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A Foundation of Sinking Sand

with Justin and Trisha Davis | January 15, 2013

They knew they were right for each other, but marriage revealed they were much more different than they initially thought. A baby followed, and petty annoyances became resentment that drew them further and further off course. Pastor Justin Davis and his wife, Trish, talk about the early years of their marriage and the difficulties that turned them from lovers, to best friends, to friends, to enemies and eventually strangers.

They knew they were right for each other, but marriage revealed they were much more different than they initially thought. A baby followed, and petty annoyances became resentment that drew them further and further off course. Pastor Justin Davis and his wife, Trish, talk about the early years of their marriage and the difficulties that turned them from lovers, to best friends, to friends, to enemies and eventually strangers.

A Foundation of Sinking Sand

With Justin and Trisha Davis
|
January 15, 2013
| Download Transcript PDF

Bob:  Trisha Davis can look back today and see how her marriage began its drift toward isolation. 

Trisha:  We went from being best friends to eventually becoming enemies.  The most dangerous place that we got to is we became strangers.  When you become strangers, you stop fighting altogether.  You just don’t care.  Through those choices—there were consequences that we never thought we would be that couple—even though we knew the choices we were making were destructive. 

Bob:  This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, January 15th.  Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine.  Nobody thinks they’re going to be that couple; do they?  But many of us find ourselves in isolation, not long after we’ve said, “I do.”  Stay tuned.       

And welcome to FamilyLife Today.  Thanks for joining us.  Well, I hope that you’ve gotten all the frivolity out of your system from what we’ve already heard this week. 

Dennis:  Yes, and I think if you haven’t  already heard what we talked about this week, I’d encourage you to go back and listen because the story that Justin and Trish Davis tell is absolutely—well, it’s hysterical. 

Bob:  It’s the story of how they met, how they got married, how they went on their honeymoon.  We’ll just leave it at that.  It’s a great story. 

Dennis:  We will.   They’ve been married since 1995—have three children.  Justin is a pastor in the Nashville area, and together they do some blogging.  They’ve written a book called Beyond Ordinary

Your marriage started out with quite a start.  I don’t know how to summarize it any better than Bob did already; but it wasn’t long into the marriage, before you realized that what you’d bargained for in this relationship was much, much more than you ever imagined. 


Bob:  Well, you found out that you were more different than you’d realized in your year-and-a-half of getting to know one another in dating, and engagement, and all of that; right? 

Justin:  Yes, I think we got into marriage, thinking, “We love each other.  We love each other a lot.”  We talked about all of our differences, and we know the differences of our families.  We’ve talked about—we had gone through some pre-marital counseling.  So, we had looked at our upbringings and talked through some of those nuances.  We were just convinced that, “Our marriage is going to be different because we love each other differently than everyone else.” 

Bob:  Who doesn’t think that way on the wedding day? 

Justin:  Right. 

Bob:  We all look and go, “Look, doesn’t matter what happens, we’re going to hold together because we’ve just experienced this kind of desperate passion for one another that will never go away.” 

Justin:  Yes. 

Trisha:  Right.  It’s what we call our vision.  Everybody has a vision for their marriage—

Dennis:  Right. 

Trisha:  —and what that looks like. 

Dennis:  Right. 

Trisha:  And we, naively, had this vision because we loved God and because we loved each other—life, even though it was going to be hard—“Our marriage would be different through all of it.” 

Dennis:  And you know, the vision will carry you so far; but then, reality occurs around things like Christmas

Justin:  Yes.  [Laughter] 

Dennis:  And you had quite a little disagreement around Christmas and around differences there? 

Justin:  Yes.

Trisha:  Well, and our reality changed just four months into marriage when my flu became more than just a flu; but we found out we were expecting our first child.  Within four months, we experienced Thanksgiving, finding out a baby was soon on its way, and then, going into Christmas.  So, there were all these first things that we should be celebrating that we still were kind of in the, “This is the awesome—” until the moment happened. 

Bob:  Were you 21 yet? 

