Family Life’s David and Meg Robbins: Marriage As a Team
About the Guest
Are those leading the marriage ministry of FamilyLife the real deal? Get a closer look at the marriage of FamilyLife President David Robbins, and his wife Meg, as they discuss the ups and downs of learning how to work as a team.
Family Life’s David and Meg Robbins: Marriage As a Team
Dave: Hey, before we get started, I got to tell you something exciting happing right now at FamilyLife®.
Ann: Yes, this is good news you want to hear.
Dave: Our FamilyLife Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways are half off!
Ann: —the registration fee.
Dave: Yes, you can sign up right now at FamilyLifeToday.com. You can go to a Weekend to Remember—it’s literally going to change your marriage—and it’s half off.
Alright, so 33 years as the Detroit Lion’s chaplain: you know what that meant?
Ann: A lot of losses. [Laughter]
Dave: Yes, and a lot of head coaches.
Dave: How many do you think I went through?
Dave: Different head coaches? Good guess!
Dave: I think it was 12.
Ann: It’s because I’ve heard you say it. [Laughter]
Dave: Yes; well, I mean a couple of them made two weeks/three weeks; but most of them are several years. But here is why I’m bringing it up: because every time I met a new coach, I wanted to impress him, you know, like, “You’re going to keep me as your chaplain.” I wasn’t hired by the team, but the head coach could still decide: “Do I want this guy or not?” So every time I wanted to impress the head coach, guess what I wanted to do? You don’t even know this.
Ann: I don’t know what you are going to say.
Dave: I’m like, “He’s got to meet my wife.”
Ann: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Ann Wilson.
Dave: And I’m Dave Wilson, and you can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on our FamilyLife app.
Ann: This is FamilyLife Today!
Dave: Everybody has told me—so much so that it sort of got annoying—that: “You’re so much better with your wife. You’re good—but your wife and you—you’re so much better.”
Ann: That’s really sweet.
Dave: I knew if my head coach could meet my wife, he’d like me. And remember Rod Marinelli?
Ann: No; I mean I remember Rod, but—
Dave: Of course, you remember Rod.
Ann: Yes, but I don’t know what you’re going to say.
Dave: I hope Rod’s not listening right now; because my wife just said, “I don’t even remember.” [Laugher]
Ann: No; I remember his wife Barb too.
Dave: Yes, she was great; but I remember the first lunch we had together after we were walking through the building. He turns to me; he goes, “Man, your wife is dynamite—you two together—wow, I’m looking forward to what happens.”
Ann: Did you tell me this?
Dave: I’m telling you now.
Ann: This is so nice now that your telling me on the air.
Dave: Well, the reason I’m bringing that up is we’re sitting with a couple, right here in front of us in our studio, that I think is the same way.
Ann: Me too.
Dave: David and Meg Robbins, you two—well, first of all, let me say—“Welcome to FamilyLife Today.”
David: It’s good to be here with you guys in studio. This is great.
Dave: I mean, this is the first time we have had you together with us in studio.
Ann: Yes, and for those who don’t know, David is our president for FamilyLife. Meg, you are the president, too, because you’re his companion; you’re his one that makes him great.
Meg: We’re in it together for sure. [Laughter]
David: Indeed; indeed.
Dave: You know, when we met you a couple of years ago, that was one of the thoughts I had—
Ann: Me too.
Dave: —is like, “You guys are so dynamic.” I mean, David, first of all, you’re amazing, unbelievable. Meg, you’re amazing.
David: But I am better with her: there’s no doubt; there’s no doubt.
Dave: Yes, I mean, it was like one of these things/it was like—and you know some couples aren’t that way—but you guys/that’s why I thought of that: you are dynamite together.
Dave: Even just a few days ago, watching you speak on stage at our staff conference, you were just—there’s charisma that exudes from you—so we’re excited to have our president and his wife in the studio.
Ann: You’ve been married how many years?
David: It is 20 years—we just crossed it—2 decades. I mean, in thinking about being a team, like we go back to that transformation really happened in the trenches, when we weren’t on the stage, when we weren’t leading really anything hardly at all of significance. We were overseas in Italy. Man, some real transformation happened, being kind of in the wilderness for me, and me realizing how amazing Meg is and some gifts that she has.
Dave: And you’ve got four kids at home, and I just heard they’re all in school. Tell us a little bit about your family.
Meg: We/okay, so I came into Ole Miss, the University of Mississippi, as a freshman; and David was actually my orientation leader.
