Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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Leslie Basham: When Dennis and Barbara Rainey started taking dancing lessons, they realized what a picture it was of marriage.

Barbara Rainey: When you dance (unless you're dancing solo) it's always a duet, it's always a partnership. And one person has to lead and the other person has to follow.

Leslie: Does that mean a wife should mindlessly follow, with no opinion?

Barbara: You can't dance if your partner's not moving. So for me to be completely passive and not move means we don't have a dance—we don't have a relationship.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth for Thursday, June 9, 2016.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: We're continuing our conversation with Barbara Rainey. Dennis and Barbara are the cofounders of FamilyLife Ministries. That's kind of a parent ministry of Revive Our Hearts.

I remember the day and where I was sitting when I got a phone call from Dennis Rainey saying, "We're talking in our ministry about starting a new radio program that would be for women, with a woman teacher. We think this is something you should consider doing, and I'm calling to talk about that."

I remember thinking and saying, "That is a great idea! In fact, I've been thinking about a program like that myself, but I think you've got the wrong person. I think somebody else is supposed to do that."

And so, a year-and-a-half later, after a lot of prayer and dialogue with the fabulous team there at FamilyLife Ministries, we launched Revive Our Hearts on September 3, 2001. FamilyLife has been such a huge contributing player to this ministry. They staffed it; they supported it in countless ways over those first years. We're now coming up on our fifteenth anniversary, and I'm so thankful for all that Dennis and Barbara and their team at FamilyLife have poured into this ministry!

Barbara and I have been friends for a long time. She's an encourager. She's an artist—she does beautiful work. She is biblically grounded. She's got a sound, thinking heart. She's lived out the gospel in the context of her marriage for forty-three years now.

Barbara and Dennis have six children, twenty-two grandchildren . . . and now this beautiful book called Letters to My Daughters: The Art of Being a Wife. And, Barbara, it really is an art more than a science, isn't it?

Barbara: It really is, and I think that's part of why it's so complicated. We would like a set of rules, wouldn't we? "Give me a checklist, give me ten things to do, check them off the list . . . done!" But, it is not that way. God has built us for relationships, and relationships are all unique.

The work of relationships is an art, and God is the Master Artist, and He is the One Who will equip us to do that.

Nancy: And He's in the process of taking our lives and our marriages and making something beautiful. But it doesn't always look beautiful on the front end.

Barbara: It doesn't, and we mess it up along the way; we all mess it up. I tell the story in one of the chapters of the book about making a collage. I took art lessons after my youngest one was a sophomore in high school. I only had two kids left.

I went back and started dabbling in art again, and it was so much fun! It was like a feast after being in the desert for a long time. I had such a great time. But one of the things we did in one of our classes was, we took all of our old paintings that we thought were pretty terrible, or that we had messed up, and we tore them. (We were taking watercolor lessons; you can't tear canvas, but you can tear watercolor paper.) We tore them up into different shapes and different sizes. We sometimes added glitter, or we added different things to them. And we'd create a whole new work of art out of the damaged pieces.

I think that's a great illustration of marriage. We mess it up; we make mistakes; we damage it, but when we surrender to God, He takes those pieces and He weaves them together and creates something beautiful out of the messes that we make.

A lot of art is a very messy endeavor. Marriage is like that, being a wife is like that. It's very purposeful, and I call it the art of being a wife.

Nancy: And you have artistic terms and images that you use throughout the book. In fact, each chapter is a simile of what marriage is like: Marriage is like fine cuisine; marriage is like grand architecture; it's like elegant music. 

Here's what I want us to talk about today, and that's that marriage is like beautiful dancing. Now, my husband Robert and I tried doing this in our kitchen the other day. We had some beautiful music on, and I said, "Honey, let's dance."

Well, I have no idea how to dance! He doesn't have a lot of idea how to dance, and we just kind of took each other. It would not have been anything anybody would have wanted to video . . . well, they might have wanted to video it. (laughter)

Barbara: It was not because it was lovely, huh?

