What I Don’t Want to Do
What do you do when God calls you to something very difficult and no one else expects you to follow through? Leslie Leyland Fields, Elisabeth Elliot Gren, Mary Mohler, and Donovan Campbell share their stories about choosing to do the hard things God called them to do--even though none of them wanted to do it.
About the Guest
Leslie Leyland Fields, Elisabeth Elliot Gren, Mary Mohler, and Donovan Campbell share their stories about choosing to do the hard things God called them to do.
Michelle: Donovan Campbell is used to doing hard things. He's a decorated Marine officer, who has served two tours in Iraq; but when a letter arrived asking for even more of his time, Donovan wrestled with his conscience.
Donovan: I was at Harvard Business School. I had a great job lined up with Pepsi®. I was really excited to start that! And I got a telegram in the mail that said, basically: “Congratulations, Captain Campbell. You've been involuntarily recalled. You need to serve a third tour.”
And I remember coming home. I had broken my leg, and I could barely run—I remember talking to my wife—and I said, “I know I can get out of this, because I can barely run; but when I signed those papers, I gave my word.”
Michelle: Oh, what a tough choice for Donovan Campbell. You know, obeying God isn't always easy; but it's always right. And we're going to talk about that today on FamilyLife This Week.
Welcome to FamilyLife This Week. I'm Michelle Hill. Have you ever uttered these words: “Yeah, I was wrong; but it was the fruit flies’ fault!” You've been fighting those pesky flies all week; and you tried everything that Google said, and even checked in with your social media friends. You're beyond annoyed that, in the process of fixing the spaghetti for dinner, the tomato sauce splatters all over the cooktop, and the noodles boil over, and the lettuce for the salad is too wilted to use; and then your husband walks in the door.
In the way that God built you—well, the way that you think He built you—in that passive-aggressive, you know, way that you are—you start with an innocent question, you know: “How was your day?” And then, you go in for the kill; and you verbally attack him—his actions/his character: “Why was he five minutes late coming home from work?!”
You hadn't planned to attack him. In fact, you didn't have an issue with him at all; but you did it again—you attacked him. And sometimes, that is how sin creeps into our lives, and we blame the fruit flies. In fact, that's a true story. I was reading the blog, “She Reads Truth.” Amanda was sharing the story about [herself] and her husband, and just all that went on. It reminded me of the passage in the Bible that the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 7—he says he doesn't want to sin, but he does it anyway. We want to serve God and obey Him, yet those pesky fruit flies—they get in the way, and they keep us from doing the good that we want to do.
Today, we're going to talk about some of the things that God requires of his children—the hard things—things like being thankful for the fruit flies. Mary Mohler is going to talk with us about being thankful in a difficult situation. We're going to hear a classic from the late Elisabeth Elliot [Gren] as she opens up about her struggles with submission in her marriage. And Donovan Campbell is going to share how he did his duty in the face of fear.
But first, I want to open up with a hard situation. Leslie Leyland Fields—she knows about forgiveness, even when someone “doesn't deserve it” in human terms. After all, she wrote the book, Forgiving Our Fathers and Mothers. Leslie and her family are commercial salmon fishermen in Alaska. Of course, since I used to live in Alaska, you would think that I would know them and be best friends with her or something. But I didn't get to know her until I arrived, here, at FamilyLife®.
She's traveled the world extensively, and Leslie was here to talk with Dennis Rainey and Bob Lepine about a trip that changed her life. It was a trip where she went almost as far away from Alaska as she could and still be in the USA. She went to Florida to talk with her father about forgiveness.
[Previous FamilyLife Today Broadcast]
Leslie: Well, I packed up all six kids on spring break, and we flew down to Florida for them to meet their grandfather for the first time. I knew it was the first time, and it was probably also the last time.
I hadn’t talked about my father very much—they knew nothing about him. And they—you know, they weren't particularly interested; but I knew that, for future reference, they just needed to meet him.
Bob: Your kids didn't grow up with phone calls to Grandpa, or with presents at Christmas from Grandpa, or with the normal grandparent involvement?
Leslie: Not at all; not at all. No; no. They—
Bob: Why not?
