Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: Are you ever tempted to think your marriage has no hope? Barbara Rainey wants to encourage you.

Barbara Rainey: As long as we have breath there's hope. So as long as your marriage is breathing, you can give it hope. And you can start by saying, "God, today is the day that I give you our marriage. Today is the day is that I surrender how we live our lives, how we live our marriage to You." It's never too late as long as you have breath.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth for Wednesday, June 8, 2016.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Well, I hope you're enjoying this conversation with Barbara Rainey as much as I am. As a newlywed wife, just over six months, I read Barbara's new book with bated breath. I am all ears listening, wanting to learn, wanting to bless my husband. You know, we're probably not going to have forty-three years together like Barbara and Dennis have had. So we're trying to learn some of these things a little more quickly than couples do when they get married in their twenties. Just such practical wisdom here.

I want to say that Barbara and her husband, Dennis, are the co-founders of FamilyLife Ministries. You hear FamilyLife Today on many of the same radio stations that air Revive Our Hearts. If your marriage is in need of a tune-up or just some encouragement or maybe some really serious help and anything in-between, I want to encourage you to sign up for a Weekend to Remember.

It is a weekend to remember. We have a link on our site that will take you to the Weekend to Remember site and a great opportunity for your marriage to be refreshed, to be encouraged, just a time out—a time to recalibrate. In fact, Barbara, why don't you give a little plug for Weekend to Remember and why every couple ought to consider going to one.

Barbara: Well, the Weekend to Remember is just that. It's to be a weekend away for a couple—husbands and wives—to focus on our marriage. And you know, it's so easy to get focused on other things, focused on raising our kids, focused on your job, focused on work, focused on a hundred other things, and we tend to give our marriages the leftovers, quite honestly.

And the great thing about the Weekend to Remember is that it gives you an opportunity, as a husband and a wife, to get away and to focus on each other again. It was so easy and so natural when you're dating and engaged and in the early days of marriage. But life has a way of kind of taking that focus off of one another.

So the Weekend to Remember helps you turn your focus back on one another and have those conversations that you used to have and develop some new skills and talk about some issues that you might have and come out on the other side at a better place.

Nancy: So if we have husbands listening to this broadcast, we do have some men who eavesdrop on Revive Our Hearts, what an amazing gift this would be for your wife. She will be so grateful. You might want to surprise her (or maybe knowing your wife you don't want to surprise her). But this will be a delight for her.

Now, Barbara, some women are thinking maybe, I'd love to go to this but I don't know how to ask my husband. I don't know if this is something he would be excited about. How should she handle that?

Barbara: Well, you just kind of have to know your man. Some husbands might like a surprise, and he might like that you plan a weekend away and take care of all the details. Or he might like to be a part of the process too. So, I just think that you just need to know your man, know what works for him, what would speak to him and think that through and plan accordingly.

Nancy: So, go to ReviveOurHearts.com and click on the link for Weekend to Remember. And I really want to encourage you that this is a sister ministry. Actually, it's a mother ministry to Revive Our Hears. And I'm so grateful for Dennis and Barbara Rainey.

And to you, Barbara, you've been a friend, you've been an encourager, you've been an example as a woman to me because of your love for the Word, your love for your family, and your willingness to make the sacrifices to do something like writing this amazing book. I know as a writer this took a lot of time and effort—blood, sweat, and tears.

It's a beautiful book. I want every one of our women listeners to have this book: Letters to My Daughters: The Art of Being a Wife. And I say it's great for whatever season of marriage you may be in. Maybe you're a newlywed; maybe you've been married for decades; maybe you have a great marriage but you want it to be better; maybe you have a marriage you think only God can save this marriage, and everything in-between. This is a book that will be a great resource for you.

Barbara, I love how you take images of "marriage is a masterpiece." You're an artist, so this is very Barbara Rainey-esque. Marriage is like fine cuisine; marriage is like grand architecture; it's like elegant music; it's like beautiful dancing, etc. And she takes these word pictures and tells aspects of marriage out of her own journey and out of insight gained from God's Word over the years that will be helpful and encouraging. Helpful and hopeful. That's what I said about this book as I kept reading it. This is helpful. This is practical, and it's hopeful for any marriage.

You talk about marriage being like grand architecture—the building of a building. I know you and Dennis had a remodeling project in your house some years ago. And you probably learned, as I did, in the building of a house, that it doesn't ever go quite like you planned for or hoped. It takes longer; it costs more; there are more challenges.

