Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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Leslie Basham: Is it possible to retain a strong, healthy marriage? Jimmy Needham believes that with the help of the following two things any marriage can thrive.

Jimmy Needham: If you can come humble into this thing, and you both can come with a working understanding of covenantal love, I just don’t know of any Christian marriage that can’t work under those conditions.

Jimmy (singing): “My unfailing love for you will not be moved . . .”1

Leslie: Yes, this really is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth for October 29, 2018.

Today you’re in for a treat! Joining Nancy in the studio this week is Christian songwriter Jimmy Needham and his wife, Kelly. Perhaps you’ve heard Jimmy on tour or have listened to one of his albums; but being a musical artist isn’t his most important role.

You’re about to find out what it’s like for Jimmy and Kelly at home, in the trenches, facing the real-life ups and downs when the spotlight is off. Here’s Nancy to begin today’s conversation.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Jimmy and Kelly Needham, welcome to Revive Our Hearts. You’ve just traveled in from Texas. You’re on your way to Detroit, and you were able to stop by our studio this morning. We’re so glad to have you visiting with us here at Revive Our Hearts.

Jimmy: I’m so glad to be here!

Kelly Needham: We are so delighted!

Nancy: Kelly, you’ve been a longtime friend of Revive Our Hearts. (Your husband sounds like he has been, too, but this is the first time we’re getting to meet.) You’ve been connected to this ministry in so many ways over the years.

I love your heart; I love your spirit. I was listening to you while I was on the treadmill yesterday, listening to one of your messages on biblical womanhood. It was so good! I’m just thrilled we can have this conversation today and let our listeners get to know you better as a couple—and the story that God is writing in your lives.

Now, that song we just listened to is a song, Jimmy, that you wrote to propose to Kelly. Was this a last-minute idea, or did you know when you were going to pop the question? Tell us how that happened.

Jimmy: I got some advice from one of my mentors while I was dating to not write a song to her until I was sure we were going to get married. He was like, “That’s probably pushing the ball forward too fast with that.”

So it was everything I could do to restrain myself not write it. When I finally settled on the day I was going to propose to her, I felt, “Okay, I can be released to write all this stuff that’s in my heart!”

Nancy: Did it come easily, the song?

Jimmy: It did! I’m not a really prolific songwriter. I don’t just crank them out. So even when a song comes fast for me, it comes slow—slower than for other songwriters. I was working on it all the way up until the moment she showed up for the proposal moment.

Nancy: Okay, Kelly, paint for us a picture of what the context was there. Did you have any idea this was going to happen?

Kelly: I knew that we were going to get engaged soon. We were young enough that we had had to talk to our parents before. He had actually sent me on a scavenger hunt for my birthday. So I was going from location to location. I had not yet seen him, and I was starting to get a sense of what was coming.

I had been blindfolded by two of his friends and led to a car and was being driven somewhere.

Jimmy: Not creepy at all!

Nancy: That sounds like there’s a special occasion coming!

Kelly: Yes, exactly! Sounds really good. Then I was brought to the place where he was—and I was blindfolded. We were at that place where he first asked me to start dating him, when I showed up.

Jimmy: Man, what a guy! (laughter)

Nancy: Was this outside? Inside?

Jimmy: This is outside.

Kelly: It’s a little gazebo. It had lights all over it, flowers, rose petals, candles. I mean, it was decked out!

Jimmy: One of my friends was in the bushes nearby with a video camera capturing it. In hindsight, it all feels very bizarre! But she gets dropped off and is walking forward, and I have my guitar. It was probably five minutes before she showed up that I finished the last line. Which, wow! That just sounds so stressful to say right now!

Nancy: Did you have it all memorized, or did you have to use notes?

Jimmy: I don’t even remember how . . . I think I probably had a piece of paper there. That whole thing feels like such a blur. It was just an intense moment!

Nancy: Were you nervous?

Jimmy: I was! I knew what she was going to say, but yes, you’re debuting this thing. You’ve coordinated this for a month or two and just thinking, Man, I hope all the pieces fall into place! The song was actually based out of a moment in Isaiah 54:10 where God says, “Though the mountains be moved—or the hills be shaken—My love for you will not be removed.”