Meg: That’s how we met initially. Actually, the genius move that he made was that, when I walked up, and he was calling roll—because he’s two years older than me, so he’s leading our group—and he says, “Meg,” which if you don’t know this about me, my first legal name is actually Mildred. He says, “Meg”; and I just stand there, knowing that the roll doesn’t say, “Meg.”
David: So I jump in, and I go, “Is there a Meg?”
Meg: “Does anybody go by Meg?”
I was like, “Well, I go by Meg; but I’m pretty sure that’s not what your paper says.” He said, “Well, I didn’t think you’d go by Mildred.”
David: How risky and horrible was that?
Meg: What was he thinking?
David: Because Mildred’s a great name.
Meg: And I love my name, Mildred. So anyway, it was funny. He had—my initials were M.E.G.—and he saw my full name and thought, “This girl probably goes by her initials.”
Ann: That is a bold move, David.
Meg: Isn’t that crazy?
David: I was saying things out loud in the moment—it’s not on purpose—but it was a first impression. Whether good or bad, it was a first impression.
Meg: Yes, it definitely caught my attention. When we came back to school in the fall, Cru®—we were involved with Cru/Campus Crusade at the time—was starting coed Bible studies. A girl invited me to her Bible study. She said, “The guy that I’m leading with—you may know him—his name is D-Rob.” I was like, “Oh, that was my orientation leader.” We were in the same Bible study for a semester.
David: So I got to see this freshman’s heart. I mean, she came into college—I needed two years—thank goodness I was two years older than her. [Laughter] I rode the fence in lots of ways, but Jesus kind of got a hold of my heart. That summer I was leading her orientation group. I went, right after that, over to Romania on a Cru summer mission; and I mean, God just met me on how big of a God He is to all the nations.
I came back on fire, leading this small group; and then I got to see this freshman every week. Her heart just opened up of her love for Jesus. I go, “Who is this freshman?!”
Meg: Okay; but it is important to note that he came back so on fire. Well, I didn’t know him really before. I actually wrote in my journal—
David: Let’s just say, “Thanks to the Lord.” [Laughter]
Meg: —I wrote in my journal that I wanted to marry somebody just like David Robbins.
Ann: Come on!
Meg: I had. He was a junior. He was kind of a big man on campus and was so passionate and on fire for the Lord, and it was so obvious. So I had journaled that. I was loving getting to know him, but never dreamed that it would be an option/that he would be interested in me!
Dave: Why didn’t you write: “I want to marry D-David Robbins”?
Meg: Because I didn’t think—
Dave: —“somebody like”?
Meg: —it would ever be an option. I was a little freshman.
David: Meanwhile, I’m like, “This is exactly the type of person I want to date and see if I want to marry. I mean, she has everything.” I’m telling my small group coleader: “Hey, Beth, I really got to start being careful, like redeeming my flirtation and my propensity to flirt. I’m really trying to follow the Lord in how I pursue somebody. So I think we need to start leaving Meg out of our Bible studies and social activities.”
Ann: What?! What?! Come on!
Meg: True story.
David: I’m overzealous; it just was overreaching.
Meg, meanwhile, starts sharing—come October or so—“Hey, I’m loving being in a sorority, and meeting and having an impact to people who don’t know Jesus, but I really need Christian friends.” And I’m going, “We can’t invite her to our social stuff, because I don’t trust myself!”
Ann: Meg, I’m so sorry for you!
Meg: I know; right? I mean, it paid off in the long run.
David: The day that Bible study ended in December—that next day—I called you/asked her to our formal/Christmas formal. We went; we had a great time. But then, after that formal, we went out to lunch and just kind of laid it out. I had seen what I wanted to see. We went really slow, because we started dating when she was a freshman.
Dave: Did you come on staff right out of college?
David: We did. I remember December 31, 1998, being in a hotel ballroom at a conference that Cru was putting on. I was praying that month, “Lord, I love advertising. I want to go to New York and live that, and there is gifting there; but I feel this pull to serve You, full time, for a season.”
I remember I was going through 1 Corinthians; and it was 1 Corinthians 9 on
December 31; and “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel.” I remember journaling, “Woe to me…of what?”—and then writing some things. In verse 19, “Although I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a bondservant to win as many as possible to the Lord.” So I jumped in. Two years later, Meg jumps in. Together, we started lifting our eyes to: “What would it look like to go to the world?”