Barbara: You just described marriage. Did you know that?

Nancy: So marriage is like building.

Barbara: It is like building. Yes exactly, because it does take more effort; it costs more money; it takes longer to get there, and there are always unforeseen problems and difficulties. When we did our remodeling project, and they tore out the cabinets in our kitchen (this was in 2007). Behind the cabinet in one part of the kitchen there was all this black mold. We had no idea it was there because it was back behind the kitchen cabinets.

This made them go, "Okay, what's causing this?" and that took more time. So there are always things that you're going to discover in marriage just as in building anything, that are going to make it take longer and cost more and be harder than you anticipated on the front end. But if you fight through it on the other end, you end up with a grand design and a beautiful outcome.

Nancy: As we've learned in our area, the foundation is really important.

Barbara: It's crucial.

Nancy: There's a home in our area that was a lovely home and one day you drove past it and the home had sunk into the ground. It had a foundation issue, and overnight that home just almost disappeared. I love how you talk about the foundation of Christian marriages, and a process that you and Dennis walked through early in your marriage that laid a good foundation for all these years.

Barbara: Yes. Early in our marriage, Dennis and I made a decision that we wanted to commit our marriage to Christ. And even though we were both believers in Him, we had both become believers earlier before we had even started dating, and even though we had had a Christian marriage, and we had promised one another to love and to cherish till death do us part, and we meant all of those. We had a commitment in our marriage.

We wanted to do something that was more of a physical statement of our commitment and of the basis for our marriage and what we wanted it to be built on. So for our very first Christmas, we decided that year (and we'd only been married about four or five months at the time) that we were going to give our marriage and our lives to God formally. We created this little ceremony that we did. And that was really not as important as what happened in our hearts.

But we each got a piece of paper, and we wrote on the paper everything that we were giving to God that Christmas because we wanted to give Him our lives and our marriage before we gave each other our first Christmas gifts.

So we just wrote on a piece of paper some very simple statements. "God, I give you this . . ." "I give you this . . ." I don't even remember what it all was. But we wrote it all on a piece of paper. We dated them both. We folded them up and put them in an envelope and put them in the safety deposit box.

And we really didn't talk about it much after that for years after that. But in hindsight, we see that it was a very important decision. It was a very important sort of moment in our marriage because we took it before God together as a couple and we said, "We're just starting out. This is a brand-new adventure. We don't know what we're doing. We don't know where we're going. We don't know what Your will is. We don't know where You're going to take us. But we want to give You our marriage. We want to start it out right. We want it to belong to You from day one. And here it is and it belongs to You."

I think that there was some mysterious transaction that occurred in the supernatural realm where God saw that and knew that was our heart. And because we'd given our lives to Him and we gave our marriage to Him, years down the road we can look back and say, "That really was important. That really was pivotal in our relationship that we settled the issue of who was in control and who was the owner of our lives and of our marriage from the very beginning."

That's how you have a good foundation. You can't just do that on your own. It has to be you both give your marriage to Christ. And oftentimes that happens at a Weekend to Remember when couples go and they hear the principles of how to have a good marriage. They go, "Oh! We've been doing it on our own. Even if we're believers, we've been building on our own. But now we're going to start building together. Now we're going to start with the same foundation."

Nancy: And you're inviting Christ into that process, and He's the grand architect, designer, general contractor, to use that metaphor. As you're sharing that, I'm thinking about what I think was a similarly important moment in Robert's and my marriage as we got started. As a wedding gift, I had bought for Robert and me two red, velvet kneelers—just kneeling pads.

I had them in our hotel room. After we got back to the room after our marriage ceremony, I gave those to Robert. And before we did anything else, before we ate, we knelt together on those kneeling pads next to each other and just did as we had done previously but in a very special way in that moment. We just consecrated ourselves and our marriage to the Lord and recognizing our need for Him and saying, "We want You to come and bless this marriage."

We thanked God for each other. We prayed a blessing on our marriage. But we were inviting Him to come and build this marriage recognizing that "unless the Lord builds a house, they labor in vain who do it."

So you think about how many marriages today are trying to build a marriage without God's help and involvement. So there are some listening to us today who've been going at it that way for a long time. They didn't start that way minutes or months into their marriage. But it's not too late to do that.