I just wanted to capture for her what the Lord says over us. That’s actually what’s inscribed on her wedding band, too.

Nancy: So you were saying that God’s love for us is faithful. It’s a covenant-keeping love.

Jimmy: That’s what He does, and I want to mirror that.

Nancy: That’s the kind of love you wanted to reflect in the relationship with each other.

Jimmy: That’s right.

Kelly: It’s been really fun for me over the years, on the road with him, when girls would come up after he performed that song and just essentially communicate, “I really long for a marriage like this!” And I would get to tell them, “That song is based out of the Word of God, from the Lord to His people, so it is for you, too!” I would just to get to encourage young women that this is the mirror.

Nancy: We are loved in that way by Christ!

Kelly: That’s right. This is the shadow. We have the substance already. I get to tell these young women, “You have the substance already! Enjoy it now!” So it’s one of my favorite songs of his!

Nancy: Yes, Robert and I have said all along from the earliest days of our courtship and then through our wedding and in our marriage now, that we want to reflect the loveliness, the love, the covenant-keeping nature of Christ.

Marriage is that picture, that earthly picture, of an incredible eternal reality. Not that marriage isn’t real, but it points us to an even greater eternal reality. I love that that was the foundation on which you built your marriage. You guys were really young when you got married.

Jimmy: We started dating at nineteen and were married at twenty. I proposed to Kelly on her twentieth birthday, and then it was like four months later that we were married.

Nancy: Okay, roll it back a little bit. How did you meet? Tell us just a little bit of your journey.

Jimmy: Well, Kelly loves to rub it in my face that I don’t actually remember the first time we met.

Kelly: That is true.

Jimmy: . . . to my shame.

Kelly: But it’s okay.

Nancy: You were so young.

Jimmy: I know, so young, yes. So naïve! I didn’t know . . .

Nancy: Were you in the same church?

Kelly: We were at the same college, and we had a lot of mutual friends. We grew up in the same part of Houston, so we had a lot of connections already. We were introduced by somebody who assumed we probably already knew each other because of those circles crossing.

He eventually found out that I played violin, and he was releasing his first independent record. So that’s how we initially started the conversation and started becoming friends. My favorite thing to say about Jimmy is, he was the first guy that I had met, in that season of my life, that didn’t grow tired of me talking about Jesus.

I kind of had a sense from other people—even though they were friends—that they were like, “Yeah, I love Him, too, but can we talk about something else now?” And Jimmy never grew tired of that, so our friendship really did blossom around what we were reading in the Word, our love for God.

That’s something that has stayed true to this day. That’s still what we talk about on date nights—what we’re reading in the Word and what we’re learning about God.

Jimmy: I was getting more shows, just kind of regionally. I’d bring her out with my band, and we’d play. At some point it was just, “Yeah, I can’t do this anymore without telling this girl how I feel.”

So that moment went down at the gazebo, and the whole process was really quick. It was five months dating, four months engaged. We celebrated our one-year dating anniversary three months into marriage.

Nancy: Wow.

Jimmy: We were the first of our friends to do this, so it was definitely just crossing uncharted territory that we hadn’t seen modeled. It was a very interesting time and a really sweet time, too. I loved that we got married when we did.

Nancy: And, Jimmy, as you got to know Kelly, what was it that really drew your heart toward her?

Jimmy: Really, she just “ate Bible,” which I loved! I’m a Bible guy. I just love the Word; I love meeting Christ in the Word! She kept up, and she challenged me. We’d be driving to shows, and she’d be like, “Hey, let’s memorize Proverbs 4.”

I’m like, “Who says that? Who says that on a band trip?” (laugher) It was those types of things. It doesn’t hurt that she’s just gorgeous—that doesn’t hurt, you know. But it was that she had a boldness about her, too. She was the kind of girl who would engage with strangers and engage them with gospel content.

I feel like God’s given me a passion for evangelism, too, and so we would be on the road . . . I remember the weekend before I asked her to start dating me. We were traveling to a show in Texas.

Nancy: So she was part of the band?

Jimmy: She was part of the band, playing violin. It was a late-night drive back, and we all got out at a gas station. We went up to the counter, and she started talking to this lady, asking her how she’s doing, how we can be praying for her.