Leslie: My father was not even a father to his own six children, so it would have been absurd for me to think that he would be a grandfather to my six children.
Leslie: He was very detached and seemed to be unable to connect with people, even his own children.
Dennis: And so, to protect your kids, as they flew down to see their grandpa, you didn't actually tell them that he was their grandpa; right?
Leslie: No; I never talked about him as their grandfather, because I didn't feel that connection anyway. I always talked about him as my father—and I, you know, would say, “We're going to meet my father.” I didn't want to say, “grandfather.” They had another grandfather, who lived right there in Kodiak—my husband's father—so they kind of knew something about a grandfather; because he was a kind man, and he loved to pull the children up on his lap and do nursery rhymes with them—and you know, all the wonderful things that grandpas should do with their children—he did that! So that was their image of a grandfather. I could never—I could never, even myself, name my father, “Grandfather.”
Bob: Were you thinking, when you took your kids down to meet their grandfather—whom they'd never met, and you couldn't bring yourself to call the man their “grandfather”—were you thinking, “This is going to be the beginning of the process I need to go through in forgiving my father”?
Leslie: You know, I hoped that it was the beginning; but by the end of that visit—I was there/we were there, together, for about four hours—my father was resistant. He did not talk to me; he didn't look at me. At the end of those four hours, I determined: “That's it! I'm done. I am really done. I am never coming back!”
Bob: “I paid $10,000 to get everybody here! I took two days. Four hours, and you're not looking at me!”
Leslie: Exactly; exactly.
Bob: You just wiped the dust and moved on.
Leslie: I did. I wiped the dust off my feet, and I went back home; and I thought: “The door is closed. I'm done.”
Michelle: Well, she tried; right? I mean, Leslie Leyland Fields—she tried! She gave it her all. And I think we could safely say that most people that we know would say: “I tried. I can just wash my hands of this!”
Has this been part of your story? You tried your best to heal a relationship, only to be met with unwillingness? You know, Leslie Leyland Fields has got to be one of my heroes—because she did the extreme, hard thing—and she forgave what some would say was the unforgivable. And it's an incredible story, because it doesn't just stop with her packing up her kids in Florida and taking them back to Alaska. She actually goes back to Florida a few years later. We have that entire story on our website, FamilyLifeThisWeek.com.
You know, there's a lady that has marked my life; and she is Elisabeth Elliot [Gren]. She doesn't mince words—she speaks the truth even when it hurts. And Elisabeth went on to live almost seventy years; and over those years, she remarried—not once—but twice. More than 20 years ago, Dennis Rainey and Bob Lepine sat down with Elisabeth; and she shared her feelings of suffering and obedience to God, especially after her second husband, Addison Leach, had passed away, and she found herself a widow again.
[Previous FamilyLife Today Broadcast]
Elisabeth: Very shortly, thereafter, I was convicted by the fact that God was saying to me: “You have not asked Me one thing about this. You just made up your mind that you were going to stay single the rest of your life.” Well, then, I had to get down on my knees and repent and say, “Well, you know, Lord, I want to do what You want me to do; and how could I possibly have failed to, at least, mention this in prayer?”
I then opened my Bible, and to my utter astonishment—well, I have to say, before I tell you that—I was constantly comparing Jim Elliot to Addison Leach; so I was making these odious comparisons. I opened my Bible and, lo and behold, it was staring me in the face: “Men have different gifts, but it is the same Lord who accomplishes His purposes through them all.”
Dennis: Oh, my! Bob remembers this moment when we interviewed you, and this will be my last question, but in the interview—and you're going to talk to the ladies about this more later on, but I want the guys to hear your answer; because I thought this was particularly profound—when Bob and I were interviewing you, one of us asked you the question, “Elisabeth, in your marriage, do you ever struggle with being submissive?” Now, I don't know if you know how you answered it at that time?
Elisabeth: Tell me.
Dennis: Your answer was—Bob?
Bob: Oh, she said, “I resist submission with every fiber of my being.” [Laughter]
Elisabeth: —“but I do it.”
Bob: Yes; you did acknowledge.
Dennis: That’s exactly right—“but you do it.”
Bob: But it's a struggle for you—a perpetual struggle?