Barbara: It's never too late to do that. One of the greatest lessons I've learned over the length of my life and it comes from our marriage, it comes from raising kids, too, is that as long as we have breath, there's hope. As long as we have breath, there's hope. So as long as your marriage is breathing, you can give it hope. And you can start by saying, "God, today is the day that I give You our marriage. Today is the day that I surrender how we live our lives, how we live our marriage to You."

It's never too late as long as we have breath. So, I would encourage anybody who's listening who needs to have a new beginning, a fresh start that today is the day. Today you can do that. Today you can give your marriage to Christ and invite Him to be the architect and the builder and the ruler of your life and your marriage.

Nancy: And for a wife who wants to see that happen, does she have the freedom to go? How can she discuss this with her husband who may not be listening to this conversation?

Barbara: Yes. I think she has to know her man and she has to know if he would be receptive. I think it would be good for her to first pray and say, "God, how do You want me to approach him? What's the best way for me to make this to be something that both of us do and not just something that I do."

I don't think there is anything wrong with a woman doing it on her own and a husband not doing it if he's not there yet. Better that you do it than wait for him. But God can work and God can orchestrate and He can create the right circumstance, the right timing. It may just be a timing issue. It may be a circumstance issue.

So God will guide and He will orchestrate that and He will show you how to do that and bring your husband into that so that he agrees that it's a good idea. Because he doesn't need you to tell him to do this. That isn't going to work. But he needs to see that this is a good idea, and want to join you in it so that it's both of your idea together and you're sharing it together.

Nancy: Now, having consecrated your marriage to the Lord as you did early on, as Robert and I did early on, then that means you live happily ever after? That you have this great wonderful marriage and nothing ever goes wrong in the process, right?

Barbara: Yes. Of Course.

Nancy: And that's the message of this book?

Barbara: That's the message of this book. (laughter)

Nancy: Not so. Not so. So, you found within the first couple of years of your marriage that there were challenges. I'm sure you found out earlier than that. You talk in the book about starting out with a more confident, hopeful vision, "I can do this." How long did it take you to realize, "I'm not sure I can do this?"

Barbara: It didn't take very long at all for me to realize that I did not have what it took to make the kind of marriage that I wanted on my own. I really had a very naïve view of marriage. I became a Christian as a sophomore in college. I'd grown up in the church, and I knew all the hymns, and I knew a lot of the truths, and I knew what was right in my head, but it hadn't moved to my heart because I didn't know that to become a Christian I had to do anything. I didn't know that I had to receive Christ. I didn't know that I needed to invite Him into my life.

So, I did that in college and just a few short years later, Dennis and I said, "I do." So, I was still fairly young as a believer when we became married. And so I thought that because I was a Christian, and because I wanted to live my life for Christ, and because my husband was committed to living his life for Christ, I thought, "Check. Check. Check." That means it's going to be pretty easy. It means it's going to be a guaranteed success.

I really thought that. Now, I wasn't so naïve to think that there be never any problems, but I thought they would be minor and easily conquered. And that was where I made my mistake.

But I remember very vividly, we had some minor things along the way. But the first time that I had a real crisis in my life was shortly after our first child was born. She was born right after our first anniversary or actually right before our first anniversary. So she wasn't but maybe a month or two old. I was probably suffering from post-partum depression which nobody diagnosed in those days, so I had no idea.

But I remember feeling incredibly overwhelmed with life. And I thought, "Oh my goodness. I don't know how to do this. I don't know how to be a mom. I don't know how to take care of a baby. I don't know how to do marriage. I don't know how to be a wife and a mother at the same time, simultaneously." There were no books on that. And I just didn't have a clue.

I remember one night I felt so overwhelmed by the prospect of this new responsibility of being a mom and being a wife at the same time that I just had this, I guess it was probably a moment of panic. I didn't know what to do. I didn't know where to go.

We lived in a town where we had only been there a few months, and so I didn't have friends. No family was nearby. So I went into our master bathroom and closed and locked the door. I sat on the edge of the tub, and I just thought, I have to get away. I have to have some space.

So I sat there for a while, and it was a tiny little master bedroom bathroom. It just had a tub and a toilet and a little tiny vanity. I sat there for a while and that got real uncomfortable after a while. So I got up and moved and sat on the toilet for a while and that wasn't a whole lot better. But I sat there a while. Then I got up and went back to the tub for a while. And maybe after about an hour I just thought, This isn't going to change anything.