I was right there beside her and got to share the gospel with this gal. We get in the car, and I just can’t help but think, Man! Us together . . . we’re really effective for the kingdom in a way that us apart, we were less.

And it was just that thought of, Man, when she’s with me, I thrive. I see the gospel going forth in unique ways. It was like, “How could we not see where this could lead?”

Kelly: And that was actually what you said to me when you asked me to start dating you: “I think we’re more effective together for the Kingdom of God than apart.” We both were already on the same page about how dating has one purpose—to see if we should be married. There’s a goal in that.

And so we, from our initial conversations, had already used the “M” word. We had talked about marriage. But in just saying that’s what this would be, and let’s just try that out and see if this is a good fit.

I think that probably played out into how quickly we were ready to get married. It just felt like, in dating, it was quickly apparent to both of us that unless the Lord is going to put some big red flag in our way, this feels like the the right thing for us.

We sought a lot of counsel. We had a lot of older couples in our lives that were speaking into those decisions about getting married. We were still in college.

Nancy: Did some of them think you were a little young for that?

Kelly: There were some words of, “You’re in college. Jimmy, you’re starting a career. Learning to be married . . . those are three, big weighty things to do all at once.” But at the same time, they were saying, “We see a lot of good in this, and we feel like you’re rightly looking at this situation, weighing those things well.”

So not one of them that we talked to had said, “We don’t think this is a good idea.” Everyone of them said, “With help and support, and if your parents are on board, we think this could be a great fit for you guys.”

Jimmy: We brought a lot of counsel in. You know, “With many counselors, your plans will succeed.” (see Proverbs 11:14) And that’s sort of been the pattern for our marriage. We want to invite voices into the mix.

Nancy: I love that.

Jimmy: “Help us see what we can’t see. Show us blind spots.” God has given us a lot of really great mentors and friends to walk alongside us and help us see those things.

Kelly: We would come out of those conversations—especially talking about, “Should we get married?” We’d get in the car and then Jimmy would say to me, “Get out a piece of paper. I want to write down what they said.”

So we would write down the words of encouragement and cautions that they said to us. I still have that paper at home, filed away. I really feel like Jimmy set the tone for that in our marriage of just every big decision, every move, every purchase (like house purchase) that other people have been invited into that conversation.

Nancy: The first time that Robert and I sat down to talk about the potential of a friendship that might lead to marriage, this is one of the things he initiated and said, “We’re both mature, older Christian leaders ourselves, but we want from the outset to draw people in who know us, who love us, who love Christ, and who will speak into this relationship.” And I love that humility in him!

A good word to those who aren’t married who would like to be or who are in a relationship, considering marriage. It’s so easy to think, I’ve got this. I can handle this. I don’t need . . . Looking at Robert at that point, he was in his late sixties, he could have said, “I don’t need anybody telling me whether this is good or not.”

But there was a humility there and saying, “We welcome, we need the Body of Christ. We need people speaking into our lives.”

Jimmy: Yes, the more eyes the better. I agree.

Nancy: Now, there are some moms listening who are thinking, That just seems so young! Today, there is a tendency to wait to marry until much later. Your story isn’t necessarily going to be everybody else’s story, but I know you think there are some advantages, in many cases, to not waiting to marry.

How have you processed that, and how are you going to process it with your kids )who are still little)?

Jimmy: Well, before we answer that, I think it’s also worth dispelling some of the myths around young marriage. I think, even when I was younger, I sort of embraced some of these ways of thinking . . . which, there’s a bit of wisdom in them.

For instance, I was seeking some counsel from one of my mentors. I was talking with him about stage of life. At that point I think maybe I’d just gotten signed to a label—which doesn’t mean anything. It doesn’t mean I got money now.

It just means I was signed, and they were hoping I would make them money. I was playing little regional shows. Both of our dads are oil men, so they’re established white-collar workers. They make good salaries.

Nancy: “Real” jobs.

Jimmy: Yeah, real people jobs. That was a tough sell, by the way, talking to her dad: “Hey, I’m a musician, and I want to marry your daughter.” I was talking to my mentor, just going, “Man, I don’t have tens of thousands of dollars put away. I don’t have enough to put down money on a mortgage.”