Trisha:  No, I was 20. 

Bob:  Twenty years old. 

Justin:  I had turned 21 in August.  Trish was 20.  We found out that she was pregnant.  It obviously wasn’t planned, and we were both in school.  So, money was already a little bit tight; but then, the prospect of bringing a child into the world.  It really put the pressure on.  I just felt like, “Man, I’ve got to make this happen.”  You know? 

So, we go into Christmas.  We didn’t have a whole lot of resources, but we decided on a set amount that we would spend on one another.  Trisha goes and does her Christmas shopping, and I go do my Christmas shopping.  We bring our gifts back.  We hide them.  We’re on a little bit different schedule.  She was working at a Christian daycare, part-time.  Then, I was going to school and playing basketball.  I had some stuff in the afternoon, and all her stuff was in the morning. 

She leaves to go to work.  I’m like, “You know what?  I’m going to get the gifts out, and we’re going to open gifts,” because Christmas break was coming.  This is the last day before Christmas break, and we were going to go home for Christmas and celebrate that with our families.  So, this was going to be our Christmastime together.  So, she goes to work.  I bring out the gifts.  I stack them up in a pile.  She had her pile on the couch.  I had my pile on a chair. 


Dennis:  Now, why did you do that? 

Justin:  That’s how my family does it. 

Trisha:  Exactly. 

Dennis:  Of course—

Justin:  Yes. 

Dennis:  —that was the right way to do it; right? 

Justin:  Exactly.  That’s—she had been at my house for Christmas.  She saw how we opened gifts. 

Trisha:  It was odd then, too.  [Laughter] 

Justin:  So, this wasn’t like a foreign concept.  She had experienced it.  In fact, her very first Christmas at my family’s house—she had more gifts than all of us—which I’m still resentful for, 19 years later!

Bob:  Right. 

Trisha:  That’s true. 

Justin:   But anyway—so, I stack up the gifts.  I get a little—because she is a very organized person.  I’m not necessarily that organized.  So, I make a label for her gifts.  I put “Trisha” on a label.  I put it on her gifts.  I put “Justin” on a label.  I put it on my gifts, and I go off to class. 

Trish comes home from work, sees all the gifts stacked up, thinking they are just waiting there for her to put under the tree, which—

Trisha:  To make them beautiful, under the tree. 

Justin:  Right!  [Laughter]  So, anyway—I’m kind of reliving this story as I’m telling it.

Dennis:  Yes, I can tell.  You’re thinking that you’re really playing to her strength of her being organized—

Justin:  Correct. 

Dennis:  —to get kind of a system together—

Justin:  Yes. 

Dennis:  —according to the biblically-approved way your family did it. 

Justin:  Right. 

Trisha:  Which is so funny—“biblical way of doing it.”  [Laughter]

Justin:  Ephesians 5:21 which says, you know, “Submit to your husband, as unto the Lord.”  [Laughter] 

Trisha:  So, I did.  I put all the stacks and put them under the tree, like you’re supposed to.  Then, I left—

Justin:  Then, she left for class. 

Trisha:  —for class.  I was still going to class, part-time, as well. 

Justin:  So, I come home from class.  I see that all the gifts are now underneath the tree. 

Bob:  All your work has been ruined. 

Justin:  I’m like, “What is going on here?!  Did someone break into our house?”  [Laughter]  I get the gifts from underneath the tree—restack them up.  I can’t find the labels.  So, I go make new labels for the gifts—

Bob:  Oh my. 

Justin:  —put the labels back on.  Then, I go to basketball practice. 

Trisha:  I come home and think, “This child has lost his mind.  Why are we stacking Christmas gifts?  This”—it just didn’t seem right. 

Justin:  So, I come home with this expectant attitude and demeanor of, “We’re getting ready to celebrate our first Christmas as a married couple.”  Trisha just flies into me like, “Why would you stack up the Christmas gifts?!”  I’m like, “Why are they back underneath the tree?  That’s ridiculous.”  We get into this huge argument about how her family is crazier than mine and my family is crazier than hers and, “That’s not how we do it,” and, “We did it this way.”  The argument ends with Trisha telling me that she hates me and slamming our bedroom door.  And I thought—

Bob:  Really?  You said, “I hate you?” 