Nancy: It was not beautiful dancing. You and Dennis have talked over the years about how you have come to see that in a marriage there are elements of this whole dancing thing. How does that picture apply to marriage?

Barbara: It's one of my favorites. Part of the reason it's one of my favorites is because I loved dancing when I was growing up. When I was a teenager, my really good friend—my back-door neighbor who lived across the lawn when we were growing up, we would walk across the backyard and play together . . .

When we were teenagers, we were dance partners. She and I would practice all these dances that were real popular in our teenage years with one another. And I thought I was a pretty good dancer. I thought dancing was pretty cool.

When we got married, on our honeymoon, we tried to dance, and it was probably similar to what you and Robert recently experienced. Neither one of us did a great job of dancing, and I knew my dancing days were over. But a few years ago—I think it was in about 2008—our kids gave us dancing lessons as a Christmas gift. I know, it sounds great, doesn't it?

Nancy: Did Dennis think that sounded great?

Barbara: He was a great sport about that gift.

Nancy: He thinks of it as a sport, now.

Barbara: He knew that it was going to make me happy, and so he decided he was going to go along with it. But that was something he has never aspired to. He has aspired to a lot of things, but dancing wasn't one of them.

Nancy: Hunting . . . fishing . . . dancing.

Barbara: Hunting, fishing . . . dancing . . . yeah, they don't quite go together. But I was thrilled to get this gift of dancing lessons, because it was something I had always wanted to do in our marriage.

What I was not prepared for, though, was how much I was going to learn about marriage in those dancing lessons. I really had no idea. So we walked into our first dancing class, and it was an hour lesson, or maybe an hour-and-a-half.

And I thought, I've got this. I can help him. We can do this together. I was charged and ready to go! And by the time the first lesson was over, first of all I realized I wasn't as good as I thought I was, and secondly, I had a lot to learn about following Dennis' lead.

When you dance, unless you're dancing solo, it's always a duet. It's always a partnership. One person has to lead, and the other person has to follow. In most dancing situations, the man leads, the woman follows.

When you watch dancing, who leads? The man leads. Who follows? The woman follows. Who has the most beautiful costume, however? (laughter) Who gets to do all the twirls and the spins and the lifts and all the really beautiful things? It's the woman.

But what does she have to do to be able to execute all of that? She has to be able to follow his lead. And how much practice do they put in on those things? Tons of hard work. Tons of practice.

And the reason they have to do that is because she has to be so intimately acquainted with his style of leadership and where he's taking her that she can follow, almost blindfolded. And that's a picture of marriage.

I learned in our dancing lessons that I had to trust my husband (who I didn't think was a good dancer; I thought I was better than he was). Aren't we like that in our marriages a lot? How many of us women think we're smarter, or better, or know how to get there faster?

Yeah, we do, don't we? Only one risked raising her hand. (laughter)

Nancy: There's only one honest woman in this group. 

Barbara: The rest of us feel that way, we just didn't have the courage to raise our hands. But there are always areas in our marriages where we feel like we are smarter, or we know better, or we are more skilled, or we've got better training. It could be anything.

And yet, God has said the husband is the one to lead in this duo called dancing, in marriage. So I learned in those dancing lessons that I had a long way to go yet in following my husband and learning to trust the way he was leading.

Interestingly, when I tried to correct him (which I did) and tried to help him remember (because the teacher would give us these instructions and we would listen, and then we would imitate) . . .When I tried to help him do what the instructor had just said, he made more mistakes, because he was trying to listen to the instructor and me.

But when I finally got the message that I needed to keep my mouth shut and let him pay all of his attention to the instructor, he did much better. He did a lot better. And, he was aware when he made a mistake and apologized for it, and corrected it much more quickly.

If I'm doing this in dancing lessons, how many times have I made the same mistake at home? How many times am I trying to help him by suggesting things. "Maybe if you try it this way, honey." And I need to let him lead and let him figure it out on his own—and listen to the Instructor. God is the Master Choreographer. God has choreographed the dance of marriage. He is the One who designed it. He is the One who made you, and He is the One who made your husband.