Elisabeth: Well, I really don't like the word, “struggle.” So I'm sorry to hear that I used that word, because—
Dennis: I don't think you used the word, “struggle.”
Elisabeth: In my opinion, the word, “struggle,”—99 times out of 100—means delayed obedience. You know, as long as we can give ourselves permission to struggle, we don't have to obey God; so that's a very bad thing, if that's what I said.
What I mean to say is: “I don't do it because I like to do it; I do it because the Scripture clearly tells me.” There's never been any question in my mind that wives are to submit to their husbands. It has absolutely nothing to do with how I feel about it. I know what God says.
Michelle: Some encouraging and very hard words from Elisabeth Elliot [Gren]. Didn't I say earlier that she doesn't mince words? She speaks the truth/only the truth, even when it hurts.
You know, I was going through the archives, here, at FamilyLife; and I stumbled on some other audio that we have of Elisabeth Elliot [Gren]. And in that, she said our struggles tend to be delayed obedience to God. And remember Paul's words?—“I do what I don't want to do. I sin even when I want to obey.” The Christian life is hard; and at times, it's confusing. You feel that; don't you? Yeah, me too; I can empathize with you.
Hey, it is time for a break; and when we come back, we're going to take a look at the struggles of thankfulness and courage. Stay tuned. I'll be back in two minutes.
[Radio Station Spot Break]
Michelle: Welcome back to FamilyLife This Week. I'm Michelle Hill. Today, we are talking about obeying God in the big and the small stuff. I think we've already admitted it's hard—it's very hard. Even the Apostle Paul struggled with not obeying God like he wanted to. I think it's safe to say that we are all in that boat with him.
And right now, I want to turn our attention to a different type of struggle. You know, when we're faced with storms in life, the first thing that we tend to do is complain and grumble—not be thankful and to be grateful to God for what He's doing in our hearts during this time.
Mary Mohler was a guest, not too long ago, on FamilyLife Today with Dennis Rainey and Bob Lepine. She talked about a circumstance in her life that caused her to learn what true thankfulness is. Of course, Mary is the wife of Al Mohler, President of Southern Seminary; and in fact, she shared a story of those early days when Dr. Mohler first became President.
[Previous FamilyLife Today Broadcast]
Mary: Well, 25 years ago, my husband, at the age of 33, was called to become the President of Southern Seminary. We moved back to the campus, where we had been just four years prior, where he was a student there—a PhD student.
Bob: Not everybody was delighted with his appointment.
Mary: No; you could say that. No; people were, not only surprised, but not too happy about it; because they knew where he stood, theologically. It was a rough season.
Dennis: They were protesting!
Mary: They were protesting. I kind of put it this way: “The faculty wasn't happy; the students weren't happy. The people—the only people—that were happy were the trustees, who put him in office. They would come to town and, you know, pat us on the back, and tell us we're doing a great job; and then, they’d go back to Arkansas, Mississippi, and Alabama; and come back in six months.” [Laughter]
And so we came to know and love those trustees for the support that they gave us; but we were then left with these people who, you know, were wishing we would go away. We went through ten years of graduation exercises before we had what we call “the clean service,” where we didn't have a graduate who acted up/who refused to shake my husband's hand, or who didn't try to make himself famous by pulling some stunt as he crossed the stage. It became a thing, where we’d come back after graduation and just kind of collapse, and say: “We made it! We made it through one without it being completely a debacle.”
But the Lord was faithful in all of that. We had young children at the time—they were one and four when we went to Southern. As we've already talked about, we had suffered with some infertility for a couple of years. The Lord graciously showed us His purposes in that, early on, in our years at Southern; because if our children had been older, as we had planned that they would be at that point, they would have been school-age, basically, by then. We would have had to explain a whole lot more to them, and we would have had to watch them, somewhat, suffer through the way people were treating us. That was a blessing that they were too young to understand, really, what was going on.
Bob: So in the midst of all of this, in these hard years for you—as a wife, as a mom, as the wife of the president of the seminary—were you counseling your own heart toward gratitude in those years; do you think?