Trisha:  Hey, where I’m from, that was just like—

Bob:  That’s how you do it. 

Trisha:  —and that was like me responding how I would in my own family. 

Justin:  And so, she slams the door.  I throw out a remark that no husband of a person who is pregnant should ever say.  I just blamed all of her—

Bob:  Stuff on her?  Yes. 

Justin:  —erratic behavior on, “Well, you’re just pregnant.  Those are just your hormones talking.  You must be really emotional.” 

Dennis:  You know what we call that here on FamilyLife Today

Justin:  What’s that? 

Dennis:  A rookie mistake.  [Laughter] 

Justin:  That would be a very good description.  In my mind, though, I thought, “She hates me?  How does she hate me?”  Like, “We can’t start hate.  It should take her years to hate me.  We have to work up to hate.”  [Laughter] 

Bob:  Right. 

Justin:  You know what I mean? 

Bob:  “She’s already there?!”  [Laughter] 

Justin:  Yes.  If we’re already there, five months into our marriage, it’s going to be a long 50 years.  You know what I mean?  She comes out—probably an hour or so later—and we unwrap Christmas gifts.  But what we say, in the book, in looking back on that story—is that was kind of the first time where something that we had put time and effort and thought into—and this was supposed to be a gift for one another—really was an illustration of just how different we were. 

Bob:  Can I just say, “If you had been wise enough to go to a Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway before you got married, we could have saved you”—well no, we probably couldn’t.  You would have heard how differences—

Justin:  Yes. 


Bob:  —affect marital oneness, and how there is this drift toward isolation that occurs in marriage, and differences are a factor to that.  I don’t know if it would have helped the two of you, [Laughter] as I’m hearing this story; but at least, you would have heard it. 

Dennis:  I think it would have helped them because it would have given them a vocabulary—

Bob:  Yes. 

Trisha:  Yes. 

Dennis:  —to identify these issues.  Secondly, it would have—the Weekend to Remember gives people a game plan for forgiveness—to be able to determine, “Yes, I have offended her by making a rookie mistake”—

Justin:  Yes. 

Dennis:  —and, “Would you forgive me for saying this?” and, “Would you forgive me for saying, ‘I hate you’?” 

Bob:  Some conflict resolution skills there; yes. 

Dennis:  Exactly.  It would help you get out of the ditch with—back to the vision aspect of, “Why has God put us together in the first place?  What is the vision for this marriage relationship?” 

Bob:  Well, and we ought to mention, right here, that we are about to kick off our spring season of Weekend to Remember marriage getaways, right before Valentine’s Day.  That’s opening weekend.  You’re going to be at the Gaylord National Hotel in Washington, DC, and you’re going to be speaking there.  I’m going to be out in Hershey, Pennsylvania, the next weekend, at the Hershey Conference Center.  This is right after Valentine’s Day. 

We’ve got dozens of events happening in cities, all across the country, throughout the spring.  If our listeners would like to attend an upcoming Weekend to Remember marriage getaway, they can sign up this week or next week.  When they identify themselves at FamilyLife Today listeners—when you register for yourself, your spouse comes free.  It’s a buy one/get one free special offer for FamilyLife Today listeners.  Now, you have to identify yourself as a FamilyLife Today listener.  So, that means if you’re filling out the registration form online, you type my name.  You type “BOB” in the promotional code box you see on the registration form. 

If you call to register, 1-800-FL-TODAY is the number—1-800-FL-TODAY—just say, “I’m listening to FamilyLife Today, and we need to go to one of these events and take advantage of the special offer, the buy one/get one free offer.”  You can call right now, and we can do that for you.  1-800-FL-TODAY or online at FamilyLifeToday.com to take advantage of the buy one/get one free opportunity for FamilyLife Today listeners for a Weekend to Remember marriage getaway this spring. 