Meg: Honestly, for me, when we were dating and really serious, we knew we would be getting engaged pretty soon. He was joining staff; and I was kind of praying, “Lord, I know that I love ministry; I love being a part of this; I love what Cru is doing, so it’s an easy ‘Yes,’”—but I also wanted to know—“I would love to know, Lord, do You have this for me too? Is this what You are calling me to?” So I prayed for that and asked for that.
Actually, when he was at staff training, I went on an overseas mission trip to Italy with Cru. During that time, at the very end, we were kind of debriefing, about to come back home. The Lord just used something that happened in Rome and the verse,
2 Corinthians 5 that says, “Christ’s love compels us that those who live no longer live for themselves but for Christ who died for them.” I just had this sense of urgency and just taking that to the Lord of: “Okay, God, I’m realizing, ‘Yes, I am passionate about this. You’ve given me a love for this and a passion for this.’”
I think that has been so crucial for us through the years—that God individually called us both—but also together. It’s just kind of written on our lives: just living for Him and wanting to say, “Yes,” to whatever He is calling us to at different stages in our lives.
But when we first got married, we went overseas—actually, after we were at the University of Mississippi; they placed him back there, which was super nice while I finished school—then we went overseas to Italy, that was our partnership at Ole Miss, was at the University of Pisa.
David: I do remember, though, right before we went, our first touch point with FamilyLife was actually right before we went overseas. On our one-year anniversary, we went to a Weekend to Remember. It was an important one, because—
David: —it layered some things in our lives—where we were obviously committed to the Lord/God was moving in our lives; we had a great first year—but I was amazed, spending that afternoon at the Weekend to Remember, writing this love letter out through promptings of some things that had been covered that morning, going, “There are some layers of…”—they weren’t secrets in my life, but they were insecurities in my life of things I wasn’t disclosing to her.
It wasn’t that I was trying to hide them. It was just that God was really, in that weekend, showing me: “If you want deeper intimacy, keep disclosing, keep going there. You have this bride”—that we were meant to be more one and draw closer together—“even in your insecurities.” It was such a critical moment for us.
I remember sharing that love letter with you. You just affirmed me, in some deep important ways, to go, “Why am I holding on? Why am I not disclosing this to her? She loves me; will show grace to me”; and it really deepening us in some important ways before we went overseas.
Ann: I can remember, when we went to the Weekend to Remember conference two weeks before we got married, and the love letter is a significant part of that conference; isn’t it?
Ann: I remember thinking I shared some things with Dave, too, of insecurities that I had never shared. It just exposes the fear/the insecurities. I think that’s exactly where God wants us to go: to be totally exposed, totally known and seen.
Ann: You’re scared, like, “Will I still be loved?”
David: And there is something about getting away for a weekend, and being guided through it, that makes it really safe; you know? It’s not scary, because there is that safety of being guided in that process.
Dave: You know, it sounds like you’re setting up a Weekend to Remember promo—[Laughter]—because—
David: Unintentionally; this is just our story, man! [Laughter]
Ann: And it is ours too!
Dave: —I mean, it is true. You guys are now speakers on the speaker team for FamilyLife Weekend to Remember.
David: That’s right; we love doing it.
Dave: I don’t know if our listeners know; but this month is a promo. This week, in fact, if you want to sign up for a Weekend to Remember, it’s half off. If you are anything like me, half off is like, “I’m jumping on that deal right now.”
The conference—it’s interesting—it’s similar to what you went to and what we went to in 1980. What was your year?
David: Ours was 2001.
Dave: Yes; but it’s a whole new conference. You’ve done it recently.
Ann: It’s been updated; yes.
Dave: It’s amazingly the same content presented in a fresh, new way. I would just say to a listener right now, “If you’re listening to this, and you’re thinking, ‘We should go,’—
Ann: “You should go.” I’m just going to repeat: “Like, you guys, you should go!”
Dave: —“you have to go. Even if you are like apprehensive, just go Friday night; and I bet you you’re going to stay the weekend.”
Go to FamilyLifeToday.com; you can sign up right there. You can go to any city you want. There is probably one right near you, but pick one and go.
Ann: Our new spring conferences are starting; there will be over 60. I would say—just as you said, David—there is something about getting away. Like those love letters—you’re not going to write the love letter [at home]—you could at home—but you are busy: the demands of life are pulling at you, kids. This is a time where you can really see each other, focus, hear God’s biblical viewpoint for marriage: “Why did He want us/or what was God’s idea behind marriage?” We really hope you’ll go.
