbara Rainey. I don't know about you, but I'm finding this really helpful, really encouraging, and I want you to be sure and be with us for our next conversation.

Leslie: That's Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth talking with Barbara Rainey, author of Letters to My Daughters: The Art of Being a Wife.

To get your copy, make a donation of any amount at ReviveOurHearts.com, or ask for it when you call with your donation. The number is 1–800–569–5959.

To see today's conversation between Nancy and Barbara on video, visit www.ReviveOurHearts.com.

Tomorrow, find out why marriage is like a remodeling project on your home. Barbara Rainey will be back here on Revive Our Hearts.

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

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