I was feeling very foolish, and I was feeling very silly. And I thought, Oh, now what am I going to do? I'm in here by myself, and my husband is out there in the other room, and my baby is out there in the other room, and I don't know what I'm going to do.

So, finally I mustered up enough courage to come out. I remember I went and found Dennis. And in the kindness of God and in his kindness toward me, he didn't laugh at me, he didn't ridicule me, and he probably could have because it was pretty silly looking, I'm sure, that I had gone and hidden in the bathroom.

But we just sat down and began to talk. We talked and we talked and we talked. I don't remember what we talked about. I don't remember what the problem was. But I remember that he welcomed me when I came out and didn't reject me. We talked about what I was feeling and what was going on in our marriage and how do we get through this together. "How do we figure out this new life? This baby and marriage at the same time. How do we figure this out together?" It wasn't mine to figure out alone. It wasn't his to figure out alone. It was ours to figure out together as a couple.

That was the first of many conversations going forward when I would encounter those impossible roadblocks. We talked earlier that nothing is impossible with God. Right? Well, that moment felt impossible to me. But as I came out and we talked together and we prayed together and I reminded myself that God was big and I was small and that God would take care of this and He would see me through it, I kind of got better. Then I encountered several more through the years.

But those were steps in learning to trust God and in learning to find God's sufficiency and learning to understand that He will supply what I need when I had absolutely nothing to give. That was a good lesson to learn. It was a hard lesson to learn because who likes to feel like that? Who wants to feel you have nothing to give, nothing to offer?

But that's when we can receive what God wants to give us. That's when we can experience His redemption and His healing and His changing. So, those were good moments. They were really hard moments. But they were really good ones where God showed up and guided us through.

Nancy: I don't want to skip past what happened when you came out of the bathroom and you said, "We talked." It seems like a natural, the two natural extremes that a lot of people go to when relationships are hard. One is to clam up, to stuff, and to bury things. And you know what we women do, we mull it over and over and over, and it snowballs and all of a sudden something that was little becomes massive in our minds.

Or they explode. So they talk but it's angry, quick talking, angry words that stir up more anger. But one of the things you talk in this book is the importance of learning to talk, not just to stuff it, but to talk in ways that are respectful, honoring, gentle, kind. And you and Dennis both had to do that in that moment.

Barbara: Yes. And we've done a lot of that in our marriage. I really am a huge believer in communication. When I say communication, I just mean talking. It's me hearing what he's feeling and what he's thinking; him hearing what I'm feeling and thinking. It's how what I said made him feel; how what he said made me feel. That's how you develop oneness because I can't be motivated to change if I don't understand how what I'm doing affects him and vice versa.

And you only get there by conversations. And they take hours sometimes. I mean a lot of hours. We used to have a lot conversations that would last sometimes until midnight because we were determined to never go to bed when we were angry at one another. So we decided we would always come to some kind of a conclusion before we went to bed at night or before we went to sleep. They were often in-bed conversations.

Nancy: You talk about how those conversations can be windows? You're talking about building a house here. How are they like windows?

Barbara: I think that when we talk through these issues, it gives me a glimpse into the soul of my husband. It gives me some understanding about him as a man that I didn't have before. I think we underestimate how vast are the differences between us as men and women. Sometimes it's real obvious, and sometimes it's not so obvious.

But when we have those conversations and I'm sharing with him how I feel and what I'm going through, what I'm experiencing, what I'm thinking, then that gives him the ability to understand me and that's building a window between us where he can say, "Oh, I get that about you." And I can say, "Now I understand that about you! Now I understand why you think the way you think or why you said what you said or whatever it is."

So, those conversations create windows between us. If we don't talk, we're building walls, we're letting walls go up. And what we really want are windows and doorways between one another in our marriage.

Nancy: So, how do you initiate, as a wife, a conversation with your husband about a hard subject?

Barbara: Well, one of my favorite stories in the Bible is the story of Esther. I love Esther, and I can't wait to meet her someday.  learned her story, I knew her story for years. But I started modeling what she did fairly early in our marriage—and that is, asking permission. I don't mean because you have to have permission to talk. You can talk anytime you want to. Right?