Mary: Probably not. I was taking it one day at a time; and I was trying to be very intentional about not letting that root of bitterness spring up, and not trying to suspect everyone of turning against us; because there came a point where, when he would come in the door some days, at the end of the day, and be ready to sit down for dinner with our two preschoolers, he would have a certain look on his face that I would know: “Some other shoe has dropped! Something else has happened, but now is not the time to talk about it.”
And he was very kind to give to me what I needed to know—nothing more/nothing less. He wasn't trying to hide things from me, but he also knew how to protect me. He knew what would upset me more than other things. I was guarded about not becoming bitter. I was very guarded that I was going to be all in with this—that he could count on me—to come home, and he could share confidences with me as he saw fit—that I would pray for him like no one else could, because I knew him better than anyone else did.
Bob: But there's a difference between not allowing bitterness to take root in your heart and having a heart of gratitude.
Mary: That's true; and I would say I did not have a heart of gratitude, at that time in my spiritual walk, for what we were being handed.
Bob: And a lot of people will listen to those circumstances and say, “Well, nobody's going to expect you to have a heart of gratitude in the midst of that!”
Bob: But you would say, “God expects that, even in the hard times.”
Mary: Now, I would say that, from what I have learned and what He has taught me through a more careful study of His Word—that gratitude is always appropriate, even though it doesn't feel like the natural default. Again, it goes back to that faulty thinking that we have, where we've got to mentally train ourselves that that's where we go first.
Michelle: Thank you, Mary Mohler. I am grateful for you.
You know, there are many verses in the Bible that talk about thankfulness, like this one in Ephesians—Ephesians 5:20: “Giving thanks always and for everything to God, the Father, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” And it's in those tough situations that my knee-jerk reaction is to grumble and complain; but Mary says to be grateful. And of course, we know it's God who really teaches us to be grateful; so be grateful in all things.
Another thing that God says, over and over—or, at least, if you turn to the Old Testament/turn to the Book of Joshua—as God is giving Joshua instructions on how to lead the Israelites, He says over and over again, “Be strong and courageous.” It wasn't: “Hey, if you feel like it!”—it was an order.
You know, there's a question that Dennis Rainey likes to ask of people; and that is, “What is the most courageous thing that you've ever done?” Well, he asked that question of Donovan Campbell, a decorated military officer, who has had three combat deployments. Interesting to ask that question of someone who has been in combat; isn't it? Here’s Donovan's answer.
[Previous FamilyLife Today Broadcast]
Donovan: One of the things the book talks about, and that we were taught in the Marines—there are two different types of courage. There's physical courage, which risks life and limb; and then there's moral courage—which risks careers, lives, or livelihoods to speak the truth to power; right?
So let me answer, long, on both of those lines: physical courage—the day that we were asked to go—and we didn't know it at the time—but were asked, essentially, to go and spend, you know, eight/twelve hours fighting, house to house, in Ramadi. I had no idea that was going to happen; but the way it started was—I got shaken one morning, saying: “Hey, sir! Sir; sir! Third platoon has been hit! They've got a couple wounded. They're scattered throughout the city. You're the QRF,”—Quick Reaction Force—“Go find him. Pull him out!”
“Okay; got it.” You know, I had gone to bed at, like, four that morning; because we’d been patrolling all night, so we were really tired. Mounted up our vehicles; drove into the city.
Dennis: Okay; just stop for a second.
Dennis: How big is this city?
Donovan: The city of about 400,000 people. It's more population-dense than Washington, DC, or New York City; but you can walk across in about 45 minutes. So it's a ton of people—packed into this really, really dense urban core. And the buildings are mostly two- and three—you have some, you know, five- to ten-story buildings. They're all packed really close together.
So we drive into the southern end of this city, and all you can hear is gunfire. We have no idea where third platoon is. And so we see this smoke rising up in the distance. We’re like, “Well, they're probably in that area.” We all get off of our trucks, because you can't drive them through the city; they're too big. We just start running at that gunfire and that smoke until we hit really fierce resistance. We basically get pinned down by machine guns; then we spend the day fighting, house to house.