I need to be listening to the Choreographer, too. My husband needs to listen to the Choreographer, but he doesn't need my help listening to the Choreographer, and that's where we get it messed up sometimes. I'm trying to help him do what I think God's telling him what to do.

Nancy: And what happens in the dance scenario when both are trying to lead?

Barbara: It doesn't work real well. That's when you step on each other's toes. That's when you get frustrated with each other—because you're both trying to be in charge, and it just doesn't work that way.

Nancy: Okay, let's talk about what this looks like in real life—in your life, in the marriages of the women in this room, in my marriage. First of all, I can hear a lot of women saying today, "I would love for my husband to lead, but he doesn't."

And we do have a whole era (I think it actually goes back to Genesis 3; it's not so new) of women wanting to lead and men saying, "Okay, I'll let you lead. You want to take over?" And so we have these passive men and women who resent these passive men.

That's where we are in a lot of relationships. The wife is saying, "I would love for my husband to take some leadership, but all he wants to do is sit and play video games or watch ballgames. He just doesn't take the lead. Somebody's got to lead or nothing's going to get done in this household!"

Barbara: Right, I understand, and I think that is where a lot of women are, but I think our responsibility is to listen to the Author of marriage, the Choreographer of marriage, and figure out how to play our part first.

I am responsible for my part in the dance; I am not responsible for his part in the dance, so I need to figure out my part in the dance first. I need to master my part in the dance and let him worry about his part.

The other thing I need to is, when he does lead, when he gets up off the couch from playing the video games or watching the football game or whatever else it is and he does something—he takes out the garbage or he picks up something or he says, "I'll get the kids"—we need to thank him and praise him for that. If we reinforce the behavior, the actions, the attitudes that we really want, then he's more inclined to do them again.

It's the same as when Dennis and I were taking our dancing lessons, when he danced well and did the steps correctly as the instructor showed us how to do them, I said, "Great job, honey. Thanks for doing that; that was really fun." Then he was much more motivated to try again.

If I said, "You know, that was really great, but you've messed up on this one." What does that do? I mean, how do we feel? Do we want someone saying, "You did ten things right and here are five things you did wrong?" No.

So if we focus on the things our husbands do right (even if we feel like it's only a little tiny bit) and we thank him and praise him, he's going to do much more motivated to want to do more for us. It's just human nature, I think. I don't think we're any different than they are, but we forget sometimes that they are motivated the same way we're motivated, and that's by praise and being thanked.

Nancy: I have a sweet friend whose marriage I've seen grow a lot over many years. There was a point where they did not get along well. They struggled a lot, but today they have a beautiful dance in their marriage.

One of the things we have said to each other over the years when we were struggling with circumstances we wanted to control and felt like we couldn't, she would say to me and I would say to her, "Remember, you're not God."

I think in our pride, sometimes we just assume that what we think needs to be done and the way we think it needs to be done is the way, the right way, and anybody who doesn't agree with us and doesn't do it the same way is wrong, is messing up.

So part of this is the humility to say, "There's not just one right way to do this."

Barbara: Absolutely. And really, that's what dancing lessons taught us: I'm not in charge; the instructor is in charge. My husband is listening to the instructor and I listen to the instructor. And that's exactly what we have to do in marriage.

I'm not charge—he's not even in charge—of marriage, and we mess that up a lot of times, too. We think our husbands are in charge. He's not in charge either. He's supposed to be listening to God.

Nancy: "The king's heart is in the Lord's hand."

Barbara: We can help him listen to God by not criticizing him and belittling him and tearing him down. If we praise him for when he does listen to God, and we praise him for what he does right, he's a lot more likely to listen to the Instructor and to hear what God wants Him to do. And that's what we want anyway.

Nancy: You had a situation where one of your daughters wanted to get involved in gymnastics at a higher level, and it really brought this following/leading thing to a head in your marriage.