But to be heard, sometimes it helps to get permission. So if you have something that's really hard that you want to talk about, the best way to do it is to say, "I've got something I'd love for us to discuss. Can we talk about it now, or do you want to talk about it later?"

And so you've opened the door. You've said you want to talk about something but you haven't just charged in there. And that's what Esther did. She didn't just charge in there. I mean, she actually prayed and fasted, if you know the story. Some conversations need prayer and fasting before you have the conversations. But some conversations don't need that kind of prep work. Some conversations you just need to say it.

Like, for instance, one time our washing machine was broken. I didn't need to pray and fast about that. I just needed to let him know. But I need to even do that in good timing. I couldn't just pick up the phone and interrupt what was going on. I don't know if I emailed a message, if it was in that era, or if I just called and left a message and said, "Call me when you can."

So you have to gauge the situation and what's really going on to determine that. But I do think that the best way to bring something that's a difficult topic, something that might make him feel insecure, something that might be a difficult conversation to have, the best way to approach that is to say, "I've got something that I just really want to talk to you about. When can we do that?"

And that invites him in without us coming and just dumping it all in his lap and he didn't know it was coming, there was no preparation. He didn't have a chance to go, "Okay, I'm ready. Let's talk." Sometimes that really makes a big difference in how the whole thing goes down. So, I love Esther, and I love her model because I think it's a good one for us as wives.

Nancy: Talk about tone in a way of addressing something.

Barbara: Yes, tone matters.

Nancy: I mean, I know we know this, but we probably need to be reminded.

Barbara: Yes. I think that by doing that following Esther's principle, it gives us a chance to kind of calibrate our own emotions and to think through how we're going to say it. If we say to him, "I've got something I want to talk about." You may even say, "It's not going to be easy." It gives us a chance to double check how we feel, too.

And when you think about what Esther was facing, she could have gone into the throne room and screamed and said, "You idiot! What are you doing? You're going to kill all my people!" Well, she didn't do that. She had the wisdom to know that that wasn't the way to approach the king. She knew the customs. She knew the rules. She knew that she needed to do it in a wise way.

Nancy: She knew her man.

Barbara: She knew him very well. And so that's our challenge in marriage. My husband is different than yours. And both of our husbands are different than any other husband represented in this room. And so, that's a part of why I call this book, The Art of Being a Wife. It is an art form for me to know my husband and what works for him and what doesn't work for him.

And so, I've learned through the years the best way to approach him, the best way to have those hard conversations. And I've learned how to do that and so therefore it works better. And what works for me may not be the best way for you.

But still, the Esther principle remains. When we honor him and respect him for who he is, and we invite the conversation in a respectful way, he is much more likely to engage it with you.

Nancy: We're getting wisdom from the heart of Barbara Rainey. We're talking about some of the principles in her book Letters to My Daughters: The Art of Being a Wife. I want to encourage you to get a copy of that book. It would be a great resource for you no matter how long or short a time you may have been married. It will be a great resource for your daughters, for your daughters-in-law, for other women that you may be mentoring or wanting to encourage in their marriage.

We're making that available to our listeners this week for a donation of any amount to Revive Our Hearts. And when you support this ministry, I know you can get this book at one of the online retailers and maybe you get it for a great price. But when you make a donation to Revive Our Hearts, you're helping us help more marriages, help more women have deep kinds of conversations and this kind of help from God in building their marriage.

So, as our way of saying thank you when you make a donation to Revive Our Hearts, we'll send you this week a copy of this beautiful hard cover, beautifully illustrated book, beautifully written and lots of wisdom and insight and help and hope for marriage in any season.

Be sure and join us again tomorrow when we talk again with Barbara Rainey about leading and following in marriage—how the dance works.

Leslie: To get the book Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has been telling you about visit our website ReviveOurHearts.com. Make a donation of any amoun,t and you'll have the option of checking a box and getting your copy of Letters to My Daughters by our guest Barbara Rainey. Or call with your gift of any size and ask for the book. The number is 1–800–569–5959.

To see the video version of today's conversation between Nancy and Barbara, visit ReviveOurHearts.com. Maybe you know a young wife who could use this material. You can send a link to the video to her. Again, that's at ReviveOurHearts.com.

When Dennis and Barbara Rainey took dancing lessons, they discovered a powerful picture of marriage. Tomorrow, Barbara will explain what she learned about following her husband while taking dancing lessons. Please be back for 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.