Meg: Yes; I think one thing that was so—was so significant for us, years ago—and we still see so true today about the Weekend to Remember—is the questions and the intentionality that it frames up for you. You’re right; you could sit at home and try to write a love letter; but what brought those things out were just the content, for sure, but even more so just questions that it was asking us to think through that we realized—both of us realized—“Wow, there are things deep in my heart that you don’t know about me yet and that I need to take a step into more intimacy with that.”
David: We’ve been to four now as participants—and obviously, more as speakers—but in those four, in different seasons of life, even though the content maybe similar, the seasons of life we are in are not.
David: So God just unearths and His Spirit moves uniquely in each one of our lives in such unique ways, and it is pretty powerful.
Dave: How many couples come up to us every time we do a Weekend to Remember and go, “Hey, you changed the conference”? Like: “No, we didn’t; you’re in a different place.”
Dave: They hear it totally differently, and that’s why you go back.
But even now, it is a different conference.
David: It really is refreshed, and it’s cool; yes.
Dave: You need to come back.
Talk about this—so you’re with FamilyLife, now, for what?—almost three years as the president.
David: That’s right.
Dave: Talk about what that has been like, as a couple, leading a major ministry, not just yourself—you have the title president—but you really are a team. Talk about that.
David: We really did get interviewed together; you know? You don’t—
Ann: —which is true for Cru.
David: —take the FamilyLife president role, and your family isn’t a part of the interview process and Meg doesn’t play significant roles. We do get to contribute together, which we are grateful for.
It’s worth saying; most founder transitions don’t go like this. So often, it does depend upon the founder themselves. Dennis and Barbara—they set us up so well—they continue to mentor and coach us monthly or so. We don’t fill their shoes; we fill the role. There is no way we could do it just like them; they are so gifted, so unique.
Dave: Oh, we know; we are sitting in the radio seats. [Laughter]
David: We are divvying up all that they’ve done; but we get to be a team in a unique way for this next chapter of FamilyLife, which we are so grateful for. Again, we are so grateful for you, Dave and Ann, for joining the team and for being a part of continuing to carry this baton onward to the next generation of families.
But for us, it really does start right where we left off back in Italy. When we went there, Meg—I was so attracted to who she was in her relationship with the Lord and the way she served—she really was a powerhouse for influencing others around her. But I had my own things I was trying to prove. We went to Italy; and everything that I had built up around me—to prove myself as a leader or as a man—those were knocked away. I loved diving deep with men, and I had this whole chain of discipleship. I loved the depth of discipling men in their interior world.
You know what? In Italy, there really weren’t that many believers to disciple. To add a little complexity to that is I didn’t know the language, and I was really bad at the language. I learned very quickly I was the worst on my team at the language. [Laughter] Yet, Meg, we discovered really had this gift of being able to share her faith in such a natural way. I was always busying myself or distracting other parts of the conversation with other people in the room while she was jumping into these conversations in this very secular place like Italy. She would just naturally get into conversations; and within three months, she was having spiritual conversations in Italian. She is the best—
Meg: That might be a stretch, but—[Laughter]
David: Well, close; I mean, she was the best on our team at language or one of the best.
I just remember going, “Lord, I don’t know what all these gifts that I’ve leaned on,” —and ultimately, I was leaning on the Lord with them—but I was getting a lot of my own dopamine hits out of it/of satisfaction of who I am in my leadership. God was taking them all away. He was teaching me, in those years we were overseas, of the gift I have in Meg, and the gift I have of being able to be a team, and really getting at some of my pride and my own self-reliance in order to become a team; because I was in the way a little bit of us becoming a team for Jesus.
Meg: I think, probably, we went into that season—and coming out of college, and out of David being on staff and me still being a student—I was kind of like the cute, little sidekick for him. I think he probably would admit—
Meg: —and you’ve said it before—that’s probably how you saw me.
David: I think I am the one who originated that phrase.
Meg: You did; you did.
David: I grieve that I viewed you as a bonus sidekick to this mission I’m on; you know?,
Meg: I think, for me too, though, I probably had some insecurities and felt like he was the one with the role of leader in ministry and things like that; but when we were in Italy, we really did—I mean, we needed each other—we had different giftings that complemented each other. I mean, I might be able to speak the Italian; and he might be able to rally the fun, and keep the energy in the room up, or whatever.