And for you guys, not only did you not go during your engagement or during the first year of your marriage, you continued to not go—even when friends were offering to pay for it for you, years later, in your marriage. 

Justin:  Absolutely.  Yes.

Trisha:  Right, and that’s why the title of our book is Beyond Ordinary: When a Good Marriage Isn’t Good Enough because I think for most of us that feel like we’re in a healthy place—“We have a good marriage,”—it’s not until we hit crisis mode that, then, we make the time for a Weekend to Remember or to go to counseling. 

So, I think even if it was offered, from our backgrounds, we felt like we were winning.  We did everything “right”.  We went to Bible College.  Justin was going to graduate from college.  I graduated from high school.  We got pregnant after we got married.  In our minds, we had truly convinced ourselves that we were doing it right; so, therefore, things will continue to go up and into the right. 

Bob:  Play by the rules, and marriage will all work out? 

Justin:  Right. 

Bob:  When you don’t realize that this is not a recipe that God’s given us in the Scriptures to say, “Look, do a little of this and a little of that; and the cake will always turn out perfectly.”  Real life is going to come at you, and you better be ready for it. 

Dennis:  And in real life, if it hits you, all of a sudden, you’d be able to spot it; but the problem is the erosion occurs over a number of months—years—until finally, they are isolated; and they’re set up for something that is a true crisis. 


Justin:  Correct. 

Trisha:  Right. 

Dennis:  That occurred in your marriage? 

Justin:  It did. 

Trisha:  Yes. 


Justin:  It did. 

Trisha:  We talk about how we went from being best friends, to being friends, to eventually becoming enemies.  The most dangerous place that we got to was we became strangers.  When you become strangers, you stop fighting altogether.  You just don’t care.  After 10 years of marriage, and ministry, and three kids coming into the picture, we would fight for our children, we would fight to have successful ministry; but we kept on putting our marriage on the back burner. 

As we kept drifting further and further through those choices—there were consequences that we never put the weight to them.  We just never thought we would be that couple—even though we knew the choices we were making were destructive. 

Bob:  What did enemies look like?  I mean, you said you got to a point where you’d gone from being good friends, to being friends, to being enemies.  You’re in ministry. 

Justin:  Right. 

Trisha:  Right. 

Bob:  I mean, were you—behind the walls of your house—was there passive/ aggressive?  Was there anger?  Was there—what was happening? 

Justin:  Well, I think a story that really illustrates it pretty well was we started a church in 2002 in Indianapolis.  Trish and I shared that vision, together, intimately.  We were in it together.  As the church began to grow, I began to reassign her to different places that we had holes.  She was kind of a utility player.   Initially, I needed her to help with hospitality because she’s going to be welcoming, and people are going to love her, and people get to know her.  Then, we found a hospitality leader. 

Then, she led worship for us every single week for the first year of the church.  Then, we hired a worship leader.  About a year and a half into the church plant, she and a group of people go to a Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago.  That’s about a three-hour drive for the Arts Conference.  This is like the very first conference that we actually had the money to send people to. It was amazing.  We were excited about it.  They go to the Arts Conference.  Well, that left me home with three kids, six and under.  You know, I’m thinking, “I’m doing the great dad thing.  I’m taking one, for the team, because she’s going to this conference.  I’m going to take some vacation time and stay home with the kids.” 

So, the last day of the conference, I know she’s going to be home.  I think, “I’m going to make frozen pizza for lunch.  I can’t mess that up.”  I turn the oven on, put the pizza in.  Twenty minutes later, the pizza is ready.  I open the oven door to get the pizza out, and my 18-month-old son is at my feet.  I trip over him.  He loses his balance and falls into the oven and tries to brace himself.  He puts his hands down on the open oven door.  Instantly, you know, he starts screaming. 

My first phone call was to Trisha, “Where are you?  Where are you at?”  They were just leaving the Arts Conference.  She says she’s about three hours away.  That just infuriated me that she wasn’t there.  A couple hours go by.  I explain to her what’s going on.  She’s like, “Does he need to go to the doctor?”  I’m like, “I don’t think it’s that bad, but I don’t know.”  So, I went to the store—got some gauze. 