At one point in time, I had a grenade land about two feet in front of me. I thought: “I'm dead. This is the end of it,” but it didn't go off. And then our guys threw grenades back over—I mean, we were literally—you know, the bad guys would throw grenades over one wall; we’d throw our own back over the same wall. We did it all day long. I mean, that was what we did; and then, we did the same thing the next day. So I would say as related to physical courage—that day was probably the one that sticks out in my mind.
As relates to moral courage—which I think may have been harder—it was when I got a telegram that said, “You have been involuntarily recalled.” I was at Harvard Business School. It was my second year of business school. I had a great job lined up with Pepsi. I was really excited to start that. I got a telegram in the mail that said, basically: “Congratulations, Captain Campbell. You've been involuntarily recalled. You need to serve a third tour.”
And what was so hard there was I knew exactly what I was getting into. The second tour—I hadn't fought that hard before/I hadn't been in that type of combat—I didn’t know what I was getting into. But the third tour, I knew. And I remember coming home. I had broken my leg, and I could barely run; because I just got my cast off and had done all the rehab. I remember talking to my wife—and we were talking about it—I said, “I know I can get out of this, because I can barely run; but when I signed those papers, I gave my word. I didn't say, ‘Hey, I’ll go back if it's convenient for me,’ or ‘I'll go back if you really, really need me and can prove it to me.’ When I signed those papers, I said, ‘I'll serve you for four years; and for four years thereafter. If you need me back and you call me, I'll show up.’”
And so they called, and I didn't want to do it—I knew what I was getting into! I knew it was gonna be hard. I knew I could get out of it; but as my wife and I talked about it, she said: “You gave your word. You’ve got to keep it. It's just that simple.” So to do what was right, I went back. I spent another year away from my wife and missed my oldest daughter’s second year of life. I went to Afghanistan—only got blown up once there—so it wasn’t that bad of a tour, in all honesty.
Dennis: I’ve said—I've done this before, in a similar interview—not exactly the same—but to the widow of a SEAL Team 6 member: [Emotion in voice] “Thank you. You bring a face to war and the courage that's demanded of the 24-/25-year-old.”
Donovan: Well, you know, do you want to know who showed real courage that day? It was my wife, because she knows exactly what it's like to be the one who sits at home when the news is turned on and all that she sees is ten Marines dead in Ramadi. And she doesn't know, for a week, if I'm alive or if I'm dead. She knows she's about to be a single mom for a year; and she's still telling her husband: [Emotion in voice] “You gave your word. You've got to go and do it. That's what God would have you do. I will shoulder the load while you’re gone.”
I mean, that is—that's a brave woman, right there. I have a ton of respect for her. She showed way more courage in doing that than I did, because it's a lot harder to get left behind.
Dennis: Courage is doing your duty in the face of fear.
Donovan: It is overcoming fear—that is exactly right.
Michelle: Courage—it's doing your duty in the face of fear, and that wasn’t easy for Donovan Campbell. It's not easy for me, and I bet it's not easy for you either; but when God asks us to do something, we need to obey.
You know, we all sin—that's the nature of being human and living on this earth—but if we believe in God, and I hope you do, we can't go on and on sinning without being repulsed at it and without eventual victory. Even if—and catch this—even if it's a small victory and a small change, we will still utter the words that Paul did: “I do what I don't want to do,” but it won't be as frequent as before, and that's the great news; because that means that Jesus is in us, and that's really great news. He defeated the darkness once for all. So every little victory in our life is a reason for us to give Him the glory and to praise Him for who He is.
Hey, next week, I'll be chatting with Catherine Parks about friendship. You probably have a number of friends that you hang out with, but how many of them do you go deep with and have deep friendships? We’re going to talk with Catherine about how to do that—how to have deeper friendships and relationships with others. I hope you can join us for that.
Hey, thanks for listening! I appreciate you taking the time out of your busy day to listen to this show and this podcast. Thank you!
I want to thank the President of FamilyLife, David Robbins, along with our station partners around the country; and a big “Thank you!” today to our engineer, Keith Lynch. Thanks to our producers, Marques Holt and Bruce Goff. Justin Adams is our mastering engineer, and Megan Martin is our production coordinator.
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I'm Michelle Hill, inviting you to join us again next time for another edition of FamilyLife This Week.
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