Barbara: Yes, this is one of those pivotal stories in our marriage. Dennis and I have talked about this lots of times since. I don't know that we ever had quite the impasse over any other circumstance than we did on this one.

This involved our daughter who is our fourth child, our second daughter, who was really very good at gymnastics. She just clicked on through all the levels. She was in the fourth grade, and they wanted her to move on to Level 6, I believe it was (and the levels are probably different today than they were then).

It was going to require that she be at the gym four nights a week after school, instead of two or three (I can't remember what the jump was). It was at a different gym, which was an hour-and-a-half away (one way), and it was going to be longer hours.

Well, I had visions of Rebecca going to the Olympics. I had visions of her getting college scholarships. I absolutely loved watching her perform. She was a very good; it's a beautiful sport. I've always loved it. Since I was a kid, I've loved watching gymnastics. There's something about it that's just magical, to me.

So I was really in this with her. When we got all the facts on what this next level was going to be like, Dennis said, "Hmmm, I don't know. That means she's going to be gone a lot more. It means she'll be around the coaches and the other kids more than she'll be at home with us. I'm not sure that's what we need to do."

So that began a discussion that literally lasted three months. This was a decision that took us three months to make, because we went back and forth, back and forth, back and forth . . . talking about it over and over and over.

I never changed my opinion, which was, "We need to let her go, because she's got this gift. God's given her this talent. What if we're hindering what God wants to do in her life?" It's a valid point. And then Dennis would say, "We need to take her out because she's not going to be spending as much time with us, and we need to build into her life." Another valid point, right?

So, we went back and forth on this, because we literally could not resolve it. One night we had been out to dinner, and we talked about this . . . again. I was really getting tired of talking about it. I was finally getting worn down. And it wasn't because Dennis was pestering me or pressuring me; it was just the result of talking about a decision we couldn't make for three months. I remember when we came home that night, I knew that we just had to make this decision.

I remember saying to God, "Okay, God, I know what Your Word says. Your Word tells me I need to follow his lead. Your Word tells me I need to submit to his authority in our relationship. I don't like his decision; I don't like where he's taking this. It's not what I want to do, but somebody has got to give. Somebody's got to make the decision on what to do next. I know what Your Word tells me, and I know that it's mine to do. So I'm giving this to You. I'm going to tell him that I'm going to follow His lead on this, even though I don't like it and I don't agree with it, and I'm going to keep asking You to change his heart. But this is what I'm going to do."

So I did. I told him that night that I was going to follow his lead; I was going to submit to his leadership over our family, and I was hoping God would change his mind.

Nancy: You told him that?

Barbara: Yes, I told him that. But I really did mean it. It wasn't a manipulative thing on my part; I really meant that I was going to follow his lead. And it was so fascinating. 

Over the next two days God changed my heart. God changed the circumstances. He showed me things that I wasn't seeing before. And what surprised me the most was when we told Rebecca we were taking her out of gymnastics (I thought she would be sad, I thought she would cry, I thought it would be a great loss), she said, "Okay." 

I mean, I just really couldn't believe it! She was totally fine with it. God was saying to me, "I've got this. I've got this covered." And it was such a great picture of following God's Word, following His pattern for the dance of our marriage, following His instructions, and then watching Him do what He knew was best for our family all along.

But it was my responsibility, it was my choice to choose to do what God's Word said—and it made all the difference.

Nancy: I can hear some women thinking, But, I'm a more natural leader.

Barbara: Oh, yes. Lots of women think that. And lots of women actually probably are a more natural leader, but that doesn't mean he can't be the leader. I think sometimes we think we are a more natural leader, and in some respects might be, but that doesn't mean he can't lead.

We still are commanded by God to follow his lead. Your husband may lead differently than you, but remember: different's not wrong, it's just different. His style of leadership may be different than your style of leadership, but God still wants him to lead you and the family.