David: But let’s also admit—our date nights, only in Italian, were miserable—[Laughter]—that was one of the—
Meg: That did not work out.
David: —assignments from the language school.
Dave: You had to talk in Italian on your date night?
Meg: Well, we tried for a few minutes.
David: —which lasted all of: “Alright, let me just hear your commentary in monologue”; because, I mean, I was just so bad at it.
Meg: Well, you were used to being good at things that you were trying that were new; and you hadn’t had language since 9th grade.
Dave: Look how she is building you up.
David: It was bad, ya’ll.
Meg: Anyway—but that year was so formative for us just to really—for me to believe more in who God has made me to be and how He brought us together.
Dave: What you talked about and modeled as a team is inspiring; because I think a lot of us men—and I can’t talk for the women; the women here will have to say if this is true or not for women, or wives, and moms—but for us, as guys, I think there is a lot of insecurity in us that we don’t realize is in there. You even hinted at it yourself, David. I know it’s been in me, and probably still is, where I want to be the man.
My wife can be viewed, even by her own husband—I know Ann has felt this, like, “She’s my sidekick. I’m the man. You support me. You make me look good. Stand beside me. Do whatever you need to do so that I win,”—rather than: “You are my equal partner; I value you.” Do you know what I’m saying? Have you ever felt that?
Ann: I’m not sure—no, I don’t think I have—because you haven’t shown that. You’ve always given me a place and a voice, and I feel like you are encouraging me to be heard.
But what I was thinking, Dave, too, is some men can be intimidated; because I can be pretty strong. I’ve talked to women that feel like their husband has pulled back so far; because he feels like he doesn’t have what it takes to offer anything, even spiritually, especially.
Dave: Yes; and I would just say that’s definitely true. I would say to the men listening, “Bring out the best in your wife. She is an incredible, gifted woman that God has blessed you with as your partner.”
A question I often ask is: “Is Ann fully herself, because I am her husband?”—that I am bringing that out—or “Am I sort of holding that back, or even pushing her away, so that I get the light rather than [her?]” Man o man, God has given us amazing ability, as a team, to thrive together—whether it’s in a Bible study, on stage, you name it—like: “Right here, is her voice being heard?”
I would challenge the men to say: “Is your wife’s voice being heard by you and by those you are ministering to?” Here is how you can find out: ask her—
Dave: —because she will tell you, probably, if it is true.
When I’ve asked you, she’s—I mean, when I heard your story right now, I thought, “Man, you are not where you are today without Meg”; and Meg is—
Dave: It’s the beauty of God bringing us together—two are better than one—it’s the same for us. It’s been an incredible journey. I’m hoping that, especially, men hear this and say, “I need to do better, bringing out the best in my wife.”
Bob: You think of any team sport, and there is a game plan. The players are all on the same page—they’ve got the same goal, same objective—and they are pulling in the same direction; they are trying to accomplish the same thing. God has put us together in marriage, as husband and wife, to be teammates. We do help one another in the process of pursuing a common goal or a common vision.
I think the question is: “In your own life, are you on the same page/on the same team? If not, how do you get there?” Well, at FamilyLife, we’ve helped hundreds of thousands of couples, over the years, pursue oneness in marriage as these couples have attended our Weekend to Remember marriage getaways. We host these getaways in cities all around the country. It’s a two-and-a-half-day weekend where, together, you learn God’s design for marriage; and you take positive steps toward a stronger, healthier marriage relationship. Wherever you are today, your marriage will be better at the end of the weekend.
In fact, we guarantee that. If you attend our getaway and, for any reason you want your registration fee back when it’s over, we’ll give it to you. Right now, when you sign up for an upcoming getaway, you will save 50 percent off the regular registration fee. You and your spouse can attend at a special rate, but we’ve got to hear from you this week. This special offer expires this weekend.
Go online at FamilyLifeToday.com to find out more about the getaway. Find out when we’re going to be in a city near where you live, what weekend you should block out so you can join us. Then register online or call 1-800-FL-TODAY if you have any questions: 1-800-358-6329. Get on the same page as teammates in marriage; join us at a FamilyLife Weekend to Remember marriage getaway this spring. Get more information online at FamilyLifeToday.com, or call 1-800-FL-TODAY.
Now, tomorrow, we’re going to hear about the significant role that Ziploc® bags play in David and Meg Robbins’ marriage relationship. It has nothing to do with keeping your vegetables fresh. We’ll hear them share about Ziplocs tomorrow. I hope you can tune in.
On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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