Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Unexpected Grace, Day 4

Leslie Basham: Robert Wolgemuth's wife, Bobbie, knew her advanced cancer would likely lead to death, but she still had her husband's interests in mind. Here's Robert.

Robert Wolgemuth: Two months before Bobbie died, she was having lunch with a good friend, and she said, "Now you know that if I go to heaven, I want to Robert to marry right away."

Her friend said, "Yes, Bobbie. I've heard that many times."

And then Bobbie said to her friend, "There's one more thing that I want you to know. I want Robert to marry Nancy Leigh DeMoss."

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth for Thursday, November 19, 2015.

If you've missed any of the Revive Our Hearts programs this week, let me encourage you to go to www.ReviveOurHearts.com and listen to the archives or read the transcripts. Nancy and Robert Wolgemuth have been sharing their story of God's work in their lives to bring them together in marriage, and there's a lot in this story for everyone.

Nancy shares about contentment in singleness and about wise approaches to dating. It will help you think about the kind of wife the Lord might have you be some day, or, if you're married, the kind of wife He'd have you be now.

We'll hear more today from Robert Wolgemuth. Robert is an author, a literary agent, a father of two grown daughters, and a grandfather to several grandchildren.

Robert: One of the things that I was eager for Nancy to do was to meet my family. So in the process of our courtship, we went to the Carolinas to meet my family. We had two separate meetings. One with one family, and one with the other family. Both of my daughters said this to Nancy, separate from each other, and in front of their families:

We love our mom. We miss our mom. And we love you.

So the Lord was beginning to introduce Nancy, not just to me, but to the people who are very important to me—my children and my grandchildren.

Leslie: In the months that followed, Robert had another surprising confirmation of his relationship with Nancy.

Robert: From the time we were first married, Bobbie said to me, "I sure hope I die first."

I was like, "Why?"

And she would say, "Because I don't want to live without you."

I said, "Well, thanks a lot. So it's okay for me to live without you?"

And she'd say, "I just can't imagine myself living without you."

Well, when she was diagnosed, that began to come back into our conversation, so much so, that she would say on a regular basis, and if you were able to talk to her friends, they would resound in a chorus that said, "Robert needs to get married as soon as possible, as soon as I step into heaven."

And I remember saying to her, like, "Why?"

And she'd say, "Well, you'll be a hermit. You'll work yourself to death. You won't turn on the lamps, and you won't fluff the pillows."

In sort of a humorous way, she would say that she doesn't want me to be by myself, but I knew that Bobbie knew that I loved being married. Bobbie knew that I loved the companionship of a wife, and so she was encouraging me, even when we were first married, but then when she was diagnosed, if the Lord takes her to heaven, to not wait to get married.

Two months before Bobbie died, she was having lunch with a good friend. I wasn't there. And she said to this good friend, "Now you know that if I go to heaven, I want Robert to marry right away."

And her friend said, "Yes, Bobbie. I've heard that many times."

And then Bobbie said to her friend, "There's one more thing that I want you to know. I want Robert to marry Nancy Leigh DeMoss."

I didn't know that until weeks after I'd made contact with Nancy. Along with many other things, that's been a confirmation.

When Bobbie was inspired to tell her friends that she wanted me to marry Nancy Leigh DeMoss, I've thought a lot about this 2 Timothy 4:12 text, where the apostle Paul was writing to Timothy, and he uses a metaphor of running a race.

Now, I can't ask Bobbie this question, she's in heaven, but I believe that Bobbie saw her race coming to an end. And like a runner in a relay race, she saw herself handing the baton to Nancy DeMoss. She knew me very well. She knew Nancy pretty well. And I believe with all my heart that she saw the possibility of Nancy taking that baton from her and finishing the race with me. Now, I don't know that for sure. I can't know that for sure. But it sure looks like that.

So it's all part of God's mysterious unpacking of a story we couldn't have written.

Leslie: This week we've heard a lot about how God changed Nancy's heart for marriage and began drawing her heart toward Robert. And here are a few things about Nancy that captured Robert's heart.

Robert: There are a number of things that I have admired, for all of these years, going back to when my firm represented her writing. She is very serious about the Word. She's very intentional about her love for God's Word. I knew that she loved God's Word.

Something that I have always loved to do is pick up a person's Bible, their own Bible. When you look at Nancy Leigh DeMoss' Bible, and now I have had that chance, you can tell that she spends time in that. In fact, it's well worn. When you find a Bible that's falling apart, it always belongs to somebody who's not. Nancy DeMoss' Bible is very well used. She knows it.