By this time, dinner is approaching.  I think, “You know, I’m just going to take him to go play at the McDonald’s Playland.”  We go play at McDonald’s Playland for a little while.  I call her to see where they are at, and they’re stuck in traffic.  My blood pressure is just going up and up.   I have an elder’s meeting that night that I need to get to.  She’s going to make me late for it.  I just know she’s not going to be here on time.  I feed the boys dinner.  On the way back from McDonald’s, Isaiah, the son that fell into the oven, throws up everywhere—pukes all over the car, all over his car seat. 

I call Trish.  I’m like, “Where are you?”  She’s like, “We’re about half an hour away.”  I am so mad at this point that she’s not there.  I take the car seat out of the car—refuse to clean up the puke.  She pulls into the driveway.  I hand her our son.  I jump into the car and drive to our elders’ meeting to lead our church, spiritually. 

That’s what an enemy looks like because none of that was her fault; but in my mind, by not being there, she had caused all of this to happen.  I was projecting all of my anger on her for a situation that literally had nothing to do with her. 

Dennis:  And there is something else that that illustrates, in terms of being enemies with each other.  Usually, it is something that has taken up the love of your life—that’s more than the marriage—and truly Jesus Christ.  And what—as I was looking through your book, I had to say you loved the ministry.  You loved the ministry more than—

Justin:  Absolutely. 

Dennis:  —your marriage—

Justin:  Yes. 

Dennis:  —more than your family, and put it continuously ahead of them.  Enemies don’t necessarily get back at each other by always coming at each other, frontally.  Sometimes, it is just neglect.  It’s apathy.  It’s, “I’m not going to give here. I’m going to give there because I love this more than you.” 

Trisha:  Right. 

Justin:  Yes, and people—you know, I think people that struggle—it doesn’t have to be ministry—maybe there is an architect, or maybe there’s—

Dennis:  Of course. 

Justin:  —a teacher, or a coach, or whatever your occupation is—

Dennis:  —or a hobby or a sport. 

Bob:  —or maybe it’s the kids.  It can be a mom who is more in love with her kids than she is with their daddy. 

Justin:  But when you are constantly getting rewarded or feedback—you know, ministry, for me, was a way to accumulate accolades.  It was a way to accumulate compliments.  I’m not going to get complimented at home—I’m getting railed on for how I show up 30 minutes late for dinner.  I’m not getting—I’m getting told every Sunday what a great sermon that was.  You know?   You kind of drift to the place where you are receiving love if you’re not intentionally pursuing your spouse. 

Trisha:  Right. 

Justin:  That was a characteristic of us.  Trisha dove into being a stay-at-home mom.  That was her identity.  I dove into the ministry.  That became my identity. 

Bob:  So, if you were to describe your marriage, ten years in—just say—I mean, you’ve given us the picture—but if you were looking back on it, you would say, “The condition of our marriage on a scale of one to ten...”—where were you? 

Dennis:  Ten, being outstanding—one, being in the ditch—all four wheels. 

Trisha:  I think we were in the negative, and we had no idea. 

Justin:  We thought we were operating at about a seven, and we were operating, probably, at a negative two. 

Trisha:  Yes, in 2005, it was our ten-year anniversary.  The church was running at about 500-plus people.  So, in three years—just the growth—the amount of staff we had.  We ended up going on a cruise for our anniversary, just he and I—which, he’s a pastor—so it was cruise where we went out into the ocean and, then, came back.  But we still got to go, and no hay trucks on fire or anything of that nature.  What it did is—it gave us the time and space just to be with each other, and the bride of Christ couldn’t come along.  I felt like I had Justin all to myself, and it was a great experience.