Nancy: So when we're talking about this leading/following thing, are we saying (I know we're not, but help unpack this) that you are, therefore, brainless, brain-dead, you have no opinions, you're not engaged in the process. He just takes over everything, and you're the robot who follows his lead.

Barbara: Passive? No. Did I sound passive for talking for three months? Did that sound passive to you? No.

Nancy: I just heard your husband in the background . . .

Barbara: He laughed, didn't he? He knows better. He knows I'm not a pushover. I may be the more introverted of the two of us, but I'm not going to not speak what I think. And I think he needs to hear what I think.

Again, it's a dance. He can't dance if I'm not following; he can't dance if I'm not moving. So the idea of him being the only one who's thinking, the only one who's talking, the only one who's deciding is false.

You can't dance if your partner's not moving. So for me to be completely passive and not move means that we don't have a dance, we don't have a relationship. I have to be doing my part. I have to be communicating to him, informing him, interacting with him, having conversation.

Honestly, as we've talked about this in the years since, it's one of only maybe five (and we can't think what the other four are) decisions where we were at that kind of an impasse, because we talk things through and come to a point where we agree on our decisions, almost all of the time.

That's really the way it needs to be, because that's the kind of dance God wants us to have, where one is leading and the other is following, and you're working together in harmony throughout life.

And so, almost every decision we've ever made has been in tandem—me following him but agreeing all the way. That was an illustration of, I didn't want to follow because I didn't agree. And that just hasn't happened that many times in our marriage, because we have talked through all of it in great detail, so that we come to a point of oneness.

Nancy: And, I think we need to make it clear that we're not talking about following your husband into sin.

Barbara: Correct. Absolutely not! If he's suggesting that you cheat on your income tax, or you lie about something, or whatever, God doesn't call us to follow a husband who is leading into something sinful. That's a case where it would be helpful to get wise counsel from a pastor or a friend, if a husband is really insisting that you do something that is contrary to the Bible.

But usually it's not that way. Usually, our husbands are just . . . they're broken, too. All of us are broken; all of us going to make mistakes. He's going to lead in some ways that are wrong, from time to time.

In our dance lessons, Dennis stepped on my toes multiple times—not because he wanted to, but because he was learning. I think we forget, when we marry our husbands, that they're not perfect yet.

We feel like they're perfect when we're in love and when we're dating, but they're not perfect. They're still broken. 

Nancy: As are we. 

Barbara: Yes. And so, our men are going to make mistakes, and they're going to step on our toes. It's not because they don't like us, or they're mean, but because they're broken. That's where forgiveness and grace and talking it through and interacting covers those things.

Nancy: And it takes faith—lots of it—to believe that God is bigger and God is greater than both of us put together. We can trust Him to write our story, we can trust him to lead through the direction of another.

Barbara: Correct.

Nancy: That's a scary thing at times, but it's really not scary as long as God's on His throne. So, I think the way we do this dance, the way we follow, demonstrates how big we believe God really is.

Barbara: Because that's really my job—to remember that God is in control, and God is the Choreographer, not me and not my husband. When I'm trusting Him, then the dance is so much easier, because I know God can take care of my husband without my help. God can work in his life without my help. God is big enough to intercept and to do what he needs to do, if I'm trusting Him.

Nancy: One of the quotes I tweeted from your book that speaks to this subject says, "Give him the gift of respect for who he is today, knowing your gift [that gift of respect] will free him to become the leader God knows you need tomorrow."

So God is shaping and molding both of us in marriage. As I do my part, it frees God up to work in my husband's life. It frees my husband up to respond to God's work in his life, and it helps me become the woman God made me to be as well. But you've got to be willing, in the meantime, to take some of those hard steps of faith and say, "God, I trust You, even when this doesn't make sense."

Barbara: Exactly. And the beautiful thing is, with time, after you've practiced this dance for a long time, I love it that I get to be the follower. I'm so glad I'm not in charge. I do like to lead, but I am really glad I'm not in charge in our marriage; I'm really glad that I get to follow. I don't resent the fact that God made me the way He made me, and that He gave me the responsibility and the role that He gave me.