When you find a Bible that's falling apart, it always belongs to somebody who's not.

She's a wonderful writer, and I love that, in fact, now I know. What it already has been going back and forth with documents. We're fairly relentless editors on each other's material, which is great, because, actually, that's sort of like life. Right? Not always in a context of writing and editing and finding a better verb, but what I discovered early on as we went back and forth with documents, is that her edits, whether it's a document or edits with me, are very gentle. They're very clear, but they're very gentle.

That's one of the things that I didn't know about Nancy before this relationship began, but something I really appreciate. In fact, I've probably said to her 150 times, "Do you know that one of the things I love about you is, and that's one of them for sure."

She loves the Word, and she's able to articulate it. She's a wonderful teacher. In fact, she's a commanding teacher. She's a diminutive person, in terms of her stature, but she's a commanding teacher. She knows what she knows what she knows.

If you watch her you see this, she smiles the whole time she's teaching or speaking for the radio. You can see her smile. She's a strong Bible teacher, but she's not angry about it. So I think, especially with women, they love her. They trust her. They listen to her.

Another thing that I love about her is she's a perfectionist—that's something that I love about her. She wants things, especially kingdom things, to be done very carefully, very accurately. I love that. I knew that about her before. People had said, "Well, Nancy takes a long time to do a manuscript. Nancy takes a long time to finish a manuscript because she's a perfectionist. She believes in excellence." And I love that about her.

I discovered further that Nancy has very deep relationships. Nancy Leigh DeMoss' friends love her like family. They do.

Here's another one: She loved her daddy. Even though Art DeMoss died the weekend that Nancy turned twenty-one, she didn't get that much of him, only her first twenty-one years, but he gave me an amazing gift. He gave me the gift of showing her daughter what it was like to trust a man and to be loved by a man. So even though this is almost forty years later, Nancy knows exactly what it looks like to trust a man whom she loves.

And the Lord has called her to ministry, to strong professional relationships with men throughout her career, throughout her ministry. But now, now that she's fallen in love, she's remembering some of the things her daddy said to her, the way that he treated her, and the way that he loved her, and the way she trusted him. And now I'm living in that.

When I get to heaven, I'm hoping to have a chance to thank Art DeMoss for loving Nancy and for showing her what it was to be a man of God who was trustworthy, whom she could respect, and whom she loved.

And as Nancy's and my relationship continues to grow, and she verbalizes respect for me and acknowledges my leadership in our relationship, I aspire to be the man she thinks I am. This gives me incredible freedom and joy in serving her.

Christ loved the Church. He was the leader and gave Himself for her. This is a wonderful thing that the Scripture unpacks about men and women in marriage relationships. The Bride of Christ—we are the Bride of Christ. We love Him because He first loved us. His leadership is proven in His ability to serve. I love that. I love the anticipation of leading this relationship and proving it by serving her. This is not a new thing. She saw it with her daddy. Over the months she has said to me, "That's just something like my dad would say." And that's a big thing for me. That means a lot to me.

Leslie: That's Robert Wolgemuth sharing some of the qualities he grew to love in Nancy Leigh DeMoss during their courtship.

Robert and Nancy continued to sense God moving them forward in their relationship, and as they sought God's will for their lives, they took some important steps.

Robert: We decided to set aside thirty days. The first three weeks of that thirty days, we fasted and prayed.

Nancy: I said to Robert, "I've never made a major decision in my life without some extended time of prayer and fasting." I wouldn't decide to write a new book without some extended time of seeking the Lord, and this was a hugely important decision. So we set aside those weeks.

And something happened during that fast that was unexpected to me. It wasn't so much that I got this amazing or clear word from the Lord during that time, but I saw something in Robert that was hugely significant to me. He went way further than I did in maximizing that three-week opportunity to seek the Lord.

He would take the noon hour every day when he would normally have been taking a lunch hour, he would go to what he called, "The throne, a place in his home, and he would bow before the Lord, and he would take that hour with his Bible, his hymnal, his journal, and kneel before the Lord and pray about this relationship."

Robert: Right in the middle of that was Palm Sunday. So I went to church, and I can't even describe what was happening to me, but I was panicked. I'm thinking, What is the matter with you?