 We got back to the States.  As we were waiting for our flight home, we sat in a restaurant.  Literally, when he sat down, his phone rang; and I just started bawling.  I didn’t even realize that that was my reaction, but I could not stop crying.  Justin got off the phone, kind of looking at me like, “I just took you on a cruise, woman.  Why are you crying all of a sudden?”  I just told him, “I don’t want to go back.  I don’t want to go back to being enemies.  I don’t want to go back to being a mom.  I don’t want to go back to church.  I just want to be with you.”  But we knew that that wasn’t possible, and the environment that we were going back to was not going to cultivate oneness.  I had no idea that we would drift so quickly, so fast, and so far from not only being enemies to being strangers. 

Within the next three months, Justin came home after a typical Sunday.  I was taking a nap.  He came into our room and just abruptly said, “I don’t want to do this anymore.”  I was thinking, “I don’t either.  This is—we’re on the same page.”  He said, “No, I don’t want to be married to you anymore.  I’m not in love with you.  I’m having an affair with your best friend,” who is also our children’s director, “and I’m done.  I’m done pretending.  I’m done living this life.  I want out.” 

Dennis:  And the reason you started crying when the phone rang was because one of the mistresses in Justin’s life was on the phone.  It was the church, and you realized you were going to have to share your husband again. 

We’re going to find out more about this story, and it is—I’ve got to tell our listeners—it’s one you don’t want to miss because it’s a great story of redemption and forgiveness. 

Bob:  Well, and you guys do a great job of telling the story in your book, Beyond Ordinary, which we have in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center.  Go online at FamilyLifeToday.com to request a copy of the book.  Again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com; or call, toll-free, at 1-800-FL-TODAY. 


Then, let me just once again encourage listeners—you need to be doing the kind of preventive maintenance in a marriage that keeps you from getting to the place that Justin and Trisha got to.  I know a lot of couples think, “We don’t need to do one of these weekend getaways because our marriage is fine;” but the truth is all of us need to do regular preventive maintenance.  All of us need to spend time, focusing on our marriage.  We need to combat the inertia that happens in every marriage relationship. 

I mention it because we are about to kick off the spring season for our Weekend to Remember marriage getaways.  We’re going to be hosting them in cities, all across the country, this spring.  We start the weekend before Valentine’s Day in the Washington, DC, area and in other cities that weekend.  I mentioned Washington, DC, because Dennis is going to be speaking at the Gaylord National Hotel at National Harbor in the DC area.  Then, the next weekend, right after Valentine’s Day, I’m going to be out at the Hershey Lodge in Hershey, Pennsylvania.  I’ll be speaking at that Weekend to Remember marriage getaway.  We’ve got dozens of these events happening, all across the country, this spring. 

This week and next week, FamilyLife Today listeners can sign up to attend a Weekend to Remember marriage getaway.  When you register for yourself, your spouse comes at no additional charge.  It’s a buy one/get one free registration for the Weekend to Remember.  It’s good this week and next week, and it’s only good for FamilyLife Today listeners.  Go to FamilyLifeToday.com.  Click on the “Weekend to Remember” link.  As you fill out the registration form, you’ll come to the box that says, “Promotion Code” —type in my name—type in “BOB”.  Then, as you finish the registration, we will apply the special offer.  Or simply call 1-800-FL-TODAY.  Mention that you listen to FamilyLife Today and you want to take advantage of the special offer.  Register, over the phone, for an upcoming Weekend to Remember marriage getaway. 

Again, the website—FamilyLifeToday.com—the toll-free number is 1-800-FL-TODAY.  The offer is good this week and next week only.  Get in touch with us and take advantage of this special offer.  Come join us in Washington, DC, in Hershey, Pennsylvania—in any of the dozens of cities where the Weekend to Remember is going to be taking place this spring; but take advantage of the special offer now and get in touch with us.  We’ll see you this spring at one of these upcoming Weekend to Remember marriage getaways. 

And let me encourage you, again, to be back with us tomorrow.  We’re going to hear how God intervened in Justin and Trisha Davis’s marriage to take them from the isolation they were in to a place where their marriage today is Beyond Ordinary.  I hope you can join us for that. 

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine.  We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today

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