Nancy: And sometimes the conventional wisdom is, you need to have all that set up before you get married.

Jimmy: You’ve got to have all your ducks in a row.” Again, there is some wisdom to having some forethought about your future and all that. Absolutely. But my mentor surprised me. This is a guy who was in his forties at the time, talking with me. He’d been married for a while, and he said, “Jimmy, I think you would be surprised at how cheaply you can do the early parts of your marriage.”

He said, “When I got married to my wife we lived in a one-bedroom apartment, and we did the baloney-sandwich-thing for lunch, and we made it work. We didn’t make a lot of money, but we were conservative with our budget, and we made it work.”

Nancy: Here’s what I’ve said to young people, talking about that specific point: “If you both have a contented heart and are willing to live on less than you may later, that can work. But if there’s a love of things or a love of money or you have to have a certain standard of living, that’s going to be difficult, because that discontment’s going to affect every area of your marriage.”

Jimmy: Sure, no doubt! “Godliness coupled with contentment is great gain.” (see 1 Timothy 6:6)

Kelly: I think the other lie that we see in people who are young (and we felt a little bit of that) is this prolonged adolescence thing. I think that young people in college are living in this sense of, “I’m not a real adult,” or “I can’t be.” They’ll use the term “adulting” as if it’s this thing that they do but not who they are.

Nancy: “I can wait for that.”

Kelly: Yes. I think that is the lie that the culture is telling people. We had a lot of people in our lives who affirmed the opposite in us. I know one of Jimmy’s mentors encouraged him: “You’re a man of God. You encourage me in my walk.” He just listed some things off in his life and said, “Only men of God do those things in my life.”

He just encouraged us by reminding us that, “You guys are able to be mature adults at eighteen, nineteen, twenty.” That’s a possibility. It’s not like our mental capacity is limited at that point. There might be a choosing to live in some immaturity, but it is possible to walk in maturity and responsibility at that age.

We like to encourage the college students in our small group that they should lean into that and trust the Lord in those things and to not believe the lie that you’re not a “real adult” until twenty-five or twenty-six.

Nancy: So if some younger people are considering the timing for marriage, what would you say are the key things to make sure are true to feel like they could have a green light to go ahead?

Kelly: Well, we’ve talked a lot to those who are very young. So depending on how young they are and how financially dependent they are on their parents . . . We’re always quick to encourage them to want to honor their parents. For us that was a really big part.

We actually were coming to our parents saying, “If you don’t feel comfortable with this, then we are going to wait.” We just felt like marriage was the right decision for us and wanted their input. So depending on where they are in that relationship, that is a key element.

Nancy: So your parents gave their blessing?

Kelly: They did, yes. And we talked with them openly about it. We shared this wasn’t just a fluke thing. We were watching Jimmy’s career take off. He was getting encouraged by this label to already do a lot more shows. I could go on the road with him if we were married. So we had reasons behind pushing that forward quickly.

Getting to talk through that with them and let them ask questions of us and letting them know that we had thought through it more than just, “This would be fun!” We had looked into costs; we had looked into those things. They both did give us their blessing. We encourage young people to do that.

I think it also has to do with their personal maturity. If we’re seeing faithfulness in their life, in their walk with God, if we’re seeing habits of self-discipline, of purity, of humility; then there is a way for us to encourage them: “Those are the thing that you need in marriage. You’re already cultivating them.”

And then, if those things are absent, if they see the timing as being right but we see a lack of faithfulness in those little things, then there’s a caution. It’s less about timing and more about what’s being cultivated in their lives leading up to that.

Nancy: And of course, those foundational things: love for Christ, devotion to Him and His Lordship . . . If you both have that and you both understand the nature of a covenant and how marriage pictures that ultimate covenant, then you’ve got a really great foundation!

Jimmy: I couldn’t agree more, and I’m so glad you said that, because those are usually our two big talking points with any young couple that’s talking to us. In fact, I just had coffee with a guy who was going, “Is she ‘The One’? How do I know? Should there be a little heart that manifests over her head?”

And it’s like, “Man, if you can come humble into this thing, and you both can come with a working understanding of covenantal love, that this is you covenanting with one another and not you just chasing warm, fuzzy feelings, if you have those two components: a sense of covenantal love, what that is and a posture of humility . . . I just don’t know of any Christian marriage that can’t work under those conditions. It’s an amazing thing what is produced!