So I got home about noon, went to the throne, knelt down at the little couch, got my journal out, and John chapter 21. It was like it jumped off the page. Jesus and Peter are talking, and Jesus says to Peter, "Do you love Me more than these?"

I'm looking at that passage, and I realized what I had done. I realized what the panic was—Nancy DeMoss was on the throne. If Jesus had said to me, "Do you love Me more than Nancy?" I would have said, "She's on the throne."

As I prayed about it in that moment, I didn't decide on a mid-course correction, but I confessed it as sin. Anything that I put on the throne becomes an idol, and that's idol worship, that's sin. And to protect Nancy, I can't afford to have her in that kind of position in my life. I can't ask her to make me happy. I can't ask her to fulfill me—only Jesus can do that. So now I had to talk to Nancy.

I confessed that I had sinned and that I loved her more than Jesus. I said, "Nancy, for the rest of my life, this will be a marker day that only Jesus deserves that place on the throne."

Nancy: I would see him at times come out of that time with tears of repentance as he would tell me something that God had shown him. He was saying, "Yes, Lord." I'm going, "A man who can change his mind in the presence of the Lord, a man who can confess sin in the presence of the Lord, and a man who can come out from that time seeking the Lord and say, 'Here's what I believe God's been showing me about this, or this, or this.' I was watching this, and I was saying, 'Here is a man who knows God, who wants to know Him better, who loves Him.'"

His example was creating in me a greater hunger and thirst to know God in a deeper, richer, more intimate way than I've ever known Him. And I was saying, "This is the kind of man I could trust to lead our lives, to lead our relationships, to lead me spiritually." Not because I think that he is perfect or all-wise or all-knowing, any more than I am. Not because my emotions were just going, "Oh yes, I love this man! I love this man!" I do love this man. But to me, it was a huge thing to say, "This man so seeks the Lord and is so sensitive to the Lord and is so listening to the Lord. That's a man I can trust because I trust God."

We knew our love was deepening. We knew our love was growing. We knew that God was drawing our hearts toward each other. So we set in place a number of markers, a number of events and happenings and experiences that we felt were an important part of getting to know each other. An important part of the process included meeting his family, meeting my family. And those were really sweet experiences. Meeting my Michigan ministry family was important.

It was just aspects we felt we needed to cover. This three-week period of prayer and fasting, seeking the Lord was an important part of that. We had the privilege of meeting with a gifted biblical counselor in Little Rock. There were lots of questions, lots of unpacking of things. It was just so wonderful, so helpful in dealing with extended family, relationships, future ministry.

Into the second day there . . . It had been a great time. It was very sweet, but I was still doing this. . . Robert and I call it when I pull out a spreadsheet with here are the pros and cons, here are the challenges. I'm trying to figure it all out (I'm kind of inclined that way). So I was still thinking about the ministry that the Lord has entrusted to me, that Robert has said, "You must continue serving the Lord in the ways He's gifted you." So I feel that release and desire from him, but I was trying to figure out, "How was all of this going to be possible? Can I really be a married woman?"

I told him, "I'm not just going to tack marriage on as an appendage to an already full life." That would really be contrary to what I believe and contrary to what I've taught other woman. But can I make the adjustments necessary to prioritize the marriage in this relationship in the right way and still to be fruitful in other ways as well.

I was trying to figure all this out, and this was coming out in this conversation with this counselor. Ron (the counselor) finally looked at me, and he said, "Nancy, do you believe that God has called you to marry this man?"

I said, "If you could read my journals, I think you would say the answer to that question is, 'Yes.'"

Leslie: Here's what Nancy had recorded in her journal just a few days earlier.

Nancy:

Am I prepared for all of this and more, for the unknowns, for the relinquishment of life as I have known and loved it? Am I ready to say "yes" to all of that? Less than three months ago, I could not have said "yes," not close to it, not withstanding my deep respect for Robert. But my heart has changed. My desires have changed. 

I love this man. His love has captured my heart. And for the love of God, I am willing and ready to say "yes" to him, to pledge my love (which I had not yet declared those words) and to promise to enter into the covenant of marriage with him in due time.

Am I prepared for all the unknowns and adjustments? Not by a long shot. But I am prepared, by God's grace, to return the love this man has lavished on me, to commit myself to him as my earthly head, and to trust the Lord to show us how to live out that love and commitment, come what may in the future.