We've been through enough in our lives that I fully appreciate, and am thankful for, God's design, because it's so much better than my design and the way I would have done it. So I love following. I love letting him lead.

Nancy: "I love God's design," Barbara Rainey says, "because it's so much better than the way we would do it."

I know that we're talking about today is really politically incorrect. I mean, this is like waving in front of a bull to many in our culture today. And isn't that God intends for us to be . . . countercultural? Not for the sake of being different, but for the sake of showing to the world the beauty of the gospel. 

Isn't that what we're supposed to picture as Christ's Bride—the way the church responds to Christ as her Head, as her Leader, as her Lord? Now, in that case, Christ is always right. In marriage you've got two fallible, two sinful, two broken people doing this dance.

But as we learn that dance, as we submit ourselves to doing it God's way, as we trust ourselves to God and to our mates, we're able to tell the story of the gospel in a way that the world desperately needs to see and to hear.

There's so much more about this whole subject of following and leading. It was really helpful to me, Barbara, being early in marriage. I'm a strong woman, and my husband would attest to that. As I'm learning to do this with grace and to be willing to not have all the reins as I was able to do in a different way when I was single for fifty-seven years, your book has been so helpful to me in this and other areas. I want to encourage all our listeners to get a copy of Barbara Rainey's book Letters to My Daughters: The Art of Being a Wife. She talks about this and so many others subjects, illustrated out of her own life, taught from the Word of God and the ways of God.

You do it in such a winsome and compelling way that readers say, "Yes. This is beautiful. This is what I would like to have in my marriage." So, get one for yourself. You can order other copies from our Resource Center, but we'll send one to you this week as our way of saying "thank you" when you make a donation of any amount to Revive Our Hearts, so we can keep helping women know what it looks like to live out the beauty of the gospel in their marriage.

Leslie: That's Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, talking with Barbara Rainey, author of Letters to My Daughters: The Art of Being a Wife. To take Nancy up on the offer she just made, call Revive Our Hearts with your gift of any amount. The number is 1–800–569–5959. Ask for your copy of this book.

You can also donate online and get the book. Just visit And while you're there, you can check out today's conversation between Nancy and Barbara on video.

You've heard, "Love covers a multitude of sins." When should you cover your husband's sin, and when should you confront and bring those sins to light? Barbara and Nancy will be back to discuss that, and answer other practical questions, tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts.

To close our time, Barbara is reading a poem from her book:


An idea conceived before Adam and Eve;
Before days, stars and nights,
Before darkness and light.
Beloved splendor rebelled—cruel mutiny quelled.
Lo, betrayal divorced, Divine love rent by force.

Three-in-One then imagined fresh canvas and passion.
For a Beauty, her Man, a new story began.
Designed to show oneness, create pure abundance,
Heaven's hope now revived—holy Sabbath arrived.

A dark shadow, too shrewd, sliced sin wide—trust unglued.
Not betrayal again! When will rebellion end?
Witness thousands of years, wedded joys and sad tears
Watching gazes of angels: Will these two be faithful?

The manger, the cross rescued, set free those lost.
Will my union reflect His joy to resurrect?
Spirit, my Guide, restore me as His Bride
To believe every word of the song yet unheard.

Our creation to be like Thee, O Trinity!
Create, sculpt, refine me, my Savior Divine!
Our marriage reflection a pleasing redemption.
May we plant and sing, together, for the King!

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

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

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About the Teacher

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has touched the lives of millions of women through Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman movement, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love for Christ and His Word is infectious, and permeates her online outreaches, conference messages, books, and two daily nationally syndicated radio programs—Revive Our Hearts and Seeking Him.

She has authored twenty-two books, including Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free, Seeking Him (coauthored), Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together, and You Can Trust God to Write Your Story (coauthored with her husband). Her books have sold more than five million copies and are reaching the hearts of women around the world. Nancy and her husband, Robert, live in Michigan.