I feel like most every conflict in a marriage can be solved with a commitment to keeping covenant and a humble posture that can own when you’ve wronged the other or when you need to grow. It’s all those things.

Kelly: Both of those are powered by love for God. I think seeing God’s covenant faithfulness to us motivates in us a want to covenant to our spouse; and also, enjoying Him as: Satisfier of our soul, Bread of Life, Living Water. That enables you to humble yourself to your spouse because you need less from them and can want more for them if Jesus is for you your all in all.

Jimmy: Yes!

Nancy: That is so critical, Kelly. I know you’ve talked about this in a lot of contexts. But it’s critical whether you’re single or married. If my identity and my satisfaction is found in anyone or anything less than Christ, then I’m not going to be satisfied.

Kelly: That’s right. I try to encourage young, single women who are fighting that battle of, “I really want to be married! It feels like this unfulfilled longing is going to destroy me!” It’s overarching in their life.

I’ll remind them, “That battle is not going to go away when you get married. It’s just going to change a little bit. So right now, being single, you’re either going to be satisfied in the Lord, or you’re going to be looking to this fictional man who doesn’t yet exist.”

Nancy: Who probably doesn’t exist at all!

Jimmy: Correct!

Kelly: Right, exactly! It’s really just that you want Christ and you just haven’t . . . And then in marriage you’ll either be satisfied in the Lord, or you’ll be looking to your spouse, that man who is in front of you, and you’ll be asking questions like, “Why isn’t he doing this? Why isn’t he doing that?”

He’ll never be able to meet that standard for you. That’s not his job, either, to be your God, to be the satisfier of your soul. He can’t do that. So I’m trying to just unite myself with my single friends and saying, “We face the same battle. It just looks a little different for me than it does for you in singleness. If you start fighting that battle now, it will serve you well in marriage because you’ll be required to do the same thing. Everyday when you wake up you have a choice, ‘Will I satisfy my heart in the Lord and be able to serve others, or will I look to others to be that for me?’”

Single women and married women fight that same thing. It just looks different.

Leslie: That’s Kelly Needham. She and her husband, Jimmy, have been talking about viewing your marriage as an opportunity to serve and glorify God. They’re here with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth all this week. You won’t want to miss it.

If you’re a regular listener to Revive Our Hearts, you know that you can hear this podcast every weekday of the year. Have you thought about what a privilege that is? There are people around the world who have little to no access to biblical content in their native language.

There is no Christian bookstore for them to browse, no women’s ministry in their church. Maybe they don’t even have a local church at all! We hear often from women who come to us starved for the life-giving words of truth.

One woman from Egypt who can listen in English wrote and said, “I have been repeatedly touched by what I hear on Revive Our Hearts. You are influencing the lives of others who live miles and miles away! I’m so thankful to God for this ministry and for your generosity in giving us the resources we need online for free!”

We thank the Lord for the ability to provide Christ-centered content free of charge for our listeners. We’re able to do that thanks to the generosity of those who support the ministry financially. If you appreciate what you hear on this program every weekday, would you consider giving a gift to Revive Our Hearts today?

When you support Revive Our Hearts, you’re helping provide women around the world with a message of hope in Jesus. This week, we’ll send you the 2019 Revive Our Hearts wall calendar for your gift of any amount.

The new year’s theme is from a book Nancy helped write, Seeking Him: Experiencing the Joy of Personal Revival. Each month features a short quote from the book along with Scripture that will challenge you to seek the Lord with greater intensity in 2019. You can give online at ReviveOurHearts.com, or you can call us at 1–800–569–5959 and ask for the 2019 wall calendar.

When Kelly Needham married Jimmy, she was ready for a new, exciting adventure as wife of a Christian singer. But within a few weeks, she realized how difficult life on the road can be and how big a toll it can take on a marriage.

Kelly will be back tomorrow with her husband Jimmy to talk about how to prepare for struggles in your marriage. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants to help you find satisfaction in Jesus alone. It’s an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

1 Jimmy Needham. Not Without Love, "Unfailing Love (Kelly's Song)." (c) 2008 Inpop Records.

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