Then Ron said something that was so helpful. He had heard a lot about my background, my story, and how God had led me in other times, other seasons, other big decisions in my life—none this big. But he said, "You look back on your past and all the ways the Lord has led you, and when He called you to something, once you were sure He was calling, your response was one of faith. You were faithfully responsive. You said, 'Yes, Lord.' And then the Lord began to show you how to do what it was that He was calling you to do that you didn't know how you could do."

Ron pointed back to that, and he said, "That's been the pattern of your life. And the Lord has been faithful to give you what you needed, to show you how to do what He has called you to do once you were faithful to respond in faith and say 'yes.' If the Lord is calling you to marry this man, then all you need to do is be responsive in faith, and say 'yes' to the Lord. Then the Lord will give you what you need to know how to do this."

I was speechless. Robert was sitting at my side. He was speechless. I started to cry. Ron started to pray. He said, "This is a holy moment. Let's just pray."

As he prayed, Robert and I both went to our knees, weeping. And, for me, it was just this whoosh! Because I'd been clearly sensing God's leading on this, but I was still trying to figure it out: "What's this going to look like? How's it going to work? How's it . . ." But I realized that wasn't the issue at the moment. The issue for that season was: Just respond in faith to what you believe the Lord is saying to you. And then faith is trusting that, as you need to know how to do it, He'll show you that.

It was huge moment. It was a holy moment. It was a sweet moment.

We got off our knees, and I had what I needed to be prepared for that next Saturday, May 2.

Robert: On Saturday morning, May 2, I knelt in front of her. She was sitting on her couch. I had written up the story of the ring, and so I read it to her. That two-page letter finished with, "So I would like to know, will you marry me?"

Nancy: And I knew that I knew. I said, "Yes, I will."

And then, for the first time, I said those words that he had been waiting to hear, and I had been waiting to say. "I love you with all my heart."

Leslie: This is Nancy and Robert's story, but their story is also a beautiful picture of the bride-like attitude that we as the Church, the Bride of Christ, are all called to have toward God, our heavenly Bridegroom.

A few weeks after their engagement, our team talked with Nancy and Robert about their vision for their marriage.

Robert: One of the things that I know that you and I both do when we tell our story is that we name the name of Jesus.

Nancy: Yes.

Robert: We talk about how committed we are to each other and to lifting up the name of Jesus and helping others to understand what it means to be the Bride of Christ, that my pursuit of you parallels God's pursuit of me and us—that's a very important thing for us to remember.

Nancy: And to see, not only his pursuit of me but to see my responsiveness to him. This is something I've been saying to women for years and years about their relationship with the Lord, but also in context of marriage. I've said it because I knew it was true. But now it's a chance for me to demonstrate and live this out in a different way. It's a chance to say, "God comes pursuing us, and the right answer all the time is to say 'yes.'"

It's to step into His love and His grace, to receive it, to be a receiver, to be a recipient. God made the woman, and I think in a distinctive way, to be a recipient of the male, of the husband, as the Bride of Christ receives Christ and comes into union with Him. And for me to say, "Yes, I receive you. I accept you. I take you as my earthly head and come under the covering and protection of your wings and your garment" (to use the Ruth analogy we've talked about).

But this is a statement I want to make as a woman that this is not only appropriate for us as women toward our husband, but for all of us, it is appropriate in our relationship with Christ to say, "I trust You. I need You. I want You. I desire You. And I say, 'Yes! Yes, Lord.'"

There's no greater or higher calling in our lives as believers than to have that kind of relationship with the Lord, and I am eager for the kind of marriage—not just wedding, but marriage—that communicates where I demonstrate, where I become an object lesson in a way as a wife, which every Christian wife ought to be of what it means for the Bride of Christ to say "yes" to Him.

Leslie: This story is about far more than Robert and Nancy Wolgemuth. It's a reminder to us all about what it means to be part of the Bride of Christ. That emphasis comes through in the video version of the story.

The Revive Our Hearts' video team has created a beautiful version of this story that you'll love seeing. When Nancy and Robert got engaged, we heard from many listeners who wanted all the details they could get. Watching this video will give you those details. You'll see the main story plus watch a lot of bonus videos, getting to know Robert and Nancy more.

We'll send you the DVD called, "Unexpected Grace: Robert and Nancy's story," when you support Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any amount. Ask for it when you call 1–800–569–5959, or visit www.ReviveOurHearts.com.

Well, tomorrow, you'll hear all about the actual wedding between Robert and Nancy. 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.